After a midsummer hiatus, here’s the final part in a six part video series produced to accompany the book Digital Disciple. This video series is designed to be used in a class setting to introduce the material and spur discussion. Of course, watching it by yourself is fine too!
Don’t forget to head over to the Facebook page and participate in a little quiz about this video. We’ll pick a random winner from those who participate and he or she will receive an autographed copy of the book, the DVD, and the t-shirts that Adam wore in the video (again, not the actual shirt but one just like it). Check it out!
After a midsummer hiatus, here’s the fifth in a six part video series produced to accompany the book Digital Disciple. This video series is designed to be used in a class setting to introduce the material and spur discussion. Of course, watching it by yourself is fine too!
Don’t forget to head over to the Facebook page and participate in a little quiz about this video. We’ll pick a random winner from those who participate and he or she will receive an autographed copy of the book, the DVD, and one of the t-shirts that Adam wore in the video (again, not the actual shirt but one just like it). Check it out!
On June 2, 2011, I gave this speech to a ballroom full of bookstore owners, managers, and reps from Christian publishers. They asked me to make it available, so here it is.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my sisters and brothers in Christ, thank you for welcoming me to the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit. If you looked this morning at your conference schedule and said to your companions, “who the heck is this kid speaking at lunch today,” then I can’t blame you. If I weren’t Adam Thomas, I doubt I would have ever heard of me either. But many thanks to the wonderful people at Abingdon Press and the United Methodist Publishing House for their courageous efforts to make me seem much more important than I actually am. In truth, I’m just a young Episcopal priest from outside of Boston who writes a blog that, through the mysterious machinations of the Internet and the Holy Spirit, came to the attention of the right people at the right building in Nashville, Tennessee. I thank God everyday for the opportunity to engage with other thoughtful people through my writing, and today I thank God for all of you.
(As an aside, I realized after writing that introduction, that what I just said very nearly follows the format of the opening of a Pauline epistle. I guess you can take the boy out of seminary, but you can’t take seminary out of the boy.)
Anyway, what follows would be the body of the epistle, so let’s get going. I hope that now that I’ve established my relative obscurity and complete lack of fame, you will indulge me in listening to me talk about my wonderful mother for a few minutes.
In the spring of 1995, my mother began managing a brand new independent bookstore in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. My family had moved to the Deep South from New England about six months before, and we were struggling to acclimatize to a place where a quarter inch of snow was a blizzard, “y’all” was the most prevalent word, and college football ruled even during the eight months of the year between seasons. We moved during the middle of my sixth-grade year (yes, I turned twelve in 1995 – you can do the math). On my first day of school, my lack of training as a cultural anthropologist was fully evident. The bell had barely stopped ringing when Mrs. Green, the social studies teacher, called on me. I answered, “yeah,” as any kid from Rhode Island would. Mrs. Green stared daggers at me. And I had no idea what I had done. Of course, I found out later that I had committed the South’s cardinal sin. My answer should have been, “yes ma’am.”
But since my adolescent brain was still soaking up everything around me and since I was surrounded by southerners all day everyday, I adapted to life in Alabama pretty quickly. Little League baseball had the same rules after all, and during the spring of 1995, that’s really all I cared about. My Boston-born mother, however, had lived in New England her entire life. She wasn’t surrounded by southerners all day and her brain had long since developed past the stage of easy adaptation. So those first few months in exile in a land where grits are plural and every soda is called “coke” were particularly difficult for her.
Then came a blessing from God. The owners of a new bookstore hired her to manage The Book Cellar (that’s cellar C-E-L-L-A-R). The store was across town in a row of shops dominated by a Winn-Dixie grocery store and a Sonic fast food restaurant. When she was hired, The Book Cellar was still a shell with empty bookcases just waiting to be filled. And the day the first boxes of books arrived from Ingram, my mother was at home at last. She was at home no matter the fact that Boston was 1,233 miles away. She was at home no matter the fact that she could practically breaststroke through the humid air outside. She was at home no matter the fact that some of her customers might as well have been speaking ancient Ugaritic for all she could understand them. My mother was at home with the books.
