Thinking Out Loud

October 7, 2011

Leaving Life on a High Note

While the United States political system operates with two very dominant political parties, here in Canada, our provincial (state) and federal legislatures and parliament are usually comprised of representatives from three or more parties.  Even as I type this on Thursday night, votes are being counted in my home province to determine who lead us and under a parliamentary system, the premier (governor) is the one whose party nets the most representatives.

At the federal level this spring, the unthinkable happened.  While our national political scene has been dominated by the Conservative party and the Liberal party.  But the third party, the New Democratic Party (NDP) was fronted by an affable — no, make that downright loveable — guy named Jack Layton, who, after all the votes were counted,  became the first NDP leader to lead the official opposition.

But then, the unthinkable happened again.  Cancer struck Jack Layton down rather swiftly at age 61, and instead of seeing what he might have done in the House of Commons, instead, we watched his state funeral.

I mention all that because I was struck by a number of similarities with the death of Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs.  Both very likeable or even loveable guys, both struck down at the peak of their personal accomplishments; Jobs at only 56 years of age.

Life can be short.

Life can end suddenly.

And I can’t help think of a third person, a somewhat ‘once upon a time’ character that Jesus mentions in a parable, though when scripture says, ‘a certain man,’ though the general hermeneutic approach is to take this as hypothetical, I believe the omniscient Christ could have been drawing on a real character or a composite.


   Luke 12 (NIV) 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

   20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

Another guy at the top of his game.  Planning to expand in one sense, but planning to coast a bit — we might call it entering some years of profit-taking — in another.  But he never gets to enjoy his riches or see what happens next. 

And into the shock of that sudden crisis, Jesus interjects another issue: the man seems to have no succession plan.  There’s been no preparation for the next chapter, and suddenly it comes upon him.

Maybe the guy in the story has the wrong priorities, after all the parable comes after this:

15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he follows it up with his own prescription for how to relate to material things:

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

   27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

One pastor we listen to online ends each sermon with, “Now go out and build the kingdom.”   That’s what we’re here to do.  Political empires will come and go and business fortunes will be amassed and then lost.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Jack Layton was admirable in Canadian politics as also was Steve Jobs in American business.  It would seem we lost both men all too soon. But let’s use the shortness of their lives as a reminder to make each day count, and to measure what ‘count’ means with eternity in view.

Now go out and build the kingdom.

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May 22, 2010

Pornography? Not on Apple Products

Steve Jobs has decided to swim against the current.   I want to re-post some large chunks here of an article that appeared on Monday at the blog, Grace City.

The CEO of Apple Computers has been getting a lot of negative press recently – some people don’t like the way he carefully controls the software and hardware worlds of his computer empire. The most public stir has been created over his refusal to allow apps in the apple store that use or were programmed with Flash. Jobs argues (rightly in my view) that Flash is a buggy, bloated program which slows down computers. Since Jobs is trying to create portable computers that last for 11 or so hours on battery, he wants to avoid Flash. Personally I am more than happy to never see another Flash video on my computer – I can’t stand the way Adobe make their software bloated to the point where it slows my computer down.

Another aspect of Job’s defiance of critics has been less commented on. Jobs has argued that he wants his portable computer devices to not sell or stock pornography.

When a critic emailed him to say that this infringed his freedoms, Jobs emailed back and told him to buy a different type of computer.

Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs’ restrictions of customers’ freedoms.

The CEO of Apple replied to say that he values:

‘Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’ and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.’

The interlocutor replied:

“I don’t want ‘freedom from porn’. Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”

In the most revealing line, Steve Jobs dismissed the critic thus:

“You might care more about porn when you have kids.”

Pause for a moment and consider what the above emails represent.

The CEO of one of the wealthiest, most successful international companies, responds to the email of a customer. Business prospers on the mantra ‘The customer is always right.’ Business wants the customers’ money.

But in this case, over the moral issue of pornography, Jobs is happy to tell customers to buy a different product. He argues that children and innocence ought to be preserved – and that trumps the dollar.

Google (with their motto ‘Don’t be evil’) rake in billions through pornography. Ranks of employees spend their time categorizing and arranging advertising for pornography. (I know, I spent some time discussing the difficulties posed to a Christian who worked in their UK HQ) Pornography is huge business, yet here is the CEO of Apple telling the pornography businesses to take their dollars elsewhere.

Now Steve Jobs cannot actually stop pornography being accessed on the devices he sells – indeed you can jailbreak a device and run any pirated software on it. Neither can he necessarily set the ethical bar as high as a Christian may want it – but what he is doing is significant and commendable. He is taking responsibility for doing what he can. He is trying to not profit from pornography. Those deeds are important for the sake of his own soul. Matthew 18:7 comes to mind: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”

For the souls of other people, his public statements are valuable in that they permit consumers to identify with and commend his resistance to pornography. Our generation is saturated in pornography; a public statement from Steve Jobs resisting that, encourages others to believe that the secular-liberal-capitalist agenda is not the only show in town. Jobs’ comments are important for the manner in which they shape public cultural discourse.

