Dumbing Down

Now and then I get the urge to make a big change in the way that I do things.

Now and then that urge filters all the way through and becomes a reality.

This is one of those times.

A few years back I decided that I would get shot of Facebook as a part of my life (that’s right, I didn’t block just you). Sometimes I miss it, like when fun things get arranged and I don’t get to hear about it until it’s too late. Most of the time, I feel like I wrestled a load of my life back from cyberspace. I know some of my friends in the world of church leadership like to use Facebook to “keep tabs on” (aka “spy”) on their church members, but personally that felt like the digital equivalent of hanging around in grain fields watching out for minor infractions  of the Torah (cf. Mark 2:23-24). I suppose there are a load of really deep reasons that prop up my decision to commit digital pseudo-suicide, but the thing that really shocked me was just how hard it was to actually go through with it. It felt like there were ten reasons to stay connected for every reason to pull the plug out, and that made me feel uncomfortable. Why the heck was this such a hard decision? One of the first guys to contribute to what Christians call the New Testament once said, ‘I will not be enslaved by anything’ (1 Corinthians 6:12). If you notice that you’re beginning to argue back to yourself that some act of self-denial is unnecessary, or if you’re a Christian and you hear yourself trotting out the old canard that says, ‘I don’t want to be legalistic…’, then let me tell you what you’re trying to avoid hearing from yourself…it’s time to put that thing to sleep. 

Anyway, here’s what I wanted to say: I’m sacking off my iPhone and resurrecting an old Nokia “dumb phone” that has been gathering dust since 19-something-or-other.

The caveat here is that I am staying online- my Twitter account will remain; I’ll still blog and check emails; I’ll maintain the very British thing of obsessively checking the weather forecast ten times a day to ensure that I am clad in suitable attire. I just won’t be doing all of that on a phone (this also means no WhatsApp! Blimey! What else?)*

I guess this is an experiment- an experiment in saving unbelievable amounts of money on not having the latest, greatest smartphone for starters. It’s also an experiment in being really present, so that my five-year-old son does not look back on his childhood and have his lasting memory of Dad being a thumb swiping a screen. It’s an experiment in self-control, where I get to exercise my Christ-purchased freedom in voluntary acts of self-denial. It’s an experiment in subverting the construction of late-modern myths that brag loudly about technological progress and greater human freedom, while human freedom slowly diminishes in the glare of a 4.7 inch display. It’s an experiment in promoting spontaneous awe at the beauty of a roadside buttercup over and against the imagination-numbing fakery of seeing the world through an HD screen. It’s about learning that Gerard Manley Hopkins was right- the world is charged with the grandeur of God.

Choosing to make your own life less convenient cuts against the grain, doesn’t it? Maybe when Christians speak about being “incarnational” they ought to take into account that in taking to himself what he did not previously have (i.e. human flesh), God has eternally inconvenienced himself for the sake of those he loves. Not that my choosing to inconvenience myself by downgrading my mobile phone comes close to that…good grief, of course not! But maybe it will teach me something about God and myself- that alone has to be worth the inconvenience.

Maybe I’ll keep you posted about how it’s going, and maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll be too busy enjoying the buttercups!



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