Neither priest nor proselytizer, merely a man with years of experience in IT and marketing, Bryan Winters has managed to put together a deeply engaging study of Christianity and Islam as ‘brands of religion.’ He offers both an historical overview of how they have grown their business and a modern-day analysis of any religion’s access to a global audience.
How a message of whatever kind is put across has changed radically in the last decade. We see the results of that in every sphere of personal and professional interaction. We are all under scrutiny with every touch of the keyboard, every email exchange, every Facebook posting. The world is on our doorstep, and we are not immune to influences anywhere in the world.
Increasingly, the single-minded perspective of what is right and proper within a particular context – in this case, the two most influential religions in the world – has become difficult to maintain because of an overload of information that can be manipulated by intent to report, incite, cajole or enforce an approved version of ‘true religion.’
Religious beliefs and rules of conduct may often confine practitioners to boundaries constantly challenged and changed by access to a differing interpretation adopted by the authorities, or leading to schisms and the spawning of radical offshoots that claim to be the one true voice. This is equally true within Christianity and Islam. The tolerance that education and a cosmopolitan viewpoint insists upon is being met too often with the burning fire of religious zeal and militant conversion.
Consciously or unconsciously, most human beings are on a quest for enlightenment. They are the target market and have been so for centuries.
“Faith has the potential to bring out best and the worst in us,” claims author Bryan Winters, who is adamant that The Bishop, the Mullah and the Smartphone is unashamedly about religion, and not about the less powerful spirituality many of us now claim as a socially acceptable alternative.
A man with over thirty years’ experience in the IT world, Winters has lived and worked among Muslims and Christians in Africa, Asia and Australasia. He became intrigued by how digital technology – the Internet in general and social media specifically – was being used, and occasionally misused, to spread the word about these two faiths. Considered to be totally different by the casual adherent to either they do in fact share more than you might think, especially in their commonality of purpose.
Religions as ‘businesses’ must promote their message to attract followers and have done so since their inception. First they slowly promulgated core beliefs; now they’re on a fast track to convince and recruit. Winters defines methodology within contexts briefly listed here: Memory (conscious remembering and conscious forgetting); Mythology – the aspects of story masking history around and about religions; Media (the acceleration of the means by which what’s current can be circulated, and Mimicry (the borrowing of what works to attract followers and repel dissenters.)
It’s a complex hypothesis he is presenting, and yet totally fascinating. The Bishop, the Mullah and the Smartphone repays a careful reading, and invites pauses to respond and reflect on what is being said. ‘Time out’ is also offered through QR codes that transport you immediately to an outside vista or validation of what is being asserted within the text.
Though Winters refers to controversies – hardly to be avoided when discussing religion – he is careful to remain neutral on what we might call the comparative values of Christianity and Islam. He is interested in their historical growth and development and how, today, they are being forced to consider new methods and new means to convey their message. The immediacy of the Internet and social media has both a positive and a negative influence, and his explorations invite further discussion and debate.
Occasionally visionary The Bishop, the Mullah and the Smartphone is also down to earth, wryly ironic, well-referenced and brimful of interesting ‘case studies’– and heartily recommended as an engrossing discourse for those interested in religion, social history, philosophy or technology.
(2015) WINTERS, B. The Bishop, the Mullah and the Smartphone: Two Religions Journey into the Digital Age. USA, Resource Publications/Wipf & Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4982-1792-7.
Jenny Argante.Jenny Argante has featured on the Tauranga literary scene for 15 years. She is President of Tauranga Writers, New Zealand’s longest running self-help group for writers and Editor in Chief of Freelance – Writers Helping Writers, this country’s only magazine for creative writers of all kinds. Jenny is a freelance writer and editor, and has taught creative writing for over 30 years.