She had always been a voracious reader, but when the bookstore job came along, her reading habit skyrocketed. She read several books a week, she kept (and still keeps) a journal of every book she finished, and she spent her entire Christmas bonus on books to fill again the already full shelves at our house. She instilled in my sister and me a love of reading and an appreciation for books. Indeed, because of my mother’s influence, I have never been able to break the spine of a paperback or dog-ear a page. She hired me to wrap presents at the bookstore during the December of my first two years of high school. Then she put me on the floor after that, and I spent my afternoons dusting shelves, fetching bestsellers, and correcting the order of The Chronicles of Narnia for folks who bought the boxed set after the publisher reordered them and put The Magician’s Nephew first. (Even ten years later, this is a topic that really heats me up. Find me after lunch if you want to know why.)
For a family of displaced New Englanders, The Book Cellar became one of the two gravitational centers around which our lives revolved, the other being St. Matthias Episcopal Church, which called my father as rector in late 1994, thus necessitating the culturally shocking move to Alabama in the first place. Over the years, the bookstore developed a small, but fervent, following. The only other game in town was a big box retailer which boasted of having a million books, but good luck ever finding the one you were looking for. My mother and her staff had read most of the books in their store and could tell a customer where on the shelf the new Tom Clancy was without leaving the front desk. The Book Cellar attracted every teacher in Tuscaloosa County, and they all ordered their summer reading selections from us. The store had dozens of ardently faithful customers, who came in just to chat with the staff and invariably went home with an armful of books. We had midnight Harry Potter release parties, and whimsical window displays, and a mystery section (handpicked by my mother) that would have satisfied the desires of Agatha Christie for life.
Then, in February of 2002, the inevitable happened. The burgeoning online retail market was selling books for ridiculous discounts. The big box’s inept service didn’t detract enough customers from shopping there. The returns on the owners’ investment were not high enough to justify staying in business. And The Book Cellar closed.
The years when my mother was managing the store were some of the happiest in her life, despite the dislocation in a place far from the one she had always known as home. The same years saw me grow a foot, learn to drive, share my first kiss, and go to college. And those years from 1995 to 2002 also marked the first huge growth of the Internet: America Online became a household name; cell phone use started filtering down into the hands of ordinary consumers; and the dot.com bubble ballooned and burst. In the years since, the Internet has undergone a second astronomical rise with the advent of ubiquitous broadband, social networking, and smartphone technology.
Looking back from the vantage point of mid-2011, I wonder how my family’s move to Alabama in late 1994 would have been different if we had been moving today. Would we have felt the extreme sense of displacement if we had been able simply to log on to Facebook and stay connected to friends in New England? Would we have felt the same level of culture shock if we could have researched the idiosyncrasies of Southerners using YouTube or brushed up on Southernisms through Urban Dictionary? Would we have felt so disconnected to everything we knew if everything we knew were just a click away?
I can’t imagine that we would have. We would have used the Internet as a life raft to stay afloat in a sea with no recognizable landmark. We would have ridden the raft of technology to the shore of our new home. Yet, even as I imagine how the Internet could have benefited us greatly in our transition from one pole of the country to the other, I can also envision how the Internet could have also deterred us from ever matriculating into our new culture. With New England friends readily reachable via Facebook, why would I have had to make new friends in my new home? With distractions like YouTube and Urban Dictionary at the ready, why would I have had to experience any of my new culture? With everything I ever knew available at the click of a button, why would I have had to learn anything new?
This is the intersection that those of us who are both steeped in Tech culture and also attempting to analyze the effects of that culture keep arriving at: the Internet offers wonderful opportunities for connection, but each of those opportunities comes attached to the ever-present danger of isolation. Every connection made via the Internet happens in an isolated manner. I may be connected to you via the web, but we are both isolated behind computer screens. I may use the GPS to find your house, but every time I visit after that, I will need to use those turn-by-turn instructions. I may read a funny text message from you, but the words don’t reach me through the welcome timbre of your unique voice.
When we use the Internet and other Tech, we cannot separate the opportunity of connection from the danger of isolation. We can only hope to trend toward the opportunity and away from the danger. This trending involves raising our awareness of how we are evolving to adapt to the omnipresence of the Internet in our lives. For followers of Jesus Christ like you and me, this awareness begins with taking stock of our expectations concerning God’s presence within the technology that has reshaped the world over the last twenty years.
Now, I don’t want to spoil my book Digital Disciple for you, considering you are all going to rush over to the Abingdon table after lunch and order it (right?), but here’s a little hint. For several years, I failed to look for God online because, when I logged on, I unconsciously shut off the part of me that seeks God’s presence. I didn’t give God a second thought when I was playing the game World of Warcraft for hours on end, so I kept myself from seeing that the Internet is suffused with potential for contact with the Divine.
