Uncharted Waters – The Church of Second Life

So while we’re talking about incarnation, contextualization and pushing some boundaries, how do you see this whole deal?…

Second Life

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is an online ‘game’ where players do literally create a ‘virtual’ second life which they then live out. For some this is serious business and can take up more time than their real life. Scary?… Yes, I think so…

Of course in second life as in real life there is the while gamut of people including ‘believers’ and ‘unbelievers’…Which raises the question, is it possible – or even important – to be a missionary in the virtual world?

And then just to complicate matters, can people come to faith in the virtual world? Can you be a virtual disciple?…

And… then to muddy things a little more, is it possible to be a Christian in second life but not in real life or vice versa?…

Ok, so it all sounds a bit whacked out and nutso, but if you read the article I think you’ll need to ponder it a little more deeply. Maybe there is a whole people group (to use missionary language) who are unreached and this could be simply doing what Paul says ‘all things to all people so that by all possible means…”

Is this something we will need to give genuine attention to in this rapidly shifting world, or is this simply an example of some people losing touch with reality?

A devoted Christian ‘second lifer’ has got involved in the comments section at Ur, so be sure to see what she has to say!

10 thoughts on “Uncharted Waters – The Church of Second Life

  1. Great minds think alike. I was going to post on this very subject.

    What this speaks too is the vast amount of people that are cut off from each other. There lives are empty and the virtual world becomes the reality they want to live. So the boring pastor’s wife becomes a stripper. That account sitting across from you is a Second Life night club bouncer. Maybe there is a mission field here, maybe not?

  2. I guess I see evangelism in second life like trying to convert an ‘imaginary friend.’

    As I reflect on it, the absurdity of it heightens as none of it is actually real and could be ‘deleted’ in an instant by the owner of the game.

    It is interesting though to see where real life and fantasy overlap and interlink

  3. Why would you make an assumption that this world is absurd – there are people who have immersed themselves entirely in this – they invest their time, their money, their emotions and the like, to create the sort of world they often wish was real – and for the time they are “in”, this world is real.

    I think you might be making a basic mistake of judging their reality as being invalid… I thought this was a basic assumption that incarnational missionaries would never claim to make with any people group???

    Maybe it reveals that it is a place certain people (like you) would not feel called to reach out to, whereas others passionately would.

  4. Nah – my feeling is that it simply isn’t a ‘real’ world – if we are speaking about the relationships that go on between avatars.

    If we are talking about the people playing the game then of course they are ‘real’.

    I wouldn’t the game as reality at all so treating it as such is what I would see as quite absurd.

  5. many people playing these sort of virtual world “games” use their avatars as an extension of themselves – the relationships being played out “virtually”, represent reality or desire for them.

    Therefore, the relationships between avatars are not simply able to be separated from the people who own them – that would be seen as being incorrectly dualistic by many of these players.

    So, can a relationship in “second life” be real? well, virtually speaking “yes”, and representationally speaking “yes”. does it matter less if the transaction happens on line between avatars, if those avatars are simply playing out the real desires, emotions, beliefs of the owners? i reckon it has to do with context and the cultural values of the people of this “tribe”.

  6. I think it’s quite sad if people’s real world is such that they have to bury themselves in a virtual world, and I absolutely don’t think you can live out a genuine expression of following Jesus ONLY in a virtual world (read, lots of nuances I don’t want to go into now). None-the-less, I think this is a valid and even necessary point of evangelism as it may be the only place some people will hear the gospel.

  7. Would you ever get to know the real person, in their real life with their real problems, is the virtual life completely made up?

  8. I’ve been intrigued with this medium as a mission field for some time. However, I’m still certain that it isn’t a replacement for face to face relationships. I was impacted by Michael Frost’s assertion in his latest book (Exiles) that we need to be cautious of being too involved in virutal realities. He said that we don’t have enough activity (social justice etc) in the real world as it is.

    I do wonder though if it couldn’t be yet another possible 3rd place? And I do think that it is a medium that is very much untapped. As such it is quite intriguing.

    And, for better or worse, there are Christians already being salt and light in SL. For example, Kimberly Knight and some her friends run a “church” on 2nd Life called Koinonia Congregational: http://web.mac.com/seekingsophia/koinonia/Welcome.html. They have actual teachings and dialogue etc.

    I don’t have the time to take part. Norwill my DELL dinosaur allow me to do so. Which is probably a blessing in disguise. But it is facinating thing!

  9. The parable of the sower tells us quite a few things. One is that seed sowing is not very efficient. Lots of it seems to be wasted. So, in Second Life or anywhere else, maybe we should sow first and ask questions later!

  10. I have an actual friend, not a casual acquaintance, but somebody whose life I am quite involved in, who spends a huge amount of time on SL. From my experiences with her I really can speak with some degree of experience about this “alternate reality”.

    Otherendup really does have a point. When she spends time on SL, she really does involve herself in actual relationships. The fact that they are through an avatar is no different than them being through the telephone, email or any other form of communication. They are no less valid and no less real to her. There is a degree of anonymity that comes with having an avatar – she can be involved “safely” in activities that would be extremely dangerous in real life. She can become friends and have relationships with people she would never meet. Yes, the avatar is a mask of sorts. Yes, it is a make believe world and the castle she owns is a bunch of pixels, the dresses she wears can be taken down to a series of 1’s and 0’s. Yet behind that she is a real person, and when something affects her in SL it also affects her in RL. SL relationships often blossom and she has moved on to actually meeting many people via this medium.

    There is no reason SL shouldn’t be a mission field, a tribe, an unreached people group like any other. In fact, these people are often reclusive, shy, geeky, difficult to get along with or socially unacceptable in this real world of ours and move into SL as a means of being accepted for who they are. I don’t think we should judge them too harshly since most of the time it’s us as a society who push them away.

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