All Our Good Guys are also Bad Guys: Steve Jobs

Last night my wife and I watched the documentary  Steve Jobs-The Man in the Machine. It is now available on Netflix, and I think it is worth your time.

The film is a depiction of his life that includes his darker side, which was largely lost in the hero worship of the wider culture. It is full of original footage and lots of interviews with people close to him.

This essay reflects on some of the themes in the film. While I don’t agree with all that the author says (who ever does?), the big picture is spot on. All of our good guys are also bad guys. One point that comes across so well is that Steve Jobs was celebrated and promoted even though he was such a bad person. Those around him, and the broader culture was willing to accept so much evil because he gave people what they wanted. When and why we turn a blind eye to evil may be one of the most revealing tests of character there is.

That is a sobering reality.

Here is the conclusion of the essay:

“Jobs did not need to be cruel, but he chose to be; we did not need to reward him with our dollars, but we chose to. Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine shows us, because we desperately need to be reminded, that all our good guys are bad guys. Lest the viewers judge too harshly, though, the film’s implicit concluding argument is, essentially, that we are allbad guys—not just Steve Jobs, but also Steve Wozniak, Bob Belleville, you, and me—because we tolerate and even admire such outward cruelty. The screen of an iPhone dims after 30 seconds, but, thank God, grace shines the light of forgiveness when we are alone in the darkness we allow and the darkness we create.”

Only in the grace of God do we find the hero and leader that instead of exploiting us, lays down his life for us.


The Blind Condemning The Blind

The Blind Condeming The Blind FB

It is common to look on other cultures, and especially past generations with some disdain. This is almost a requirement for anyone who thinks of themselves as a “modern” person.  We see their flaws so clearly, and congratulate ourselves for our clear vision in areas where they were so blind. How could they have missed it?

But to a thoughtful observer, this experience should be a little terrifying. What if I am not so very different from those barbarians? What if history repeats itself? What if my children will have the same critical thoughts about me that I have about my parents and grandparents? What if my own bias makes me blind to my own moral failings? And above all, what if God sees it all very clearly? Then what?

This was the argument of the Apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 2. He said, “you who condemn another do you not condemn yourself?”  It is too easy to limit the idea of condemnation to moralists.  Our generation readily condemns those guilty of greed, racism, environmental irresponsibility, sexism, etc.  And we do this most readily when looking at past generations. But when we make these kinds of judgments we are unwittingly conceding that there is a standard that transcends generations and cultures. That there is a standard that is not relative, and that applies even when we don’t see it or know it.  And when we are honest, we will have to admit that this law stands over us as well.

CS Lewis ruminated on this 75 years ago:

“If, then, you are ever tempted to think that we modern Western Europeans cannot really be so very bad because we are, comparatively speaking, humane—if, in other words, you think God might be content with us on that ground—ask yourself whether you think God ought to have been content with the cruelty of cruel ages because they excelled in courage or chastity. You will see at once that this is an impossibility. From considering how the cruelty of our ancestors looks to us, you may get some inkling how our softness, worldliness, and timidity would have looked to them, and hence how both must look to God.”

-CS Lewis, from “The Problem of Pain”

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Why Does It Take So Long to Say We Are Sorry?

Why does it take so long to say that we are sorry? To acknowledge wrong doing and ask for pardon? Why do whole societies refused to acknowledge their past injustices and thereby turn them into present evils? Why do onlookers stand by, becoming complicit by their silence and inaction? Why are we more afraid of the loss of money, influence, and political good will than we are for the cancer of cowardice that grows inside when we stand by in silence?

Armenian Memorial

I just attended an important event at the Armenian Genocide memorial at Fresno State.  It was very moving to me. My eyes were filled with tears. I am sad to say that before moving to Fresno in 2009 I hadn’t even heard of this event. But many Armenian friends have shared the history and even personal accounts from their families.  Oddly enough, I had tears in part because of the great injustice, but they were also tears of joy because an evangelical Turkish pastor had come to continue a process of reconciliation and healing. Even though others would not acknowledge the genocide, he was there to acknowledge, apologize, and seek reconciliation among brothers in Christ. It was a beautiful event. It was a miracle a century in the making.