Training ourselves to be open to God’s presence in the virtual world entails many of the same challenges as openness in the real world, but the disembodied, remote nature of virtual space adds a new dimension to those challenges. I hope you will dedicate some thought and prayer to your expectations of running into God online. Think about how you connect via the Tech and reflect on how those connections include some form of isolation. How will you trend away from the danger and toward the abundance of opportunities?
Before I finish, I want to get back to my mother’s bookstore and your bookstores for just a few moments. When The Book Cellar closed in 2002, a small community of booklovers became homeless. They would only begrudgingly darken the door of the big box, and the idea of buying online was still too experimental to be considered safe. With no physical location at which to congregate, the community evaporated.
As our Tech-driven society pushes more and more of our dealings with one another online and away from face-to-face interaction, I promise you that your beautiful, little, book-filled corners of the world are becoming more and more vital. Like the churches, in which many of your shops are located, bookstores are one of the vanishing places where we can rehabilitate the senses that we ignore online. While we see and hear via the Internet, the Tech gives the other three senses no purchase. But the books in your stores smell – some fresh, like crisp, new paper; others musty, like the bottom of the chest, in which you store your winter clothes. Books are tangible – whoever got a paper cut using a Kindle? And books are tasty – just ask Ezekiel or John of Patmos. And finally, books bring people together.
On behalf of my mother, the former bookstore manager, I thank you for all you do to deliver books into the hands of people who love them. I pray that your stores remain open, so that they can become little oases, at which citizens of the virtual world can remember their Incarnational selves.
Thank you. And may God bless you in your ministries and bring you the abundance of lives lived fully in God.
Here’s the fourth in a six part video series produced to accompany the book Digital Disciple. This video series is designed to be used in a class setting to introduce the material and spur discussion. Of course, watching it by yourself is fine too!
Don’t forget to head over to the Facebook page and participate in a little quiz about this video. In a few days, we’ll pick a random winner from those who participate. The winner will receive an autographed copy of the book, the DVD, and a mystery T-shirt, since the one Adam wore in the video is a one of a kind that his then fiancee made him for Christmas because she is awesome.
Here’s the third in a six part video series produced to accompany the book Digital Disciple. This video series is designed to be used in a class setting to introduce the material and spur discussion. Of course, watching it by yourself is fine too!
Don’t forget to head over to the Facebook page and participate in a little quiz about this video. In a few days, we’ll pick a random winner from those who participate. The winner will receive an autographed copy of the book, the DVD, and a Doctor Who t-shirt like the one Adam wore in the video! It could be you!
Here’s the second in a six part video series produced to accompany the book Digital Disciple. This video series is designed to be used in a class setting to introduce the material and spur discussion. Of course, watching it by yourself is fine too!
Don’t forget to head over to the Facebook page and participate in a little game about this video. In a few days, we’ll pick a random winner from the first 23 players. The winner will receive an autographed copy of the book, the DVD, and a Battlestar Galactica t-shirt like the one Adam wore in the video! It could be you!
Here’s the first in a six part video series produced to accompany the book Digital Disciple. This video series is designed to be used in a class setting to introduce the material and spur discussion. Of course, watching it by yourself is fine too!
Don’t forget to head over to the Facebook page and participate in the quiz about the video. In a few days, we’ll draw from the correct answers a random winner. The winner will receive an autographed copy of the book, the DVD, and the Blue Sun T-shirt (from Joss Whedon’s Firefly) that Adam wore in the video (well, not that specific shirt, but a similar one that’s brand new!) It could be you!
Digital Disciple will be on the physical bookstore shelf and the virtual website shelf on May 1. You can pre-order it here. Here’s the third part of a three part preview that can also be found on my Facebook page and on Episcopal Cafe.com.
* * *
The new dimension of virtuality that the Tech has added to our lives has brought with it new locations, new situations, and yes, new opportunities and dangers. We are pioneers moving not along a riverbank in rickety covered wagons but along the virtual paths marked by cell towers and wi-fi hot spots. The lay of the land has changed, so to speak, and our new virtual environments are affecting us on multiple levels, which we will address over the course of this book. But before entering fully into our discussion of connection and isolation, we must address briefly the influence that the new frontier of the Tech has on our identity as social creatures.
