15 Comments

I find this all so interest and quite germaine to my experience in visiting a new church in my city--Seattle. The church is evangelical and has traditional/biblical stances on social issues and morals. This is anathema is my hyper progressive town. If words gets out the picketers and "cancel culture" vultures would circle. Alternative views are not to be allowed in my oh, so tolerant and inclusive town. So what I have noticed while visiting the church and seeking to get further involved, is that there is a seemingly deliberate illegibility about the church in anything public facing. No contact information is given about the staff. There is a vetting application process to get access to the "full" church webpage and even its mid-week "community group" leaders and locations are hidden and only accessible via a pre-vetting process and a "they contact you gate-keeping". Instead of "seeker friendly" it feels "seeker wary". As if these supposed "seekers" could be "sheep in wolves' clothing." I see this as what will be increasingly the mode of Christ-following churches in the Negative World we are entering into. Churches in Seattle and other leftist locals are at the front of this coming wave of needing to be illegible. The church is going underground.

Expand full comment

This reminds me of God's anger over David initiating his own census. That seems so foreign to us today in the information economy.

Expand full comment

I think homeschooling fits in here somewhere, Aaron. We did it for academic excellence, among other reasons, and were not consciously trying to be illegible. But I can see how it fits with your general thesis.

Russ Pulliam

Expand full comment

I know of a group that started a classical christian school for K-12 a few years ago. Even though it has teachers, uniforms, and Mon-to-Fri school days, it was incorporated as a "home school co-operative" and is run as a ministry not as a formal private school. This was done intentionally after the state exerted its authority over even private schools during COVID. But the state also has pretty lax rules regarding what constitutes homeschooling, to include parents taking advantage of 3rd party resources.

It's worked wonderfully, and is a great example of reducing legibility to the state (even within the state's own framework).

Expand full comment

Couple of thoughts:

1. Informal men's groups are great. Our church men's group doesn't legibly consist of much more than an e-mail list / text groups. I'm also part of a neighborhood poker group that was deliberately formed for the men to have something to do together, and also doesn't consist of anything more legible than an SMS group.

2. I work in the nonprofit space, and I would encourage other men and Christians to ask themselves whether their charitable work actually requires a formal organization. If you're not going to 1) have employees or contractors, 2) solicit donations from strangers, or 3) have donors who care about a tax deduction, then there's a good chance that you can make it work informally.

The one challenge I'm not so certain about is banking. Banks tend to not want to open accounts with informal associations as the named owners, and using a member's personal bank account would be a very bad idea because it opens that member to suspicion of embezzling (from your group) or hiding income (from the IRS). I seem to recall reading about churches that deliberately decline to incorporate or apply to the IRS to recognize their tax-exempt status; it's likely that they have some useful insights into this matter.

Expand full comment

Good thought. I'll propose that F3 is a fairly illegible men's organization. There is a national organization with an LLC, but I'd say its chief role is maintaining a website to help out-of-towners locate us. The local groups generally have nothing legible to target. If the national organization were obliterated by the state or Big Tech, the impact on the ground would be very light.

Expand full comment

Alcoholics Anonymous would be an example of a relatively prominent and large organization whose membership is (hopefully) "illegible."

Expand full comment

Bruce Schneier, a foremost public intellectual in computer security, just published a prescient article on how AI will enable mass spying when paired with modern mass surveillance tech: https://slate.com/technology/2023/12/ai-mass-spying-internet-surveillance.html

Aaron, it looks like we're going to need to become illegible not merely to the state's schemas, but to any AI that may be spying.

Use of end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) messaging apps for communication and social networking is already very important. Signal in particular continues to demonstrate its trustworthiness (I recommend donating to them as well!). Don't use Facebook, instagram, or WhatsApp. And definitely stay off of any non-E2EE apps and platforms for communicating with your networks.

Expand full comment