Ordination on the go? There’s an app for that!
A new app lets users experience religious garb for various traditions.
July 17th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Ordination on the go? There’s an app for that!

By Laura Koran, CNN

(CNN) – Ever wondered what it would be like to become ordained as a priest, rabbi or imam?

If you have an iPhone, you could be just a few screen swipes away from finding out.

That’s because Tony Jones, theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has developed an application, or “app,” that allows iPhone users to experience mock ordinations in more than two dozen faiths.  Solomon's Porch is a Christian ministry that began as a local church and today calls itself a "holistic, Christian, missionary, community."

The app, called Ordain Thyself, doesn’t confer any legitimate religious credentials to its users, but it does allow iPhone owners to see what they would look like wearing the religious garb of different clerics, and read a brief and humorous overview of various world religions.

Jones, himself an ordained minister, decided to create the app partly to combat what he sees as an inability of faith leaders to laugh about themselves and their religions.

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"Religion is serious business to be sure,” Jones told CNN’s Belief Blog. “But it could use a little stand up comedy to lighten us up."

Jones, who is also the author of "The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement," says on the whole reaction to the app has been positive, but the technology is not without its critics.

One woman, a Lutheran minister, accused Jones of belittling the ordination process, which often requires years of hard work and religious study.

Jones, who attended a seminary for three years leading up to his own ordination, dismisses such criticisms.

He points out that while ordination can be an onerous process in many faiths, others allow practitioners to become ordained online with minimal effort and a small fee.

“Ordination, in a lot of ways, is in the eye of the beholders,” Jones adds.

Jones and his team also respond to their critics on the app’s website, telling users whose religious sensibilities are offended to “find an app that can deliver you a better sense of humor.”

The app is advertised as an entertainment product, but Jones hopes users will learn more about the world’s religions when they play around with it, a goal Johnnie Moore finds dubious.

“That’s a little stretch,” Moore, a vice president of Liberty University, told the Belief Blog, adding that the app contributes in many ways to the stereotyping of belief systems.

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“I kind of wish that all of this effort had been put into something a little more educational,” Moore added, saying that Americans could really benefit from efforts to better understand world religions.

Yet despite his criticisms, Moore, who is an outspoken advocate of using technology and social media to reach out to people of faith, sees the app as “interesting for its purpose,” so long as it continues to advertise itself as an entertainment product.

“The contribution of this app and others like it is that they start a conversation, and that’s always valuable,” he says.

Ordain thyself allows users to explore 28 positions of leadership in many of the world’s largest religions, as well as several less common ones.

The app even explores several pop-culture faiths, such as the Klingon religion from "Star Trek," the “Dudeist” faith inspired by the film "The Big Lebowski" and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which was created by atheist Bobby Henderson in 2005.

- CNN Belief Blog

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soundoff (149 Responses)
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    July 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  4. joe R

    I can't speak for other religions but regarding judaism, the garb is not what makes on a rabbi. I know the world believes anyone with a beard is a rabbi but that simply not true and any orthodox jew will tell you the same. What makes you a rabbi is having passed extensive examinations (written and oral) to prove that you know jewish law well. So if the app makes one know jewish law, I'm all for it, otherwise it's stupid.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  5. Albert

    this is ridiculous

    July 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
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    July 24, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  7. Convert or go to hell

    Anyone who don't believe in Jesus Christ will go to hell

    July 22, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      I assume you're serious, so let's see how that belief came about.
      1. If you trust the Old Testament, God is a vainglorious, vengeful, unforgiving deity who once drowned all His creation except for one family an ark full of animals (Genesis 6-8) and on another required the murder of the women and children of an entire city (Numbers 31), to mention only two of His alledged atrocities and depravities.
      2. To avert the wrath of this vengeful God, Jesus died so that all who believed in him might have eternal life. But God struck back by becoming infinitely evil. Now, instead of people being punished by death, their soul became subject to eternal torment on Hell. Anyone who has seen a person or animal in torment understands why eternal torment is infinite evil.
      3. People could turn to Islam but they would soon realize that Muslims worship the God of the OT under a different name.
      4. No wonder people are turning to atheism (at least no worse than turning to the OT), or to Eastern religions, or Mormonism or Scientology. But is there another option: The God that Jesus taught and prayed to, a God of goodness, wisdom, truth and compassion; a God who punishes evil according to deeds (thoughts, words and acts) rather than faith by placing the evil-doer in a kind of Limbo until the final triumph of good over evil, when the dead are resurrected and enter a new world of peace and harmony, free of pain and suffering.
      5. To Hell with Hell!

      July 23, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      By the way, the name Hell, also known as the valley of the Shadow of Death, comes from a valley some distance from Jerusalem. It was filled with toxic gases, and people accused of serious crimes were required to cross it as evidence of their guilt or innocence. It is said that no one ever made it across.

      July 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    July 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Don

      Name 7 events in the history of the western civilization changed by the prayer. I need to know soon. I am taking home religion instruction.

      July 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  9. SteveDave

    This commentary section reads like a bunch of atheists bullying the few of faith who bother to post their comments. Is this a result of being bullied themselves, and this being the only forum where they can bully others? It just seems like most of the atheists who are posting are very self-righteous about their 'non-belief' Neither side has any points. You really don't. There's no proving deism, and there's no proving atheism. And yes, I've read the God Delusion. Now get off the couch and go outside, because regardless of what you believe in, you're alive now and it's beautiful.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm |

    Nice to see an app that lets you get approved to be a child molester.

    July 19, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  11. Jonathan

    Or you can just go online and actually get ordained like I did, just takes a couple minutes. No years of brainwashing required.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:49 am |
  12. Chris

    Glad to see the athiests dropped by to make everyone feel bad.

    July 18, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      We're here for you, Chris. Jesus is out in the back yard with the unicorns.

      July 19, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  13. Inky

    The app should include the equally pertinent costumes; The Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

    July 18, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      I understand that leprechauns actually developed the apps–with credit of course to the Tooth Fairy & Santa for keeping the mood light.

      July 19, 2012 at 12:27 am |
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    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    July 18, 2012 at 8:32 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.