To explore this influence, join me in a quick illustration. You attend a party; say, a company Christmas party. Spouses and children have been invited, so there’s a mix of generations milling about the lobby. On the buffet table sit cheese and crackers and one rather forlorn-looking vegetable tray. The eggnog comes in two varieties, one for grown-ups only. Bing Crosby croons softly over the PA system. Adults chat in that awkward way that always happens when home and work collide. One man’s laugh keeps rising over the low murmur in the room. Everyone attempts to avoid the mistletoe because that one creepy guy from the mailroom has claimed the territory underneath it.
Walking back from disposing of your paper plate and plastic cup, you notice a trio of people sitting on one of the lobby’s couches. A teenaged daughter of a middle manager, a graduate student doing her internship at the company, and a cubicle drone in his mid-thirties each occupy a cushion. But the cushions might as well be deserted islands for all the contact among the three of them. They sit facing forward, heads bowed. And all three are tap-tap-tapping away on their cell phones, completely disengaged from one another and from the conversations happening around them and from good old Bing dreaming of his white Christmas.
Ask yourself if you’ve ever seen this behavior. (Or perhaps, ask yourself if you’ve ever engaged in this behavior.) Now ask yourself if you think the three couch dwellers in the illustration are being antisocial. “Yes” is a perfectly acceptable answer: of course, they’re being antisocial. All those folks around talking, laughing, carrying on. So many conversations to join and eggnog bowls to hover around, and those three sit in a corner glued to their cell phones! Didn’t their parents raise them better?
If this is your reaction, I heartily agree with you, but take a moment to view the situation from another angle. Perhaps these three aren’t being antisocial. Perhaps they’re being (and I’m about to make up a word) trans-social. They may not be interacting with the bosses, employees, spouses, and creepy mailroom guys who inhabit the lobby during the Christmas party, but they are conversing with (possibly multiple) friends via text message. They are checking up on what their friends are doing and where they are doing it via Facebook and Twitter. They are being social—just not with the people close at hand.
At its broadest, trans-social behavior consists of socializing with people across a distance that makes face-to-face contact difficult. Of course, this has been around as long as there have been methods of delivering messages from one person to another: smoke signals, the Pony Express, and long correspondence like you find in Jane Austen novels. But as anyone who has read Pride and Prejudice knows, there’s an awful lot of anxious pacing around sitting rooms and garden paths during the excruciating period between letters. So beginning with telephone calls and eventually continuing with e-mails, the Tech added a dimension of immediacy to trans-social behavior. No more anxious pacing— just an upbeat “You’ve got mail” from a digital voice. With the advent of online social networking in the last decade, the Tech has combined this immediacy with widespread distribution, thus providing the infrastructure for trans-social behavior to explode.
Let’s turn back to our three trans-social folks and take a closer look. The teenager on Cushion One is updating her Facebook status with a rant about the creepy mailroom guy who keeps staring at her. The intern on Cushion Two is texting with three of her friends and showing remarkable aptitude for keeping all three conversations distinct. The cubicle drone on Cushion Three is selecting the starting lineup for his fantasy football game against the friend of a friend whom he has never met in person, but with whom he has been messaging spiritedly about the game on the league’s online forum.
The threesome sit on their respective islands, but it’s no matter that the islands are deserted because they have open lines of communication to distant friends. They may be isolated in the physical world, but in the virtual world they find connections that bridge the gaps between deserted islands. We’ll pick up the threads of connection and isolation in chapters 2 and 3; for now, let’s think for a moment about the environment that the Tech has redesigned and the people like me who have never known any other environment.
We older Millennials (along with the last few GenXers) began blogging before blogging was even a word. On websites including LiveJournal and MySpace, we poured out all the mundane secrets, petty jealousies, and terrible poetry that used to belong to the private diary under lock and key. In the past, none of those words would have seen the light of day, but the Internet enticed us to divulge these confidences with an artificial promise of phony anonymity. Then older folks started warning us about our tendency to overshare on the Interwebs. “If you put something online, it can never be fully removed,” they said. We adopted the appropriate shocked expressions until they went away, and then we joined Facebook and found a sleek new interface through which to bare our souls.
