Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs, Theologian and Prophet

By Winfred Vergara

The globalized world mourns today the passing of Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple. He is considered an exceptional high tech guru, entrepreneur, inventor, innovator, visionary and probably the newest richest man in the cemetery.

Aside from being a father to at least four human beings, Jobs is also the father of iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad. While I have only iNap, iSnore and iOwe to my credits, I quite resonate with his life, particularly his disadvantaged family origin; and although he was reportedly a Zen Buddhist, I consider him my new Christian theologian and prophet. I think his one Commencement Speech to Stanford University students in 2005 must have inspired more people (thanks to his high tech, high speed inventions) than any of my 1726 miserable sermons delivered during my 33 years of priesthood.

And so at the risk of making him my idol, I share three points why his life is worthy of emulation:

1. He Learned from Adversity
Given for adoption and learning that his adopted parents were not as rich and educated as his biological mother had expected, he made the most of what he had. “At Reed College, I did not have a dorm room so I slept on the floor of friends’ rooms. I returned coke bottle for 5 cents deposits to buy food and would walk seven miles across town on Sundays to get one good meal at a Hare Krishna temple.” He would later drop out of college, to save money for a self-directed learning, including a course on calligraphy, which he would later use in his design of Macintosh computer.

2. He Considered Love as Antidote for Failure
A positive thinking pastor, Robert Schuler once said, “success is never-ending and failure is never-final.” Jobs is a prime exemplar of this philosophy. He and Wozniak started Apple on his parents’ garage in Silicon Valley which grew into a 2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. But when it was settling down, they hired a new leadership who disagreed with him and he was fired from the very company he founded. He came back later after proving himself agile in founding NeXT and Pixar, two celebrated successes. He would later say “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love...Don’t settle.”*

3. He Believed Death Has a Renewing Purpose
I share with Steve Jobs the trait of being secretive about disease, a thing that most frustrate my own family. As a child, I endured a whole night suffering from food poisoning, because I did not want to wake my mother up. Jobs’ battle with pancreatic cancer, which ultimately claimed his life at age 56, was kept secret for a long time. St. Francis of Assisi called it “Sister Death” but for Jobs, death is life’s ultimate destiny. In his monologue on death, he said, “Death is the destination we all share…it is the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”*

It would be great to share with Jobs’ audience that his philosophy of life’s journey resembles that of our forefather Abraham who did not settle in villas and palaces but lived in tents because he was looking for a city with a strong foundation, “whose builder and maker is God.” It is also comforting to share that the Christian faith offers a view that death is not the final statement for we believe that God will raise us up on the last day.

(This blog first appeared in

*These quotations are taken from Steve Jobs’ Commencement address at Stanford University, California, October 10, 2005.

**The Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara is missioner for Asiamerica Ministry in the Episcopal Church Center based in New York City. Ordained in the Philippine Independent Church, he served as missionary priest in the Anglican Church in Singapore (1980-86) and Canon Missioner of the Diocese of El Camino Real (1990-2004). Among his books are Milkfish in Brackish Water: Filipino-American Ministry (1990); Mainstreaming Asian Americans in the Episcopal Church (2006); Catholicity and Brief History of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (2010). He can be contacted at

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