Worshiping at the iThrone of Apple

Zac HicksCulture, Worship Theology & Thought1 Comment

It’s interesting that Apple’s logo is a bitten piece of fruit.  The first time that happened, the whole world fell apart.

I’m not sure who originated the thought, but I’ve heard Tim Keller say many times, “Idolatry happens when good things become ultimate things.”  I was passed on an article which made a lot of comparisons between the tech giant Apple and religion…particularly Christianity.  Here are some highlights:

  • “Apple products aren’t just consumer-friendly, sexy gadgets, but instruments of the divine.”
  • “[Apple can] basically perform the same role in people’s lives that being part of a religious community could, at one time.”
  • Steve Jobs’ turtleneck and jeans serve as his clerical “vestments”
  • “The ‘Jesus phone’ phrase had sticking power because it resonated with an American audience steeped in Christian mythology.”
  • Apple’s humble beginnings (Steve Jobs’ garage) is compared to “the lowly manger of Jesus’ birth.”
  • Jobs’ return to Apple a kind of “second coming”
  • Microsoft is Apple’s “satanic” enemy
  • Apple store iPhone pre-launches have people lining up outside stores, much like religious pilgrimages to holy sites
  • “If you’re joining a church, you’re joining a community. And when you buy an Apple product, you’re joining the apple community.”
  • “If you say ‘I’m a Christian,’ people will expect you to have certain values and if you say, ‘I’m a Mac user,’ people expect you to have those Mac user values.”

Some of these observations are obviously tongue-in-cheek and satirical.  But satire always germinates in the soil of truth.  There are some fascinating cultural insights here, and I can’t help but make some observations, given that just yesterday, I preached a sermon on Christ’s call to deny ourselves.

One of the points I made in my message was that technology has a powerful ability to enslave us.  Think of the struggle we have to turn our phones off for the hour of worship or for dinner time with the family.  Think of our compulsive instinct to check and reply to email immediately.  Think of the near fear one feels when one realizes they are out and about and have left their mobile device at home.

It’s been said before that though the worship of sticks and stones is seldom seen in the United States, idolatry is rampant.  This article proves that whether culture is primitive or civilized, prehistoric or post-industrial, the human heart will always find something to pour out its time, affections, resources, energies…its worship.  The article mentioned that the iPhone is like Jesus—it is a revolutionary and a savior.  Certainly the centralizing power of the iPhone is astonishing.  Never before have so many disparate streams of modern life converged in one device—phone, email, television, internet, camera, calendaring (just to name the obvious ones).  But while the iPhone can bring together much of your life, it can’t put your life back together.  There will never be an app which can take away our deep, human sense of shame.  A “good thing” can’t do that; only an “ultimate thing.”  Yet, as culture moves forward, we continue to give technology increasing prominence in the pantheon of our hearts.  And nothing can stop it but the expulsive power of a new affection.

Obviously, I’m going to object to one of the assumptions of the article, namely, that Christianity is rooted in myth (the word [or word-group] was used no less than six times in this short article).  It doesn’t matter how much culture sticks its fingers in its ears, the evidence for the historical reliability of the Bible is weighty and convincing (cf., e.g., K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, C. L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, B. M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament). 

The irony is that, the more Apple grows in feeding the religious impulses of the masses, the more it will fail in increasing measure at providing what only True Religion gives–peace, forgiveness, wholeness, social justice, global restoration, freedom from shame and guilt.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  -Revelation 21:1-4

One Comment on “Worshiping at the iThrone of Apple”

  1. I loved the article! But admittedly, i read it on my iPhone. I love apple products because of their quality and craftsmanship and thought that goes into design. With apple, i am attracted to both form and function. Likewise with Christ, there is both an emotional as well as intellectual attraction to the "brand" of Chris.. But, puh-lease… I don’t expect OSX to save me from my sinful nature, or repair a broken relationship with my Creator! The article was definitely tongue in cheek, but I do see (sadly) a zealous devotion to apple that should perhaps be reserved for, as you say, True Religion.

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