We extol the benefits of social networking: friends’ birthdays right there on our profiles, reconnection with that old high school crush, the ability to organize a flash mob to re-create the Thriller music video in the middle of the mall! But only in the last few years has the danger inherent in social networking begun to sink in: the inevitability of sexted nude photos winding up on the Internet, the ability for robbers to pick easy targets based on Facebook vacation updates, the omnipresence of cyberbullies online, and the data mining that follows every clicked link.
Social networking has enabled and amplified trans-social behavior to such a degree that all definitions of privacy are being rewritten. Until recently, private, direct, personal communication dominated; now it is giving ground to wide-spectrum, impersonal communication that may be private in nature but is public in disclosure. (Think about professional athletes who trash-talk over Twitter rather than on the field or court.) Indeed, the Internet is essentially a public place; however, to many of us Tech users, Millennials especially, it sure looks private because we interact with the Web while alone. For a Millennial blogger like me, I need to keep a personal journal in a physical spiral notebook just to be sure I keep myself from revealing things on my blog that aren’t appropriate for public consumption.
The Tech has designed this public-disguised-as-private environment, and Tech users interact socially in this environment. What should be an individual’s private identity often has public access enabled. The opportunities inherent in sharing socially across boundaries of distance are tempered by the dangers of ceding too much of oneself to the virtual world. Following Jesus Christ involves locating our identities first and foremost in the God who breathes those identities into our very souls. If we allow too much of our identities to escape into the ether of the virtual world, there may not be enough left to escape into God.
Digital Disciple will be on the physical bookstore shelf and the virtual website shelf on May 1. You can pre-order it here. Here’s the second part of a three part preview that can also be found on my Facebook page and on Episcopal Cafe.com.
* * *
As I view the intersections between connection and isolation, Tech culture and following Jesus, you should know that I make my observations from the perspective of a member of the first generation that has never known a world without the Internet. I’m a Millennial, one of the vanguard of the generation whose first members were born in 1982. As one of the eldest of the Millennials, I remember artifacts such as Prodigy and CompuServe, which lost the evolutionary battle to AOL. I remember when Napster was new and innovative and not at all threatening to the music industry. I remember when e-mail caught the attention of spellcheck.
But I don’t remember a time before http and www were more than just letters. I don’t remember my father owning a computer without a port for a phone cord. Ask younger members of the generation, and they won’t even realize that computers came with phone ports rather than Ethernet ones. My first cell phone was for emergencies only because it had a paltry fifteen minutes a month. (Don’t tell my dad, but most of my emergencies were of the pizza-ordering variety.) Younger Millennials have had cell phones since they were in elementary school. But from the eldest of us who remember the cretaceous period of dial-up to the youngest who were born with Bluetooth implants, we Millennials are dependent on the Tech, on all the gadgets and machines and Series of Tubes that connect us one to another and each to the world.
Of course, Millennials aren’t the only ones affected by the rise of the Internet and associated Tech. GenXers, Boomers, and computer-savvy older people like my grandmother feel the strong current of the Internet pulling them online just as much. As a Millennial, I have felt this current pulling me since I could reach the keyboard. As a follower of Christ, I feel God moving in both my virtual and my real lives. Knowing that these dual influences are neither mutually exclusive nor entirely compatible gives rise to a series of questions.
How do the Tech’s simultaneous forces of connection and isolation affect our walks with Christ? How does living in a virtual world influence living in both the physical and the spiritual ones? How do we maintain the body of Christ when the physical bodies we see and touch in church expand to include the virtual bodies we inhabit online? What place does prayer have in our instantaneous, Tech-driven world? Where do we keep our knowledge of God when our preferred method of storing information has shifted to the external? How do we resist isolation while remaining plugged into the Series of Tubes?
Now, I can speak only from my own experience. But I know that we humans are ineffective at arriving at the truth on our own, so I hope and pray that you will interact with my experience to delve more deeply into the truth revealed in Jesus Christ. Each of us has a call from God, each a ministry. Within each of the questions above, we find this fundamental one: How do we continue in the tradition of the personal nature of the ministry of Jesus in lives that are increasingly siphoned off into remote, disembodied, virtual space? I invite you to explore this question with me.
