Callahan’s Cyberspace Chapel & Saloon: Part Two

In June of this year, I published Part One of what, in gamer terms, I thought would be a “one-shot” adventure. However, after talking with my friend Connie Waters she mentioned a conversation she’d had with Phyllis Tickle about CyberChurch. With that in mind, I believe it’s time I elaborated a bit more.

As most stories do, the conversation I had with Connie did not begin today but it’s been an ongoing theme in my life and ministry over the years. To sum it up quickly, Connie mentioned to me Phyllis was talking about some form of CyberChurch. It’s not a new concept, as you can see from my previous blog on the topic, but I’m afraid people just aren’t understanding where I’m coming from on this matter.

Every time someone hears about churches meeting in Second Life or other online expressions of the Christian faith, I generally receive a phone call, email, Tweet, or Facebook message asking me my thoughts on the matter. For some reason, people think The Geekpreacher would be falling all over himself to be involved with some of these ministries. And, guess what, they’re both right and wrong at the same time.

The rightness of it is simple. I love to see creative expressions of the Christian faith moving and growing throughout the world and I’m a firm believer the age of instant access will play an important role in the evolution (yeah, I said it) of our faith and how we express it. So, yes, I want to be all over it.

However, what people do not seem to understand is I have not, nor believe I ever will, advocate a totally online existence as the normative experience of the Christian faith. I don’t believe the faith is ever meant to be totally digitized where we’re living in some avatar world with no real connections. I’ve spoken about this in the past but it bears repeating.

It’s the most basic thing of all. If you sit down and break bread with someone on a regular basis, it becomes harder and harder to “troll” them on the interwebz and when you argue, fuss, and fight (as all humans will) chances are you’ll have to find some way to make up.  We are called to be an embodied people with an embodied existence. All my Sci-Fi Geek friends who have seen the new Battlestar Galactica or Caprica series can easily see these “digital beings” are continually looking to be embodied. They want to see, hear, taste, feel, and touch because these things are basic to being human.

This is why the Christian faith is one of Resurrection. We don’t talk about going to Nirvana or some disembodied heaven where we’re spirit creatures sitting on clouds sipping mint julips for all eternity. If that were the case, I’d be wanting asking God why I was in hell! Now, let me be a good Methodist and take the middle ground here. If that’s what you’re looking for in an after life, I’m happy for you but this is not the Christian story. Our story of faith is about a New Heaven and a New Earth. A place where I will be able to enjoy creation in all its God given glory. Do I know what it’s going to look like? Nope. I have my speculations but they’re just that….speculations.

The point being is our expression of the faith is built around the concept of community (communion). This is the way Jesus gave it to us: over a common meal sitting down with his friends. In the end, the essence of what I’m trying to get across is CyberChurch or whatever you’re calling it is great for facilitating relationships. It’s helpful in building them and keeping people in contact over hundreds and thousands of miles. However, I’ve found in my 15+ years of online engagement there is something within the majority of people I’ve met that’s made us want to find a way to get together and meet.

So, my Emergent brothers, sisters, and everything in between never forget there is a reason we’re embodied. Use these wonderful tools to find a way to get together and break bread and if you’re ever in my neck of the woods stop on by and we’ll have a cold one and fire up the grill. Then I think we’ll find the Jesus who was somewhat present in our online conversations even more present in our face-to-face connections as we hug one another’s necks, weep over loss, and rejoice in the goodness of God together.

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