Bible Apps and Advertising Pitfalls
What do you do when you’re reading the Bible and a sexually inappropriate thought comes to mind?
I have to admit, when that happens, the first thing I try to do is figure out why this “thought” has come to my mind. Sometimes, it’s a flash from the past. Other times, it might be something I watched on streaming services that didn’t bother me when I saw it, but now it’s coming back to tempt me.
However, this specific time, I discovered that it was my own Bible that was leading me into temptation.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been studying through 1 Corinthians chapters 1 through 7 with my small group. 1 Corinthians is a letter, Paul wrote a collection of Christians in a city in Greece during the first century.
Paul had a lot to say.
One major part of Paul’s writing covers sexual immorality. Let me first start out by saying that sexual immorality is NOT sex. Sex is not immoral to God, in fact, He created it! Sexual immorality is when we take what God has created for our good and misuse it.
I was reading the part about how to deal with the effects of sexual immorality in a Christian’s life and I was reading that part on BibleGateway.com from my desktop browser.
Have you ever noticed that you can sometimes be blinded to advertisements when browsing the web? I tend to see it and then quickly ignore whatever is in a side bar or those images that fall in between paragraphs. That is what normally happens when I am on BibleGateway.com
BibleGateway.com uses paid advertisers that displayed advertisements on their web pages as you browse the Bible. I totally understand the need for advertising dollars and also, the desire to connect people to products they may want. I also understand that these ads are not being selected by BibleGateway.com so they don’t know exactly which ad is being shown when you see it.
The advertiser that is responsible for displaying those advertisements is Ads by Google (that’s the actual name). I am not hating on Ads by Google or BibleGateway.com, I’m just sharing my recent experience.
Ads by Google offers at least two user options to “Stop seeing this ad” or “Why this ad?”
This was interesting to learn and I didn’t learn what the “Why this ad?” option did until I began writing this article and tested it out. Beware, that this option doesn’t always work out how you expect it to and your results may vary.
Here is the advertisement I saw while reading 1 Corinthians 5.
What’s behind the black box, is a woman’s curvy torso in a one-piece bathing suit or leotard (is that still a word?). She has her legs opened and there is a clear view of her covered “lady bits.”
I didn’t notice it at first because the Ad system rotates a new banner into that spot, every now and then. So, the ad that I started with when I navigated to the Bible passage (and looked at, then ignored) was not the same.
Is that picture sexually immoral?
Technically, there is nothing sexually immoral or explicit with the picture itself (at least to the average joe). I am assuming it’s selling swimwear and if I was at the beach or swiping up on Instagram, I would see images like that and would keep scrolling or leave the beach.
Is that picture sexually provocative?
Of course! Sexuality sells and marketers know it. Years ago, I learned that my sexual nature is a prime target for marketing dollars. The Bible also told me that my purity was a target and how I should deal with attacks both inside and outside my mind. The Bible also tells us that there is a battle for the control of my mind and the battle is for my money and my purity.
What makes this so important, is that I was reading the Bible.
Never in my life have I been reading about purity in the Bible and I was shown a picture that could cause me to stumble. It never happened in my life because I always read a paper copy of the Bible and there were no advertisements in it. The only visual attacker in that case would be my own thoughts or memories.
I expect this kind of marketing and sexuality on big social sites and even common browsers, but not while I’m reading the Bible?
This story isn’t all bad news, there is some good to come.
In my righteous anger, I screen captured the image and contacted BibleGateway.com
At first, finding how to contact them was pretty easy. A Contact Us link is in the footer of every page. Then the Contact page …/feedback/ tried to help me out with some common questions (which I think is good).
I didn’t see form boxes, which is a normal part of Contact Us pages, but there was a “Please Select” button clearly visible. Not the best, but no problem, I click on the Please Select expecting more clues.
I then saw Advertising listed in the select menu and chose “I have a question…about advertising.” I filled out the fields and said that I was a real person, gave my email, phone number and website.
Why did I give extra information?
If you’ve ever managed a contact form or any form that is public, you will see that there is lots of spam sent through them. I wanted to make sure that they knew this wasn’t a robot automatically filling their inbox with spam.
I also included a screen capture image link of the offending advertisement…
I uploaded the image (uncensored) to my web space and sent them a link. If you don’t have this specific set of skills don’t worry, here are some great web-based tools for uploading images and creating them as links.
BTW, Print Screen, which is a button on your keyboard, still works. Press it, believe it’s been copied and then paste it into a Word doc, Google doc or blank email. (CTRL+V or click with the right mouse button and select Paste).
I clicked on Submit and said a prayer of doubt: “I know they will not even give this a look or they’ll probably get to this in a week or so.” Yes, that is a prayer of doubt.
It was late at night, maybe 11:30pm on Thursday, October 8, 2020.
At 1:29PM, the next day, I received an email from Angie L., at BibleGateway.com
Wow, that was quick and thankfully, God ignored my prayer of doubt and I got a response in under 24 hours.
I really appreciated the response:
“It’s critical to us that any advertising on Bible Gateway reflects our Christian values and does not conflict with our mission. For the inappropriate ad you saw, we need you to pass on two things so we can find the ad and block it:
URL: To send the ad’s URL, right click on the ad and click ‘Copy URL’. Paste it in your e-mail back to me.
Screenshot: To take a screenshot of the ad, please refer to this link: http://www.take-a-screenshot.org/ Attach the screenshot to your return e-mail.
Great Job BibleGateway.com!!!
I felt empowered. I spoke up and something happened and quickly.
Part of empowerment is providing the tools needed to take control of a situation. Angie L. gave me a link to take the screen capture and it would give me instructions on what to do (pretty much what I’ve told you to do).
You don’t need a ‘set of specific skills’ when they give you the skills you need.
I am so grateful to how BibleGateway.com responded and gave my concern priority and offered tools to help me understand and capture what was going on.
The God’s Honest Truth
Here is the “Truth, intensified by its redundant modification with honest, and further intensified by the specification that the “honest truth” comes from God (traditionally considered a most trustworthy authority)” —> Christians complain too much about what is considered normal behavior in this world and do not do enough: like carefully standing up against those things that are at odds with what we believe.
I was pretty angry when I saw that Ad. I wasn’t angry because I could have been triggered into lust by looking at the image. I was angry because I thought of other Christian’s, some who struggle with lust and others who wouldn’t normally look twice, but now, it’s in their faces.
It angered me that they would come to a safe space — The Bible — and find a moment of temptation and a contradiction to their faith — without asking for it!
I took a breath and responded with my “specific set of skills” (yeah, I’m gonna keep using it) but didn’t believe that I would be taken seriously (which is all on me).
I think that WE Christian’s sometimes believe that this world won’t take us seriously and instead of stepping out in faith and believing that Jesus would open up opportunities for His message to be heard, WE take Bible verses out of context to relieve us of our responsibility, like Luke 16:31: “They won’t believe, even if someone comes back from the dead!”
Let me encourage you to change the way you think to how God thinks. To believe that God will make opportunities for you to be heard. For some, it will require their life, but for most, it might mean losing a job or position or losing face in front of friends, families or church members.
Whatever the cost is, believe that the price you will pay for standing up for Jesus is worth it. Hey, He already did it for you:
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
Here’s additional encouragement:
Romans 10:17; Job 33:16; John 6:63; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 21:13-19