I’m somewhat surprised by the overwhelming reaction to the death of Steve Jobs. I knew he was a technological giant. But I guess I didn’t grasp the extent to which he is considered a visionary and something of a national hero.
Among the many reactions I’ve seen today are some interesting ones from religious perspectives.
The first thing I saw was a statement from Steve McConkey, president of an outfit called ChristianInvestigator.com. He wanted to make clear that Jobs was not a Christian, but a Buddhist.
The statement explains the differences between Buddhism and Christianity, but doesn’t really say what it means for Jobs’ legacy.
Then came a statement from Dr. Michael A. Milton, chancellor-elect of Reformed Theological Seminary. He also makes the point that “it is doubtful that we will learn that (Jobs) was a devout Christian.”
But Milton goes on to praise Jobs because his creations have brought “the Word of God to the ends of the earth.”
He writes: “And so the gospel is getting through to the most hostile places on earth as well as to the most hostile ideological places in the secularized Western world. So I thank God for the life of Steve Jobs.” Milton writes that he’ll remember Jobs as “the founder of an empire that linked the world in order to bring Christ to those who have never heard.”
Milton also writes this:
His commencement speech at Stanford University will likely go down as one of the greatest. It is a testimony to a very spiritual man, not (at least at that time) a Christian man, who saw failures as the turning points in his life, which led to creativity. Our country needs to hear that great American story these days more than ever. Yet behind this brilliant and quite resilient man who changed so much of modern life, and whose destiny is now with His Creator, is really the figure of One who rose again from the dead. Through the creativity of Steve Jobs is a God using all means to reach His own.
At ReligionDispatches.org, Elizabeth Drescher briefly explores “the religious or spiritual dimensions of our technological affections” and notes a cottage industry of scholarship that tracks the religiosity of Apple users.
She writes: “Jobs made technological devices the extensions of human experience that Marshall McLuhan showed them to be, just as the digital age was dawning. He elevated its status from lowly tool to digital connector, relationship maker, global boundary crosser. Jobs helped to make our world bigger, while drawing us closer.”
She also notes, as many others have today, an essay written back in 1994 by Umberto Eco, an Italian writer, which found that Apple vs. DOS was something of a holy war. Get a load of this:
The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach—if not the kingdom of Heaven—the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.
DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.
(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)