One of my daughter's schoolmates walked up to me the other day, her blue eyes wide, and apropos of nothing, said, “If you don't go to church, you can't know God.” She was confident. I, on the other hand, was rattled, given that the outrageous remark came from nowhere, as outrageous remarks from 5-year-olds often do. Still, I'm not great when put on the spot, and my involuntary response ruled the moment.
“Well, that's not true,” I said.
“Yes it is!” said the sure-footed little darling.
“Well, some people believe God is all around them,” I said. “And some people—.”
Some people, I thought to myself, don't give their kids iPhones, because if Little Miss Sure of Herself had an iPhone, she would know that in the age of new media, church is nearly obsolete.
Case in point: After consulting with priests, the cofounders of LittleiApps have developed Confession: A Roman Catholic App. The Pope has bestowed the app with his seal of approval, which is hardly surprising given he up and abolished limbo a few years back because, he argued at the time, limbo is just a “theological hypothesis.” Ahem. I mean, Amen.
Selling for $1.99, Confession became one of the top 50 most-purchased apps from iTunes as of late January, a boon for the developers, one of whom claims his tithing more than compensates for the profit he doesn't admit making. The same goes for the suckers guilt-ridden among us: To be absolved of badness without setting foot in a church, for less than two bucks? That's like an additional 50-percent-off clearance at barney's for the financially challenged fashionista. At that price, I could justify purchasing it to satisfy my curiosity. But I'm a Jew; recognizing a good deal is in my genes.
Concerned this purchase would be a donation to the Catholic Church—where the Grand Pooh-Bah wears purty dresses and protects the child molesters within its ranks (talk about a dude who need this app!)—I decided to buy some clown porn to balance the karmic scales. I got freaked out, however, by the still images on the producer's website (if a photo of clowns fucking doesn't do it for me, a moving picture is out of the question). Instead, I made a donation to Planned Parenthood.
After printing the receipt for my records, I opened my new app and readied myself to feel closer to God. Sure, there's that whole I'm an atheist thing standing between God and me, but I'm not closed to the possibility that a phone can be a conduit for spirituality. Just the other day, a girl next to me in yoga class was texting from downward dog and her chakras seemed perfectly aligned. Why not an app to save my soul?
Before I could properly confess, I had to register: The app asks for a Name (iSinner), Sex (doggie style, pls! Er, I mean, female) and Birthday (1998—priests like minors); there's a required and oddly limited pull-down menu for Vocation (single, married, priest, religious) and Date of Last Confession to be updated with each subsequent use. The brilliance of technology will keep the confessor honest in the way a priest on the other side of a thin partition can't; there's no fudging the date of your last confession here.
After setting my password (I'll let you imagine that one), I went to the Examination of Conscience page and reviewed the Ten Commandments. Some people need an e-reminder that killing, cheating, stealing, lying and screwing your neighbor's husband are no-no's. I'm good to go on the How to Behave as a Human Being because my mama raised me right, so I skipped to the confession.
“This app is intended to be used during the Sacrament of Penance with a Catholic priest only,” reads the disclaimer. “This is not a substitute for a valid confession.” Ah ha! I get it.
This app is a shortcut, like a “Sabbath” setting on an oven.
So there I sat at my dining room table, talking to my iPhone. Not talking on my phone, but to my phone.
“Are you there, God? It's me, Aaryn,” I said, recalling one of my favorite Judy Blume books. “Uh. Last Friday, my in-laws took my daughter for the morning so I could write. But instead of writing, I—masturbated.” Just saying the word “masturbated” made me kind of horny. Is it bad to be horny during confession?
Holding my phone, I continued: “And as long as I'm confessing, God, well, last Monday, I told a 5-year-old fan of yours that some people don't believe in you.”
My iPhone then did what I imagine lots of priests do: It went to sleep. I felt a little offended that I had to log back in to finish up. Not to mention I was trying to hurry so I could masturbate before I had to pick my kid up from school. Alone time is precious in these parts.
After my confession, I was prompted to read a little ditty called “Act of Contrition,” which I did, though I have to admit I kept getting distracted by the sound of my eyeballs rolling to the back of my head. I didn't feel all that sorry. In fact, I was kind of bored. But I said “amen” and waited for my absolution.
For $1.99, I felt nothing but amusement.
Spend the money if you want, but, in my opinion, there's only one way to know God and it has nothing to do with showing up at church or iConfession.