Some folks in the media seem so disgusted with organized religion, they anoint their own moral leaders.
Which is what happened in this New York Times story about Apple’s Tim Cook and his call for moral responsibility. If you read the entire piece, you’ll see there’s not one mention of any religious background for this man.
Turns out he very much has a faith background, starting with his childhood in the Bible Belt. So why was it not mentioned?
First, the story, which builds up to a strategic use of the word "moral."
AUSTIN, Tex. -- “The reality is that government, for a long period of time, has for whatever set of reasons become less functional and isn’t working at the speed that it once was. And so it does fall, I think, not just on business but on all other areas of society to step up.”
That was Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, across the table from me over breakfast here in downtown Austin late last week at the end of a mini-tour across the country during which he focused on topics usually reserved for politicians: manufacturing, jobs and education.
The piece goes on to record his criticisms of President Donald Trump. Then:
And now Mr. Cook is one of the many business leaders in the country who appear to be filling the void, using his platform at Apple to wade into larger social issues that typically fell beyond the mandate of executives in past generations.
He said he had never set out to do so, but he feels he has been thrust into the role as virtually every large American company has had to stake out a domestic policy.
Then the writer steps in.
Watching Mr. Cook over the years, I’ve been fascinated to see how he has become as animated when talking about big issues like education and climate change as he is when talking about Apple.
“I think we have a moral responsibility to help grow the economy, to help grow jobs, to contribute to this country and to contribute to the other countries that we do business in,” he said.
The writer adds that Mr. Cook is paid quite well and that Apple keeps a quarter-trillion dollars abroad, untaxed. Then he gives examples of Mr. Cook’s do-good leadership.
When Mr. Cook announced, for example, the new data facility in Waukee, he said it would run fully on renewable energy. But he slipped in another fact that has largely gone unnoticed: Over the past several years, Mr. Cook has gotten all of the company’s corporate facilities in the United States to run on wind and solar energy — in their entirety.
“We’re running Apple a hundred percent on renewable energy today” in the United States, he said over breakfast, “and we’ve now hit that in 23 other countries around the world.”
Excuse me, but this is moral leadership? Yes, it’s being green with a social conscience but moral leadership?
About the faith angle, turns out there is one, as our own tmatt noted in this post last year: "What about church? Washington Post probes Southern roots of Apple leader's 'moral sense'."
You can also dig into this 2015 piece in the Washington Post to find it. It was an opinion column by Cook that started thus:
There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country.
A wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states, would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors. Some, such as the bill enacted in Indiana last week that drew a national outcry and one passed in Arkansas, say individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.
Basically, he was taking a stand against people like Kim Davis refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses for religious reasons.
Being that his stand was part of the popular zeitgeist at the time, I wouldn’t say that Cook was showing a ton of bravery. Anyway, he did say to the Post:
I have great reverence for religious freedom. As a child, I was baptized in a Baptist church, and faith has always been an important part of my life. I was never taught, nor do I believe, that religion should be used as an excuse to discriminate.
(By the way, the Daily Caller didn’t think much of his statement and called him out on it here.)
I got even more information from this article in Fortune:
When Apple (AAPL, +0.89%) CEO Tim Cook recently announced he is gay, he wrote, “I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.” Cook is not forthcoming beyond that statement about his religious beliefs, probably because people have strong opinions about how appropriate it is for executives to discuss their personal beliefs.
Lots of God talk there. Seems like the Times could have mentioned some of these factors, no?
If Cook was raised Baptist, what did his co-religionists say about him being gay? Is he even active in any kind of organized faith these days? Fortunately some of the folks in the comments section called out the journalist for not noting instances in which Apple's morals -- and that of Mr. Cook -- could use some help.
Oh, I got the above links after a few minutes search on Google. They were not tough to find.
If you’re going to call someone a moral leader, it might be a good idea to explain what kinds of morals inform this person. Because if you don't, the rest of us are going to assume -- rightly -- that said piece of writing is only a clever attempt at PR.