Tom Becker and his wife serve as hosts of The Row House, a household-based Christian community within the context of his local church. Think of Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s L’Abri as a row house in Lancaster City, Pennsylvania and you’ll get the basic concept. Tom is a fine writer and cultural observer, in addition to being an all-around cool guy. Visit therowhouse.org for more about Tom and The Row House. The following is re-printed by permission.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks of the Apple Store as a sanctuary. Hushed wonder overcomes you as you step, hallowedly, into its circles of ever-denser holiness. Are you agnostic? Why not try it sometime? Been there already? Then you know what I mean!
Approach: The glass walls tell you something is brighter on the other side. You approach with anticipation of magical manipulations that dazzle your eyes and delight your fingertips. Perhaps John, Paul, George & Ringo welcome you. Or maybe it’s a giant iPhone. Nonetheless, you are allured by the profound cleanliness of it all. It’s just the way Steve wants it: Bauhaus-like, lot’s of white space, simplicity, undergirded by magnanimous complexity and power.
Enter: You step through the first separation between mall and store, the uninterested and the willing, the mundane and the holy. Welcomed by an enthusiastic Blue Shirted pal (not a sales person), you are allowed to roam freely in the outer court which consists of limitless time for injesting the newly-roasted sacrifices: A table for iPads, the latest iPhone, and a vast array of daily offerings that will spoil (become obsolete) overnight.
The outer court is a playground, an aspect to Hebrew-Christian worship our culture has long forgotten. Feasts outnumber fasts in the Bible. Jesus wants his people to party, to play, to laugh.
Engage: Strolling “further up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis would say, you reach the help counters. Owners, users and inquirers gather around the Blue Shirts for religious dialogue about software, icons and tasks, all related to furthering the Mac Kingdom. Issues are resolved. Joys are completed. Most worshippers head straight out into the dark world to employ their latest tools, enlightened.
Further back is the Holy Place. Once in a while, like the Day of Atonement, the whole shebang has to be dealt with. Hence, The Genius Bar. Staffed by the inner circle of sanctified Blue Shirts and usually one Chief, magic machines are either traded in or hard re-set, bringing new life to the supplicants who can’t get a leg up without expert help.
Worship: As for the Holy of Holies, you notice a door on the left side that exits The Genius Bar. It leads to the technical guts of the House and is staffed by the elite few. No one goes in there but The Blue Shirt who knows, as it were, the mind of Steve. The Holy of Holies may or may not contain an ark with cherubim above it, guarding the God-fingered tablets of law, but it certainly is the closest thing we have to Cupertino itself in Amish land. A direct link to Apple itself. The door to heaven.
The High Priest: Steve Job gave us compelling reasons for joining the Apple religion. He preached with approachableness. He spoke to our God-wired bent toward glory, beauty and productivity. The Bible never condemns idol worshippers because their gods are beautiful, handy or awesome. No, they are condemned because they take the elements of creation, that is, good things, and make them lords. And the funny thing about created things is they make wonderful servants. And people make wonderful friends. But they both make terrible gods. The make gods of us, and we suck at what good gods should do: Love people.
I don’t know much about Mr. Jobs, though I intend to read Walter Isaacson’s seminal biography about him soon. He will be missed at Apple, but I wonder, will we see his contribution for what it is? I mean, must we make an idol of him or his machines? After all, it’s public knowledge that Steve could be roughshod, nasty, and plain old weird in relating to people. The latest Edison? The Wittenberg for a new Millennia? (“Hey, what about me? I’m Bill Gates, and I do great things and act weird too, you know!). In the end, he’s just a dude, and he died, just like I will. You will too. What, then?
Despite what our culture wants to make of Jobs, I think the ancient faith conveyed to us by generations of witnesses ought to fire our imaginations even more than his relics of technology. As the late Francis A. Schaeffer would often tell his students in regard to any cultural advancement or religious contribution: They are fine as far as they go. They are rooted in God’s reality. But they are limited. They merely point to a bigger Story.The most significant reality is that Jesus is Lord. He, therefore, can get us further than Cupertino. His crucifixion on the Roman “technology” of death secured an atonement with a holy God who is really there. His resurrection broke open heaven and is the down payment on an overhaul of the cosmos that dwarfs anything any genius can do to affect change in culture.
I’ve been a Mac user since 2000, and will likely never turn back. I’m typing on my Lion-breathed MacBook presently. I can’t afford to be a gobbler of each new product, but I totally dig Job’s design language and interface obsession. And I enjoy the Mac Store. I’m just giving us a little reality check.
There is a tabernacle in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. I’m pretty sure you can enter it without going to the Mall.