The Incarnation vs. Cyberspace
I remember clearly retired bishop Marc Dyer saying, "The Incarnation is not virtual reality." He was no web-fearing Luddite, yet Bishop Marc realized that God becoming human in Jesus was a real time event in the real world and so Christianity also involves real people getting together in real ways. This doesn't mean that we don't or can't find God in cyberspace. I like to think Irenic Thoughts is one of millions of places on the vast World Wide Web that grounds readers in things divine.
This came to mind when I saw the New York Times article on a boot camp to help South Koreans break their Internet addiction. The nation boasts a large and growing number of wired citizens tapping in to their fast, inexensive web access. The article notes,
It has become a national issue here in recent years, as users started dropping dead from exhaustion after playing online games for days on end. A growing number of students have skipped school to stay online, shockingly self-destructive behavior in this intensely competitive society.The article tells of a government funded program to break the cycle of Internet addiction for those mostly male users considered to be at the highest risk. The article tells of the treatment:
Up to 30 percent of South Koreans under 18, or about 2.4 million people, are at risk of Internet addiction....They spend at least two hours a day online, usually playing games or chatting. Of those, up to a quarter million probably show signs of actual addiction, like an inability to stop themselves from using computers, rising levels of tolerance that drive them to seek ever longer sessions online, and withdrawal symptoms like anger and craving when prevented from logging on.
They also follow a rigorous regimen of physical exercise and group activities, like horseback riding, aimed at building emotional connections to the real world and weakening those with the virtual one.This article reminds me that while Christianity should make use of cyberspace, it should be done in a way that grounds what is on the web in reality. For Jesus was very real and very realistic. He was very earthy. While I like to think he has no problem with our using the Internet as a tool, I can't kid myself into thinking that a he came to save a virtual world.
Bishop Marc was right. The Incarnation is not virtual reality. Whatever we do in terms of the time and emotional energy spent in cyberspace, it should help us to better connect to real people in the real world. An email to a friend going through a difficult time can make the difference, but it will never beat a hug, or even sitting quietly by someone in Intensive Care Unit.
That's my take. What do y'all think?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor