Friday, October 07, 2011

Steve Jobs, The American Messiah

I've been fascinated by the veneration of Jobs since his recent death. But, even before he died, I began to notice how he was worshiped as divine.

It goes back to an incident at the Apple Store in Hawaii. My family and I were on vacation when some of us dropped into the Apple Store to check out the brand new invention: the iPhone. Dozens of people were huddled around the display table, trying to get their hands on the new device. We were waiting our turn, watching over the shoulders of customers playing with the iPhone and marveling over the miraculous (something as simple as shifting the position of the phone, from vertical to horizontal, to make the screen move from "portrait" to "landscape" mode was astonishing--remember?). Then, in the exuberance of collective gasps and "oh my, look at this," a young man shouted (to no one in particular), "Steve Jobs is a god!", at which point the enthusiastic crowd offered audible affirmations of approval.

Postmortem, Steve Jobs has been enshrined as an American god--much like the Caesars of old. The veneration of the technology genius continues to rise ever higher every day. And, as they recount his accomplishments, his story begins to sound more and more messianic: a fatherless boy born to a young single woman, he grows up believing he's meant to change the world. He bucks the establishment and takes on the imperial domination of the computer world (and therefore, our world): Caesar IBM and its Herodian servant, Microsoft. His loyal disciples follow his every move, longing for the times he takes the stage and performs the miraculous (remember when he pulled the first-generation Nano out of his pocket and the crowd roared with approval?). He wasn't formally educated but still spoke wisdom to this generation, challenging "dogma" and established religion. He garnered the devotion of the masses because he brought heaven to earth (no, he didn't heal anyone. But, to the American consumer, having entertainment at your fingertips--at a reasonable cost, with very little know-how required to operate the latest, greatest device--now, that is heaven on earth). He defied death--even in the face of a terrible disease (pancreatic cancer is a death sentence)--by refusing to fear it, but lived his dream and modeled for everyone what it takes to do the same: listen to the inner voice (his version of the Holy Spirit?) within all of us.

Now, of course, he didn't rise from the dead. But, at least he achieved immortality--especially if you believe what the pundits say. Steve Jobs single-handledly changed the world (well, not counting all the geniuses he hired to do the work). He made our life better (without Pixar, where would the movies be today?). He will always be with us (I have my iPod playing right now). He has devoted followers who will carry on his kingdom work regardless of what anyone says (dare to question the infallibility of Jobs and see what happens). At least he's done something tangible, something you can hold in your hands, something you can experience with your eyes (that's better than most Messiahs, especially the Jewish one who live two-thousand years ago).

So, let the accolades ring through the ages. There's never been anyone like him. He is one-of-a-kind. He is the perfect version of the American dream, from orphan boy to corporate wunderkind. We must worship him, for this is the kind of Messiah we want, we need--one who makes our lives better and only requires a little money in return.


kenny said...

Too bad Jesus didn't leave us something so concrete as an iPhone...

B Grif said...

What a powerful analogy! I marvel at it's truth and fear how it's light exposes darkness in my life.

I am bothered by the ambiguous indictment behind this post. Should I condemn Jobs and the American lifestyle that he symbolizes? Maybe. Yet, the strongest criticism weighs against us idolatrous people, Christians and non-Christians alike.

It's the same feeling I get when I read Jesus's words in Luke 9:18-20. Who Christ is and who I say he is are much more closely tied together than it seems.

Lauren Cawein said...

dr. reeves, this is EXACTLY what has been on my mind. i have korean students writing daily journals and one of them wrote about jobs and what a 'savior' he was for our world. i wanted to write as a comment, "will he rise from the dead?"
thank you for writing this. i can't wait to read your book. it will be waiting for me when i get home at the end of december.