Virtual Religion, Real Salvation?
One of the first articles I read was in the TV-Guide of the Dutch Evangelical Broadcaster EO which reported on Second Life in april this year, soon afterwards followed by an article on Gamers.nl.
Here's a two observations I've made:
- Traditional churches do not yet have an understanding of the metaverse, hence falling short in their reports which give rise to criticism and work counterproductive
- Some churches only see the 'sin' in worlds like Second Life and feel an urge to christianize.
Second Life doesn't differ from the real world all that much. In Real Life sex is big business and the metaverse seems to be making the same developments as the early internet, that was seen as the digital sodom and gomorra about 15 years ago.
Nothing strange to Real Life is strange to Second Life either, but by being such a relative small and niche community, it's easy to spot these element. These elements will remain in the Metaverse, and will probably be over-represented as long as normal business hasn't found real purpose in worlds like this.
Many people come to Second Life with a purpose, but there are those out there that have no purpose in Second Life, nor in First Life. There are people hanging out at the Welcome area without a purpose in life, other than sit, chat and provoke. With regular intervals you can spot demons and Goths there, some intentional, some being mere teens without a clue to what their avatars convey, beyond 'just looking cool'
If it comes to churches in Second Life it should not be about establishing a 'church' in the Metaverse, but about being a good Samaritan. Find these people whose lives are empty and are looking for meaning. It has surprised me that a successfull programme like the Alpha Course hasn't shown up yet in Second Life.
Another course of action for Churches would be to monetize the essence of Second Life; it's freedom and anonimity. There are countries in the world where christians can't come forth without risking imprisonment or worse. Second Life may well prove to be fertile soil for underground churches and organisations like Open Doors.
- Jakob Hienke's blog on Jesus House
- Gamers.nl article on religion in SL
- Faces of Faith in Second Life
- Anglican Church in Second Life
- ASSIST News Service (ANS) article on Christian presence in Second Life
- The News today article on the need to Christen the virtual world