Steve Jobs, secular messiah?

Apparently so.  Andrew Sullivan, who’s normally rather serious about his religion, links to and underscores Andy Crouch’s thesis that Jobs is the 21st century’s own personal Jesus in a black turtleneck:

As remarkable as Steve Jobs is in countless ways—as a designer, an innovator, a (ruthless and demanding) leader—his most singular quality has been his ability to articulate a perfectly secular form of hope. Nothing exemplifies that ability more than Apple’s early logo, which slapped a rainbow on the very archetype of human fallenness and failure—the bitten fruit—and made it a sign of promise and progress.

In the 2000s, when much about the wider world was causing Americans intense anxiety, the one thing that got inarguably better, much better, was our personal technology. In October 2001, with the World Trade Center still smoldering and the Internet financial bubble burst, Apple introduced the iPod. In January 2010, in the depths of the Great Recession, the very month where unemployment breached 10% for the first time in a generation, Apple introduced the iPad.

Politically, militarily, economically, the decade was defined by disappointment after disappointment—and technologically, it was defined by a series of elegantly produced events in which Steve Jobs, commanding more attention and publicity each time, strode on stage with a miracle in his pocket.

And here’s Sully:

This is certainly why my own conversion to Apple, and my deep loyalty to the company and its products, somehow felt comforting in the last decade. Their style elevates me, their power and reliability I have come to take for granted. Their stores have the innovation and beauty that a renewed Christianity would muster in its churches, if it hadn’t collapsed in a welter of dogma and politics.

I… wow.  Do people really think this way, in terms of logos* and figureheads and brand identities as close substitutes for spirituality?  Is this a commonplace phenomenon?  How Eloi make sense of the world?

When I look at my iPod Touch, I see a slick enclosure with a multi-touch interface, running a decidedly retrograde single-tasking operating system on a rather clever hybrid architecture.  And I think: fuck yes!  I love living in a future where all this tech comes together in a pocket-sized consumer device. If it’s this hard to build a toaster, just think how hard it is to build a palmtop computer that outperforms Gene Roddenberry’s imagination — and they’re cheap enough to be damn near ubiquitous (at least on the West Coast).

Isn’t there enough awe and wonder in that? Do we really need to import spirituality and out-group chauvinism like this:

Before the rise of Apple, advances in computing technology largely meant a daunting increase in complexity and the length of the manual accompanying the device. The 1990s were the age of Microsoft, when geeks ruled the world . . . because we were the only ones who knew how to get it to work.

Apple made technology safe for cool people—and ordinary people. It made products that worked, beautifully, without fuss and with a great deal of style.

in order to wrap our heads around the fact that, yes, a vast collection of people working and trading with each other can produce some pretty amazing shit?

I guess Jesus was a brand architect previous to his career as a prophet:


* Note: not logos, although the pun is irresistable

4 Responses to “Steve Jobs, secular messiah?”

  1. January 19, 2011 at 06:39

    Gah. Apple has a certain marketing skill, but, really: cell phones made technology safe for ‘ordinary people’. The would be the folks at Symbian, Motorola, etc.

    And look what the ordinary people do with the technology: OMG did U C wut he sez on Twitterz? and play Angry Birds all day.

    • January 19, 2011 at 11:38

      Some of those ordinary people overthrow governments with the technology, but I don’t think we can credit that to Apple either.

      Apple’s UI design sure is slick, and in terms of its discoverability it might be a bit better than its competition. In general I think what it does best is convince you that the other options would’ve been harder, had you happened to use them instead.

  2. 3 aczarnowski
    January 19, 2011 at 07:15

    I’ve got a friend that likes to think about stuff in exactly this space – media, religion and brand. I’ll have to forward this over to him.

    And, yes, there really are a lot of people out there for which brand is a religion.

  3. January 20, 2011 at 11:52

    So not only am I a heretic because I don’t believe in Jesus Christ as a savior, I’m now also one because I don’t get along with Apple products.


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