I Believe in One . . . Microsoft?

Catching up on some reading in the area of innovation and education, one link led me to another, and I came across Steve Ballmer's recent email to Microsoft employees announcing "a far-reaching realignment of the company that will enable us to innovate with greater speed, efficiency and capability in a fast changing world."

Nice enough, I thought. Bold. Ambitious. And so I continued on, and a few paragraphs later read that "[t]he evangelism and business development team will drive partners across our . . ."

Wait. Evangelism? At Microsoft?


O me of little faith. Ballmer's email revealed that Microsoft has a "Business Development and Evangelism Group." According to Ballmer, that group will "focus on key partnerships especially our innovation partners . . . and our broad work on evangelism and developer outreach."

Intrigued by this appropriation of Christian language, I did a little searching and found that the use of "evangelism" is more common and has a far longer history than I would have imagined. This 2011 Forbes article discusses the work of IBM's "Vice President of Social Business Evangelism." I also found a paper published in 2006 by Growth Resources, Inc., with the title, "Technology Evangelists: A Leadership Survey." In that article, Frederic Lucas-Conwell, Ph.D, writes that a "technology evangelist serves as an ambassador of organizational technologies, interacting with prospects, partners, users, producers and other members of the organization." According to Lucas-Conwell,

Technology evangelism requires a commitment to the product or service being sold, as well as to the company and its management. A technology evangelist is attached to a cause that embodies a vision, makes people feel better, generates impressive effects, initiates selfless actions, and polarizes people to act positively. 
It is not original to observe that many companies have religious-like followings. When people camp out overnight to be one of the first to own a new iPhone, there is something more at stake than ordinary consumerism. But what do these companies intend by conceiving of marketing as evangelizing? Is it a gimmick, or something more? Evangelizing in its Christian context involves more than just gaining a follower. Evangelizing hopes to shape worldviews and belief systems. It involves conversion. In a Christian framework, evangelizing seeks to draw people to Christ, to see Him as the "way, the truth, and the life."
What, then, are we to make of the evangelizing of Microsoft or Apple or IBM, or any company that employs the word? To what end is their prosletyzing? The mere purchasing of products, or some greater allegiance? 
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Michael Cobbold
4 years 1 month ago
"It is not original to observe that many companies have religious-like followings. When people camp out overnight to be one of the first to own a new iPhone, there is something more at stake than ordinary consumerism." ##...or a new Harry Potter book or film. Fantasies like HP & TLOTR awake the same zeal as the Bible does among Evangelicals; there is not much discernible difference between harmonising passages in the Bible, & harmonising passages in HP or Tolkien's legendarium. The two fantasies provide world-explaining myths and ethical inspiration just as the Bible does. Conversely, the Bible can be regarded having its own fandom & hatedom - just as there are fandoms & hatedoms for these other writings. Microsoft has a hatedom, as well as a fandom - even if Bill Gates is not quite as powerful a wizard as Gandalf or Dumbledore. So it seems there is an extensive psychological overlap between Microsoft, Christianity, and those two tales - the impulses & interests being catered are alike.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Father James Martin, S.J. and Ross Douthat at the Civility in America Part 1: Religion event held at The Sheen Center on Dec. 13th. (America/Antonio DeLoera-Brust).
Is there a duty for Christians to represent a certain kind of voice in the public discourse?
Angelo Jesus CantaDecember 14, 2017
A spokesman for the archdiocese described the meeting as “personal” in nature and aimed at “renewing a friendship that goes back 15 years or so.”
Michael J. O’LoughlinDecember 14, 2017
Black women cannot be expected to continue to save white people from the poor choices they make.
Anthea ButlerDecember 14, 2017
After a visit to Christ in the Desert, I knew it was not the monks whose lifestyle I should question.
Michael DauschDecember 14, 2017