This is a little concerning. Are you familiar with the Manhattan Declaration? Chuck Colsen and quite a few other leaders in the evangelical world came together to sign a statement reinforcing their commitment to the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and a few other key social issues. More than a half-million Christians – by one report – have signed on as well. To garner more signatures, an iPhone app was developed for the declaration so Christians could review the document and sign on with their support from their Apple devices. So where is this story headed?
Well, Apple approved the app, and it appeared in the App Store. But then several liberal groups complained that the declaration was, in effect, "hate speech," since it opposed gay marriage, and started a campaign asking Apple to drop the app from the store. And today, Apple dropped the app.
So why is this troubling me? Well, not necessarily about this app in particular, since an iPhone app certainly isn't the best way to collect signatures when a website will work just fine. What's troubling is that Apple has now set a precedent for excluding content from its ecosystem based on the content's philosophical opposition to gay marriage. Once the review board at Apple starts down that slippery slope, where does it end? What if your church launches an app to stream your pastor's sermons, and your pastor talks about gay marriage? Using the same standard, won't the critics demand your church's app be deleted as well?
And if critics hold Apple responsible for anti-gay marriage rhetoric on the App Store, what about iTunes, where thousands of churches and ministry organizations stream content? What about Christian albums on the music store? What about kids videos like What's in the Bible, that actually promote the dangerous idea that the Bible is, in fact, the word of God? Reading the comments online in support of Apple's decision, it's very clear many people would like Christian voices in support of traditional marriage or right-to-life issues to be excluded from all digital media marketplaces. Since Apple reserves the right to reject content for almost any reason (and often, in fact, does), they are an obvious target for those with an anti-Christian bias.
Given the tremendous reach of Apple's various devices, Christian ministries are jumping into app development with both feet. It appears, though, that Steve Jobs has found himself in the middle of the battle to redefine traditional biblical teaching on several social issues as "hate speech." As a lifelong quasi-Buddhist, the only dog Jobs has in this fight is the continued sales of his devices.
Whether or not Christians continue to have equal access to these devices is going to be a very interesting story to follow. Make no mistake, though. The first shot has been fired.