This year is the 100th anniversary of this great evil, and still the government of Turkey and many others refuse to acknowledge that it even happened, let alone to apologize.  My own president and government have refused to make a simple statement using that “G” word.  And it is strange because the U.S. Doesn’t even need to apologize as the perpetrators of what happened in 1915. We don’t need to acknowledge that WE did it.  We just need to acknowledge that someone else did a great crime. But so far, we won’t. But I am hopeful that this will change.

Armenians marched by Turkish soldiers in 1915


When we refuse to call evil exactly what it is, we give it power.  Others may be emboldened to repeat similar acts with a sense of impunity. It was only 24 years after the great outbreak of the genocide in 1915 that Hitler acknowledged it, but in a sinister way. He said, “who, after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians.”  He was posturing for the annihilation of the Jews, and he viewed this as the trial run.  The worldwide silence on this issue, the failure of other nations to intervene or even “remember” what happened while the events were still fresh in memory had implications. It inspired Hitler. It made him feel that he could not only repeat these acts, but that he could get away with it. He interpreted the silence and concluded hat this group of people were so despised that the world would be better off for their destruction. Such are the depraved justifications of mad men.

But why would it take so long for a nation like ours, one so entangled in its own quest for social justice, to even call this event what it is?

There are many answers, but none of them will can bear the weight of our silence.  What does matter is that now we have become part of the problem, we have refused to leave the great stream of indifference that flows through history.  Even while we pat ourselves on the back for our moral progress.  Now, even though we weren’t the perpetrators we need to apologize for failing to act, and failing to offer the simple gesture of words. We must ask forgiveness for our unwillingness to pay the price for speaking the truth. And we must acknowledge that it took us far too long to do it.

Sawing Off The Limb That Holds You


The problem of evil and suffering is a real problem. We struggle with it from a rational/philosophical standpoint and also from an emotional perspective. Christians often struggle more with the emotional dimension than just wrestling with the logic behind the question because we believe that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil and suffering that is in the world.

But atheists can bring this up in debate as a trump card. And it often “works” because of it’s strong emotional appeal.  Ravi Zacharias does a good job treating this in this in his book “Jesus Among Other Gods.”  He says that often this issue is raised with a list of the worst atrocities in history. This is fine,  and is actually part of my point here. The way those atrocities are discussed suggests that the person really believes they are wrong.  The world should be different than it is. The argument is a kind of protest.  And sometimes it is a protest against a god they believe should have prevented this. This outrage is used to show that an all loving and all powerful God couldn’t exist.  The conclusion: There is no god.

What they don’t realize is that the problem of evil is not just a problem for Christians. It is a problem for every philosophy and worldview.

What they don’t realize is that the problem of evil is not just a problem for Christians. It is a problem for every philosophy and worldview.  And unwittingly by removing idea of God, the atheist has removed any absolute standard of right and wrong. Now the very list of atrocities no longer wear the label “wrong” or “evil.”  The atheist may dislike them, but it is no more than personal or societal preference. These things are not examples of either justice or injustice because those things do not exist except in our minds.  The world just IS.  That is just the way things are.  And yet the very protest is making a plea that the world should be different than it is.  At the very lease, the atheist believes it is wrong for christians to believe what they do. It could be phrased in some other way,  but there is an “ought” in the protest that could only be true if there were some greater moral imperative.  In the end, the protest defeats itself.

Zacharias quotes GK Chesterton, who has made the point with a flourish:

“All denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind and the modern skeptic doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then writes another book, a novel in which he insults it himself. As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then as a philosopher that all of life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie.

“The man of this school goes first to a political meeting where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts. Then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is forever engaged in undermining his own mines. in his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt becomes practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”

The atheist wants to use the problem of evil to disprove the existence of god. But in the process he ends up disproving the existence of evil.  And this is not just a rational problem, it is an existential problem without compare.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959), 41

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