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18 May 2008 08:20
The McNoot (or “My Church Needs One of Those”) awards visited Surrey in the United Kingdom last week. They are ceremonies in which religious gadgets are judged by panels of clergymen according to whether they will enhance parish life.
Previous nominations have included a karaoke hymn machine, a solar-powered electronic Bible and a double-glazing unit for stained-glass windows.
Last week’s McNoot winner, as reported breathlessly by one of the godlier British national newspapers, was the Gabriel Communicator, a device that uses Bluetooth communication technology to send Bible verses to any cellphones within a 100m radius. Within months, we may all be receiving the scriptures direct to our cellphones, as if they were marketing messages from a service provider.
Any vicars who have just finished delivering this week’s sermon and are settling down to enjoy the Sunday newspapers with a whisky and a fag may be depressed by this news.
You may feel, reverends, that this is a terrible sign of declining community. Where once people flocked into church on a Sunday morning, eager to mingle together and hear your wisdom in the house of God, you are now reduced to hounding them with electronic junk mail.
You may speculate that the Bible’s story sits ill with a world of insta-messaging. Jesus walked across water to comfort his disciples during a storm on the Sea of Galilee; he didn’t SMS: “U’LL B ALL RIGHT M8S, C U L8ER.” Moses didn’t get his instructions from a bleep in his jacket pocket; he schlepped up that mountain to collect them. In stone. Tidings of the Saviour’s birth came via John the Baptist, an archangel and a magical star, not a status update on Facebook. What is this modern heresy?
But think again, reverends! With a little reflection, you will surely see that the Bible is perfectly designed for SMSing. Consider all those neat one-liners. Short sentences, quick thoughts, no fat. Why, it’s practically constructed in txt-spk! You have been hunched over pulpits for all this time, droning out chapter and verse at unnecessary length, when all we need to get through the day is a holy epigram going “ting!” on the hour.
Haven’t you ever wondered why the whole thing is written in those little numbered haikus? Let the mystery be solved; maybe the evangelists were more prescient than we ever imagined. Maybe they knew that SMSing was coming and crafted their work for that medium. For all we know, they could have been exasperated by the amount of time it was taking for the printing press to be invented, never mind the BlackBerry.
Perhaps they felt like Shakespeare does in the prologue to Henry V, where it seems as though he’s actually foreseen the invention of film and can’t believe he’s still stuck in the 16th century trying to recreate the battle of Agincourt with three hammy actors, a wooden sword and a comedy dog.
While the good people of Surrey are employing Bluetooth technology to ping scripture at each other, in Berlin they’re using it to spy on potential lovers. Combining Bluetooth with social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, it is now possible to go into a party or work conference, identify nearby cellphones and google their owners to find out how old they are, where they live and which bands they like.
I say work conference. The founder of Aki-Aki (the first “mobile social network”, which has just gone live in Berlin) claims that this technology will be terribly useful for sniffing out potential employees or business partners. But it will actually be driven by sex, because new technology always is. People will use it to investigate the habits or hobbies of the cute chick at the bar and craft their pick-up line accordingly; a sort of high-tech version of Bill Murray quoting Andie MacDowell’s favourite poem “at random” in Groundhog Day.
Or they won’t try to make it look random; having surfed the internet to get background on the potential lover with the hot cellphone waves, they can simply SMS their pick-up line via Bluetooth. It’s terrifying for those of us who still nurture a vague idea that personal privacy has a plus side, and great news for anyone under 25.
Returning to my ordained readers: in a world where this sort of Bluetoothing is possible, and will fast become the social norm, there must surely be room for the gospels as well?
Imagine your typical tipsy businessman in the afternoon of a “work conference”. He’s had a good lunch, and his hotel room’s been upgraded. He’s giving the eye to a likely looking work-experience girl, she taps on her mobile, and—ping!—“Hello sailor. I c u actually do have a boat, alongside ur 3 houses & Saab 93 Sportwagon. I am not wearing pantz.” As his eager, fat fingers hover over the reply, another ping!: “And the Lord said, thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Imagine your cheeky airport scoundrel, watching a couple head off on holiday, Bluetoothing for their details, and ping!: “43 Cheveley Road, Swindon, they’ll be in Albania for a fortnight, alarm code 6679.” Off he scampers, when ping!: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, Ephesians 4:28.”
Won’t that make a rather perfect balance? A couple of years from now, when we’ve all got at least two cellphones and Bluetoothing is standard, we will literally have a devil in one ear and an angel in the other.—guardian.co.uk Â
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