But first, you might be wondering why you should take what I say seriously. Who am I to write this book? Well, I claim neither special revelation from the Almighty nor a mandate from my generation. I’m just another disciple of Jesus Christ who has a few words to share with you. I endeavor to follow Christ wherever he leads me, but increasingly I find myself walking along the data streams and fiber-optic paths of the virtual world. Is it possible that Jesus might find me and I might find him on those virtual paths? Is it possible that God can use the Tech to create better followers of Jesus Christ? I am convinced that the answer is a resounding yes, but a yes stamped with a necessary warning label. Our Tech-driven world is changing rapidly, and we are changing with it. Unlike the great cloud of Christian witnesses that has preceded us, we’re not simply earthbound, pavement-pounding disciples of Jesus Christ. The Tech has added a new dimension to our lives; we are physical, emotional, spiritual, and now virtual people. But I believe that God continues to move through every facet of our existence, and that makes us new kinds of followers. We are digital disciples.
Digital Disciple will be on the physical bookstore shelf and the virtual website shelf on May 1. You can pre-order it here. Here’s the first part of a three part preview that can also be found on my Facebook page and on Episcopal Cafe.com.
* * *
We call it an Internet “connection.” On any given day, I know that an acquaintance from high school just had a baby shower. I know that an old college friend chose the strappy sandals. I know who had one too many at a party last night. Through my keyboard, LED monitor, wireless router, and ISP, I’m connected to several layers of people—my close friends, my acquaintances, strangers with similar interests, and the hordes of people with spelling so dreadful it would make Noah Webster weep.
But we could just as easily call it an Internet “isolation.” While millions of little connections happen every day—from friends and relatives to subcultures and fan bases—these connections always happen remotely. I can see and hear people thousands of miles away using the warm box on my lap. But I can’t touch using Facebook. I can’t taste a friend’s tweets. And I sure can’t smell a Wikipedia entry. My senses are reduced by 60 percent. I have a contacts list on my Gmail account, but I rarely make contact. A wall of technology isolates me from you, and the more we use the Tech, the more comfortable we feel hiding behind it. We develop a dependence on what can only be described oxymoronically as remote intimacy.
Yes, we are connected, but more often than not we connect remotely. Yes, I may know your favorite bands and books, but I may never know the timbre of your voice or how heavy your footfalls are. Yes, community forms on the Internet, but how can you share a meal or look someone in the eye via an online forum?
I make the observations found in this book from a vantage point overlooking a pair of intersections. The first intersection occurs where the opposing forces of connection and isolation meet. These two forces have been around since the Garden of Eden, but never have they been as coupled as the Internet makes them. The second intersection occurs at the junction between Tech culture and the greater reality of following Jesus Christ our Lord.
Following Jesus Christ is first and foremost about connection, about the arms of love reaching from the cross to embrace everyone. The Word became flesh in Jesus Christ in order that we might see more clearly the connection that God yearns for us to have with one another and with God. The Internet offers wonderful opportunities for connection, but they always come attached with the danger of isolation. Like most things in this life, we can’t separate the danger from the opportunity; we can only hope to trend toward the opportunity while trying not to ignore the nature of the danger.
As the Internet continues to change the way we communicate and connect with one another, the opportunities and dangers grow increasingly intertwined. The trouble is that the speed of innovation has kept us from pausing, breathing deeply, and taking a hard look at technology’s effects on our lives. Consider that a hundred years ago, people dashed and dotted with the telegraph and wrote long correspondences in perfect cursive. Seventy-five years ago, they shared a phone line with half a dozen neighbors and sat in front of the radio in the evening. Fifty years ago, they had their own telephone numbers and televisions. Twenty-five years ago, mobile phones and personal computers had begun the big, boxy stage of their evolutions. Fifteen years ago, my computer spent an agonizing forty-five seconds doing a fuzzy R2-D2 impression while attempting to dial up a connection to the Internet. Ten years ago, my family got our hands on a shiny new piece of technology called a cable modem, and the connection tripled in speed. Today, broadband allows connections of ease and immediacy. The breadth and depth of content online have now matched the blazing download rate; indeed (and I’m saying this with only the slightest hyperbole), I could live my whole life virtually and never notice the lack of fresh air and exercise.
We communicate more quickly, more frequently, more globally (and often more anonymously) than ever before. The Internet, once a harebrained idea hatched in a military think tank, has pervaded our lives and our society. Removing it would be like amputating not an arm or a leg, but a central nervous system. I know I’m not alone when I confess that, while I don’t live my whole life virtually, I do almost everything online: shop, check baseball scores, read the news, watch TV, play games, chat with friends, research my sermons. I even met my wife through some combination of divine intervention and the Series of Tubes.