Okay, so I actually copied the entire blog post.  I just couldn’t find a sentence to leave out.  I think Pete at Grace City, and Steve Jobs especially are on to something here.

Meanwhile,  the blog, Other Side of the World, notes that what is legal in the state of California becomes, by default, accessible around the world, in an article titled Die Pornography, Die!.

Freedom of expression and speech have often been used to defend some pretty vile things. On the internet obscenities are rampant, and produced as though it were legitimate business, when in fact it usually is not just illegitimate, but illegal. Many might be surprised to learn that California is the only state where it is actually legal to hire and pay people to have sex, and even there it supposedly requires a license. A new adult video is shot every 45 minutes, 24 hours a day, year round in California’s San Fernando Valley. Believe it or not, prostitution is still illegal in California. Not sure I’m clear on how porn production is not prostitution. Anyone remember the recent ACORN scandals?

Here is the strange part. On internet servers in virtually every state in the union, this illegal material exists. The peddlers will spam you, your parents, and even your children with provocative images and links in hopes of getting their hooks in, all the while the materials are actually illegal & virtually nothing is done to stop it. Even Google will boot your blog site out if you don’t update it often enough, but will thoroughly spider and reference thousands of pages that contain illegal content. Putting them right at the fingertips of any child who can type a bad word.

Recent news has been full of coverage of the new immigration law in Arizona. President Obama has called this law “irresponsible”. However, let’s just think for a minute. What did they actually do? Well… they decided to make it a crime to be an illegal resident of Arizona. What does illegal mean? How does official enforcement of the law qualify as irresponsible and lack of enforcement qualify as responsible?

That’s the problem with the internet, or any other kind of pornography. There are plenty of things in the US that are illegal, and pornography produced in any state but California would qualify as illegal, however I would submit that failing to enforce the law is the irresponsible part. Our federal government is legislating our socks off, but selectively disregarding major problems that are already matters of standing law. Recent legislation really seems much more focused on facilitating power and control instead of protecting legitimate liberty. Illegal pornography creation, consumption, and public distribution does not qualify as legitimate.

I hope and pray that this porn peddling can get under control. There are existing laws as well as precedents that make a strong case of legal question & the first amendment has faced this issue before. The current precedent at the supreme court level being the “Miller Test” that states:

  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

While there is still clearly a matter of interpretation to be discussed, the courts have consistently required strong merit on the matter of artistry. In short, they consistently find pornography to not be protected under the first amendment. Scholarly consensus also requires regional variation as “community standards” denotes. So California might be off the hook for deciding that their community standards condone such behavior, but for the rest of the United States this stuff still violates legal precedence and the spam, uncensored advertising, and other tactics these peddlers of perversion employ violates our liberty.

No, Mr. President, your definition of irresponsible is quite inverted. What Arizona’s state legislature did was took responsibility and did their duty to those they serve. You, on the other hand, seem to be serving someone else. Pouring your efforts into expanding some Federal Government empire bent on dissolving state sovereignty. Sovereignty that is guaranteed in our Constitution.

Calling all States whose citizens in general find pornography patently offensive (offensive in a clear and unambiguous manner): Please dismantle porn peddling, it is, after all, still considered by most “community standards” to appeal to prurient (Arousing or appealing to sexual desire) desires. The Supreme Court has consistently defied claims of artistic value, with very little remaining defense it is virtually the definition of obscenity. It’s production is illegal in nearly every state in the union. Please, some state, take a stand against this destroyer of families and take steps to end its production and distribution in your sovereign territories.

God, please help us.

Finally, here’s a third item for your consideration, but don’t look for a link for this one.

Playboy magazine has exhibited a rather disturbing trend this year:  First the magazine ran a cover featuring animated character Marge Simpson.   More recently the magazine ran a special issue using a pair of 3-D glass supplied with each issue.

What’s the connection?

In a world where anything pornographic is available on the internet, Playboy desperately wants to keep market share and future market share.   The latter is guaranteed by hooking younger readers.   But with an animated character cover and 3-D glasses, the magazine may actually be trying to interest very younger readers.

You won’t see that suggestion on many blogs or newspaper editorials, but there’s no denying that both recent “features” identify heavily with an audience that is too young to purchase the magazine legally in some states and provinces.

But it’s something that needs to be said.

The author of Thinking Out Loud is also the author of The Pornograph Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Daughters, Mothers, Sisters and Girlfriends.  You can presently read version 1.0 of the book online for free, just click here.   (It’s a reverse-blog; pages come up in book sequence, ‘older entries’ actually yields later chapters.)

If you got here from a internet search tag and this article (and blog) were a million miles different from what you expected, but you have continued to read this far, please know that there is another way of living.   With God’s help, you can quit — cold turkey — in a single day, and I believe you can somewhat  ‘de-toxify’ your brain in as little as a single week.   Find encouragement at XXXChurch.com

HT for Steve Jobs & Apple blog post – Tim Chester

I apologize for the length of this post, but history tells me that many readers don’t do the “continue reading” jump, or click on the links, and this issue is simply too important to not make it easy for the maximum number of blog visitors to read it all.   To the original bloggers of the two articles:  Remind me I owe you some traffic.


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