In my last semester at Wake Forest School of Divinity I enrolled in a class which dealt with finding alternative pulpits. This is to say the intent was to engage in those spaces where prophetic experiences were taking place outside of the traditional Sunday morning hour. For the course, most of the experimental space we explored dealt in the digital realm, i.e. social media. My time in that course forced me to evaluate how I used blacksheepbaptist.com and, in the end, I decided that some social media platforms were not conducive to how I wanted to engage people outside of certain circles. In April of this year I official logged off of Facebook, the platform that defined what social media could be to my generation. I had little regret in my decision.
However, circumstances changed due to my position as the senior pastor of a church in Vermont. Not so much my duty, but my input was desired so I, with some hesitation, logged back into my account in August. While lurking and performing the typical “Facebook stalkings” I’ve determined I haven’t missed much. This revelation, while present from the get go, became all to clear while I was browsing Paul Kingsnorth’s Confessions Of A Recovering Environmentalist. In a chapter entitled “Dark Ecology” Kingsnorth calls out the religion of technology and complexity that is rooted in the belief that advancements in the field are to be held as sacred and essentially the motives needed to obtain new technological breakthroughs are left unquestioned. Instead Kingsnorth offers what he sees as ‘appropriate advances’ that challenge the notion of tech for tech's sake. While humanity races forward to line up for the next iPhone along with the highest rated genetically modified tomato shipped from one coast to the next, Kingsnorth reminds us that, “In exchange for the flashing lights and throbbing engines, they (humanity/we) lost the thing that should be most valuable to a human individual: autonomy. Freedom. Control.” We don’t get to control much in this world, but the little we have is being freely given away by us.
Kingsnorth’s influence by philosopher and Catholic Priest Ivan Illich has been extended to and embraced by me as well. Illich saw what we as a society are now fully experiencing; the things we’ve created...we’ve become dependent upon and this dependency is not issued on the individual level but oversaw by institutions and exploitative organizations.
Over the next several weeks, I am wanting to lay claim as to why I’m of the same mindset. I’m taking inventory of my life and seeing the areas where I can “go dark” and escape what he refers to as the “progress trap” and instead embrace a dark ecology. For me this means declaring with all the prophetic voice I can muster that an anthropocentric view of creation is not only problematic but destructive and that in order for me to move forward I need at first to withdraw. Thus the need to go dark.
This process is just that; a process. Where to begin? Social media seems as good a place as any. For so long I embraced the thinking that I could control my content on Instagram and Twitter, while fully realizing I have no input as to how those platforms are used and distributed to other parties. And while I would enjoy removing myself from Facebook, for now, my voice and perspective is needed there as part of my church’s online presence. As for my personal site blacksheepbaptist.com...perhaps it’s time is nigh as well.
I’m thinking letter writing and stamp licking has more value than post “likes” and status updates.
I’m thinking the Facetime of the past was better than what we think of as Facetime now.
“Going dark” doesn’t mean I’m throwing in the towel, it just means I removing my piece from a game that I don’t feel like playing anymore. This withdrawal is to gain perspective and in the words of Kingsnorth to withdraw “from the fray” of things. Whatever the self perpetuating machine of advancement is pumping out I’m refusing to take part in it.
This is not quitting, but reclaiming.
See you in the real world.