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Jun 22, 2009

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codepoke

Hmmm. No comment to add to this, Michael?

I commented over there.

Michael W. Kruse

This is one of those ideas people either love or hate. Fascinating.

Neal Locke

@codepoke - thanks for the comment over at presbymergent. I've responded, as have several others. Michael is right that people either love or hate Second Life, but (and I know you have experience in other online things) until people have actually experienced SL firsthand, it's hard to come to a balanced view of it. It's not like role playing games (although there are certainly those who treat it that way) and yet it's also not like facebook or twitter (although many use it that way, too). It even has an ebay-ish component to it, sometimes.

Regardless, If organizations like Princeton University, IBM, and the United States government can find a use for it and take it seriously as a tool, I think the church should at least give it due consideration.

Michael W. Kruse

It's also true that we each are called to different things; given passions to pursue different things. Not everyone needs to have a passion for (or even a remote interest in) SL but more power to those who see a ministry opportunity. Christ disciples need to be present in every realm of human interaction.

codepoke

I'll comment both to Michael and Neale here, because I think you both agree with Michael's statement:

> Christ disciples need to be present in every realm of human interaction.

Are you sure?

If the Old Testament was given for our edification, then we might want to look harder at the statement we should be in every realm of human interaction. I can think of a number of human interactions that led Israel to places God never intended her to go.

Michael W. Kruse

I'm reflecting to some degree on the series I've been doing on "Making the Best of it." The cultural mandate is there in Genesis 1 and 2. Implicit is not only dominion over nature but over human culture as well. This is becomes even more explicit in the NT in, say, Ephesians or Collosians. Then there is the Great Commission to "go into all the world ...."

Yes, there is the caveat that we would not see Christians entering into a field like organized crime but I hardly think Second Life falls into that realm.

We have long explored human relationships and realities through books, plays, and film. Second Life presents new possibilities to do the same thing through virtual reality in a highly participatory format. Just as movies were a new way to do this 100 years ago, technology offers a new venue for human interaction. A variety of businesses, governments and other institutions are seeing great value. Why not the church?

I have zero desire to be the hands of feet of Christ in, say, the fashion industry, or plumbing. Thanks be to God that there are others who have such a passion and have little passion for the things I have a passion for. We are all members, not microcosms, of the body of Christ, and that means our work in this world will vary widely. SL may be bizarre and a waste of time to you or me, but I want to suggest that we not use our personal proclivities as moral standards. I don't see what is morally objectionable about SL.

codepoke

Fair enough, Michael.

> I don't see what is morally objectionable about SL.

I've enjoyed your focus here, Michael, (and still continue too. :-) ) on the kingdom of God. The kingdom has always reached out to the world with healing and mercy. Hospitals, orphanages, and shelters are our heritage. I don't see any way to extend love and sacrifice into a fantasy world. If you or Neale does, I could be persuaded.

It's not just that SL might be inherently evil. It's not possible to love virtually. Love requires sacrifice, and sacrifice requires reality. I don't believe we can effectively reach the lost in a place intentionally and by definition divorced from reality.

As for my moral objections, I said on Neale's site setting up shop in SL was like setting up in a strip club. That was probably unfair. I think it's fair to say it's like setting up shop in a mall in which strip clubs are strongly represented.

Arguments can be made for doing exactly that, and I respect those arguments. I don't find them particularly persuasive, but I respect them.

But SL is not just a place. It's a non-reality, and people have shown a measurable habit of getting addicted to non-reality. Shy people become bold in non-reality, and they like being their bold, avatar selves. They don't often integrate their unreal self with their real one, though. So who's going to go out into this brave new non-world and evangelize? The volunteers will tend to be the people most at risk for being sucked into it.

And what's the projected benefit from this risky endeavor? One human being with their SL personality "on" controls an avatar that interacts with another avatar that is controlled by the SL personality of another human being. We're not talking about the Acropolis here. What do you think the signal/noise ratio is likely to be on SL?

Taken separately maybe all three of those arguments fall, but the reality is it's a dodgy, unreal place inhabited by avatars and it's as likely to assimilate the missionary as receive his message.

Michael W. Kruse

I've visited SL a couple of times and read some about it. I can't say that it is something I care to invest a lot of time in. So I can't speak from first hand experience about all the nuances of what goes on there. Yes, there is behavior that goes on that I would find troubling ... just like at work, at church, and in my neighborhood. I'm not sure that alone counts against it.

What we are dealing with is a new medium of communication and interaction. Through books, television, and movies, we've entered into fictional worlds and explored the contexts of relationships within those worlds. These are one-to-many interactions. This is a medium of many-to-many. Every new technology or way of interacting is going to be a mixture of light and darkness because that is what we are as human beings. I guess I'm saying that the fictive nature of the thing and the presence of "sin" don't discourage me out of hand.

It may prove to be a useless endeavor, but I say more power to Neal and others if they want to pursue it.

Furthermore, just think of all the money the real PCUSA could save if it simply held general assembly at a SL venue. :-)

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