Our pastor offered a challenge last week suggesting if people wanted to give up something for Lent, make it meaningful. He suggested giving up social media.

What in the world was that man thinking?

This seems to be a clear cut case of a preacher going from preaching the word for correction and admonition to just plain meddling. Why not just ask us to forego Red Bull and energy bars? We’ve got things to do.

And yet could it be that an old graybeard, without a Facebook account, might be right? Could he possibly understand our need for continual connectedness and content input? Could he, without being forthright about it, know he was asking addicts to enter rehab? (answers: yes, vaguely, yes)

In this we need not ask, “What would Jesus do?”, but rather ask, “What did Jesus do?” In the lyrics of Jesus Christ Superstar this is asked: “Why’d you choose such a backward time in such a strange land. If you’d come today; you could have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”

Whatever one’s religious beliefs, who among us could reasonably assert Jesus was not the most influential person of all time? And he did it without an army, without political power, without wealth and, wait for it, no Twitter account.

By contrast, Mayor Michael Bloomberg just spent about $500 million to land with a thud on Tuesday night. The money was spent on media, digitally driven data, and it did little to move people. Few of the images, and little of the messaging, will be remembered tomorrow, let alone still be illuminating 2,000 years from now.

Jesus met people where they were, never traveled more than 200 miles. He communicated heart to heart not screen to screen. He preached love, he gathered with people. He spoke, they listened. He led, they followed. And crazy as this may seem, as counter-intuitive as it surely is for us today, it was the perfect plan.

So the reverend is in agreement with his boss in asking us to live less encumbered. And is so right in thinking if we want to unite with Christ in sacrifice, we need more than token offerings. Consistent with this, for many, giving up their devices is to wander in a personally testing desert.

Rejection comes in advising the good reverend, he doesn’t understand the world as it is today. That doing without an iPhone is just not realistic, the world has moved on.

Largely it has but not everywhere, at least not in Highland County. And should you seek a place to take the kids, and have them look up from their laps, this is the spot for you.

I often travel over the mountains to our western neighbor. Cell phone service is extremely limited. This, after the initial bouts of withdrawal, becomes pleasing.

As does stopping atop Shenandoah Mountain, or at any of the overlooks, and taking in the natural wonder. No computer generated images can cause the grand feelings as when being there and looking over such perfection.

In the village of Blue Grass there is the Emporium. A general store from yesteryear. You can order up an awesome bacon cheeseburger, buy a can of corn, or purchase a wrench. They have it all. If you suffer from nostalgia, they have your tonic.

Conveniently next weekend the Highland County Maple Festival begins. If taking a visit to “back in the day” appeals to you, the good people of McDowell, Blue Grass and Monterey await you. Sure take in the community events and commercial offerings — the people have worked hard in preparation — but don’t miss the obvious.

Highland County is a preserved historical representation of 1960s rural Virginia. It has the era accuracy and authenticity of a Colonial Williamsburg but without theme parks, IHOPS, and public dollars. It is also an internet quiet zone.

The way of life over there is not possible for most of us. And most of us have chosen to live tethered to the chaos of politics, trolling and discouraging words. And yet we need to remind ourselves, we don’t have to.

Jesus lived the simple life, my preacher encourages it, and in my rebel days I thought John Prine had it just right:

“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper. Go to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot peaches, try to find Jesus on your own.”

It’s not scripture but it seems right to me.

Tracy Pyles, a former chairman and member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors who lives in Augusta County, is a columnist for The News Virginian. His column is published Saturdays. He can be reached at tcpylesjr@hotmail.com.

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