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Spiritual reactions to the death of Steve Jobs

Spiritual reactions to the death of Steve Jobs

Those of us at Episcopal Cafe were among the many to react to the news that Steve Jobs died last night. We included the heartfelt statement found on’s website.

Today, there have been many articles (newly written and reposted) concerning the many spiritual understandings to Jobs’ life and vision. Religion News Service listed many of these.

Almost every article pulls this quote from a 2005 commencement address Jobs made at Stanford University.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Mark Millan writes on CNN on “The Spiritual side of Steve Jobs” He considers the spiritual side of what drove Jobs to build the Apple company and culture.

Dan Gilgoff writes on CNN’s Belief Blog “The Zen of Steve Jobs

The Apple chief, who died Wednesday at 56, had a decades-long relationship with a Zen master, who presided over his wedding and whom Jobs reportedly appointed as a corporate spiritual adviser. Their ties have fed speculation about such a connection.

Early on in life, Jobs took a spiritual retreat to India that helped lead him to embrace Buddhism. But the teacher with whom Jobs bonded with in the United States was a Zen Buddhist, a tradition rooted in Japan.

Elizabeth Scalia writes on her blog The Anchoress:

…even I am smart enough to know that Steve Jobs’ was a rare and exotic mind. I wonder if he is the last [publicly apolitical] capitalist we’re going to be permitted to admire for his creativity, his invention and his sheer genius?

Even though we all anticipated his death, at only 56 years of age, I wonder how many people tonight are finding the fact of it to be shocking, nevertheless. And whether that realization, that no matter how colossal, none of us escape death, will feel frightening or reassuring to us?

Christianity Today reposted Andy Crouch’s critical article from back when Jobs left for a leave of absence due to health. Originally titled “A World Without Jobs: The gospel of a secular age“, suggesting that “…his most singular quality has been his ability to articulate a perfectly secular form of hope.”

My favorite was Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite’s “The theology of Steve Jobs: The byte out of the Apple” from The Washington Post. She creatively observes:

In the world of Steve Jobs, technology became personal, intimate, relational and revolutionary. With an iPod your ear, playing your music downloaded from iTunes, you check your messages on your iPhone and network using your iPad. Your Apple computer gives you point and click access to a world of knowledge and play. You are deeply, profoundly connected to the digital age and Steve Jobs did that to us, for us, as us—his instinct for marketing almost mystical in its ability to anticipate human desire.

But it was the shiny apple with the big bite taken out of it, the symbol of Apple, Inc., that has most entranced me in its profound theological implications.

She insightfully concludes:

Steve Jobs was, without doubt, a technological genius, but he was also, in my view, a profound theologian because he understood the human condition as lived between desire and finitude. Together these define us, for good and for ill.

There are many more reactions to come…


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I don’t think anyone is saying that Steve Jobs was God, though I agree some of the words are over the top.

Certainly, Jobs was not a selfless hero like Shuttlesworth. But neither was he an empty celebrity.

Steve Jobs invented technology that has major effect on our society every single day. Yes, he became obscenely rich by doing so. He was also paid an executive salary of just $1 a year from 1997 on. If more CEOs were like Steve Jobs and more companies like Apple, we just might be in a better place. By all accounts, he faced his mortality with grace, and managed to impart some wisdom before he left.

It seems a bit churlish to scold people for grieving Jobs passing, and for reflecting on his creative accomplishments. In any case, I don’t see why it has to be an “either/or”.

And just think… if Jobs hadn’t died, with all the attention it caused, we would have heard endlessly about Sarah Palin’s decision not to run for president!

Susan Forsburg


I must agree, Bob C. I pray for the repose of the soul of Steve Jobs, as I would anyone—but I value heroes like Shuttlesworth (and groundbreaking law professor Derrick Bell, who died yesterday) more.

JC Fisher

Bob Carlton

I have been sorta shocked by the waves of reaction over the last 2 days.

I think Gawker, of all places, captures my own reaction:

Steve Jobs Was Not God

Real outpourings of public grief should be reserved for those people who lived life so heroically and selflessly that they stand as shining examples of love for all of humanity. People like, for example, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who—along with his family—was bombed, beaten, and stabbed during his years of principled activism in the US civil rights movement. Shuttlesworth died yesterday, the same day as Steve Jobs. He did not die a billionaire.

Murdoch Matthew

See also the comment thread to the earlier Café posting on Jobs. My comment there mentions his Muslim background and contains a link to an article about his Buddhism.

Note that Jobs gave us not only Apple, but Pixar as well.

Rod Gillis

Spiritual reactions? Are you kidding me? Can’t we expect something more from theological reflection than “groupie” think” ?

“Iconoclasm means the destruction of religious images, but what does it mean here? It simply means that we must destroy the deified religious character of technology”

–Jacques Ellul

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