The new iPad launches today, promping the faithful throngs to queue at Apple stores (and authorized resellers) worldwide to obtain this latest object of desire that we didn’t know we could live without just two short years ago. I jump from them to “we” because I like my first generation iPad very much and, to my shame, I was in line to obtain it on its launch day about two years ago.1
What disturbs me about Apple is the religion of it. It’s not just that their customers have attached transcendent meaning to Apple and its products, but that Apple actively cultivates veneration. When I spent three shame-faced hours in line for my iPad two years ago, the employees came out clapping and cheering as the Apple Store was about to open, trying to whip us up into a frenzy. I gritted my teeth, feeling as awkward as a Jew at a Pentecostal revival. I didn’t want to get saved, I just wanted to exchange money for a consumer good.
It’s not that I’m just blaming Apple, but us as well. We’re the ones lapping this up; the ones lining up the night before for the “privilege” of getting to drop $500+ on one of these things. We’re the people whose only commitment is to instant gratification, but we conjure long-suffering as we reverently await the availability of a consumer good.
And yet, here I see glimmers of hope; of people striving to connect with something transcendent and significant. They’re horribly misguided, but the underlying impulse is sound and good. I believe that following Jesus in self-giving love is the answer to this religious impulse, but I’d settle for anything that looks a little more like service or love or justice and a little less like conspicuous consumption.