Cover Story

A god of our age

"A god of our age" Continued...

Issue: "Steve Jobs 1955-2011," Oct. 22, 2011

To Buddhists and vegetarians he was a fellow-follower of the principles of minimalism, almost always appearing in public in a black turtleneck and worn jeans.

During the last year and a half of Jobs' life, some conservatives were not immune to the tendency to see him largely in connection with their own campaigns:

Jobs was a hero in June 2010 when he banned most pornography from his devices: One blogger called that decision antagonistic to freedom, but Jobs replied that he wanted "freedom from porn." Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council punned, "We're grateful that Jobs is trying to keep the iPad from becoming an eyesore."

He was a villain six months later, in December 2010, when Apple banned an app for the Manhattan Declaration that urged opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. The National Organization for Marriage produced a 95-second video that depicted Jobs as the censorious "Big Brother" featured in Apple's famous 1984 ad.

So who was Steve Jobs? Reportedly, young Jobs was confirmed in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, but he spoke later of his desire to "make a dent in the universe"-and did not want God to make a dent in him. At the first Apple Halloween costume party, Jobs reportedly dressed up as Jesus. Was he attempting to be commercially omniscient-he said he knew what consumers wanted before they knew it-and omnipotent, making any product he produced a hit?

I see him also as wanting to be the outsider who would enter a town and tame it, like the classic Western hero. His Buddhist twist would have fit him well for the odd western TV series that hit the airwaves when Jobs was a teenager, Kung Fu, the story of a monk who travels through 19th-century western America and survives through spiritual training and martial arts skill.

But I may be as wrong as everyone else attempting to characterize an individual who cherished his privacy. Maybe the best approach is to get the words closest to "Rosebud" that Jobs ever uttered in public-his Stanford commencement speech in 2005, one year after his first encounter with cancer. On that day, whistling past the graveyard, he described death as "very likely the best invention of life. All pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

One problem, though, is that he never clarified to listeners what is truly important. He did tell the Stanford graduates, "Follow your heart. ... Don't be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people's thinking. ... Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

Did Jobs remain a rebel against his youthful Lutheranism and the belief that our hearts are fallen? Did he ever realize that the thinking of some wise people, and especially that of a wise God, would help? Did Jobs ever come to grips with even three of the questions God hurls at the biblical Job: "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Where is the way to the dwelling of light?"

If Jobs' devotees were waiting for a final revelation from him as he approached death, it doesn't seem that one came. Jobs was one of the gods of our age, conquering the computer world and fostering vehicles for new media in a way even grander than that of Citizen Kane/William Randolph Hearst. Through God's common grace Jobs' creations improved life. But he could not conquer death.

Left unfulfilled were not only those curious about what Jobs' Rosebud might be, but his biological father, Abdulfattah John Jandali, an 80-year-old Syrian immigrant who is now a casino vice-president in Reno, Nev.

Several weeks before Jobs' death, newspapers quoted Jandali saying he didn't know until just a few years ago that the baby he and his girlfriend placed for adoption a half-century before had become a famous billionaire. Jandali said he had not called his son for fear Jobs would think Jandali was after his fortune, but he hoped Jobs would call him someday: "I just live in hope that, before it is too late, he will reach out to me, because even to have just one coffee with him just once would make me a very happy man."

Apparently, that meeting never happened.

Listen to a report on Steve Jobs' life from the Oct. 8 edition of the radio program The World and Everything in It.

Steve Jobs timeline

By The Editors

1955 Born Feb. 24 and adopted by machinist Paul Jobs and accountant Clara Jobs of Mountain View, Calif.

1972 Graduates from Homestead High School in Cupertino and enrolls at Reed College in Portland, Ore., but drops out after one semester

1974 Takes a job at Atari in Sunnyvale, Calif.; leaves to travel through India and joins a farm commune

1975 Joins Homebrew Computer Club, headed by Steve Wozniak, and persuades Wozniak to go into a business based on Wozniak's design for a new computer logic board dubbed Apple 1

1976 Founds Apple Computer

1977 Introduces Apple II

1980 Takes Apple public-at the end of its first day's trading Apple has a market value of $1.2 billion, so his stock is worth $239 million

1981 Becomes Apple chairman

1983 Recruits John Sculley from Pepsi to be the CEO of Apple

1984 Introduces the Macintosh, an all-in-one desktop computer with a graphical interface and a mouse

1985 Clashes with the Apple board, which backs Sculley and ousts him

1986 Works on developing NeXT, a high-end computer, and buys Pixar Animation Studios for $10 million from filmmaker George Lucas

1991 Marries Laurene Powell

1995 Releases the hit film Toy Story, the first Pixar movie with Disney, and becomes a billionaire when Pixar goes public

1996 Sells NeXT to Apple for $400 million and rejoins Apple as an advisor

1997 Becomes interim CEO after the Apple board ousts CEO Gil Amelio

1998 Releases the iMac, which becomes the fastest-selling personal computer in history

2000 Becomes permanent CEO of Apple and introduces Mac OS X, its current operating system, based on the NeXT operating system

2001 Launches the Apple Store to bolster retail sales and introduces the iPod, a music player that revolutionizes the digital music industry

2003 Launches the iTunes Music Store

2004 Undergoes surgery for pancreatic cancer

2006 Sells Pixar to Disney in a $7.4 billion stock deal and becomes Disney's largest shareholder

2007 Introduces the iPhone, a smartphone with a touch screen keypad that revolutionizes the cell phone industry

2009 Takes a six-month medical leave during which he undergoes a liver transplant

2010 Releases the iPad touch-screen tablet

2011 Takes another medical leave, resigns as CEO, and dies at age 56

Source: Current Biography, Atari, Apple, Reuters, AP, San Jose Mercury News, MCT

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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