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Sacraments and RL vs. SL [Mar. 23rd, 2007|08:39 am]
Wings of Hope magazine

There was a heated argument at last night's meeting. I apologize for certain things that I did. First of all it was inappropriate for me to debate that particular issue during the meeting. I should have waited until a more appropriate time afterwards. I also apologize that I made assumptions about the SL Church of God that were not true. Because announcements of its services are sent out under Wings group notices, I assumed that the church was a subsidiary of Wings and therefore wholly representative of Wings of Hope. I realize now that this is not true as well. For these assumptions I apologize.

However I still hold the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism with the highest respect and I don't believe that carrying out these sacraments in SL give them the respect that they deserve. Last night I referred to carrying these out in sl as blasphemous. Upon further thought, I believe this is a bit harsh, due to the fact that they will be carried out with the best of intentions with the intent to minister to others. However I still stand by the fact that the holy sacraments SHOULD NOT be carried out in a virtual environment under any circumstances and doing so is not giving them the proper respect and dignity that they deserve.

My reasons are this:
1. SL is by no means an equivalent to RL. SL is not a game and what we do in SL matters. We can use SL to minister and witness to others. I have seen it done and it is a powerful too for that. The relationships and friendships I have made in SL are very meaningful to me. However none of them can hold a candle to my rl friendships. Its nothing to do with the people in sl. Its due to the fact that face to face interaction brings another dimension to a relationship that we can't have simply through text and cartoon characters that are meant to represent our identity in the world of sl. SL is by no means a worthy substitute for RL. At best it is a pale imitation. Eucharist and Baptism are both highly personal sacraments. I think administering these sacraments in a purely artificial world takes away from that.
2. There is an overarching question of identity of all who are involved. These sacraments must be carried out by someone who is an ordained minister or priest. There is no way in sl to confirm that anyone is either of those things. You can pretty much claim to be whoever you want to claim to be in sl and no one will know. Sure you can send someone a link and say "This is my personal webpage," but how do we know that's you? Even if it is you, how do we know that the way you've reprsented yourself on the webpage is truthful? Its not that I am suspicious of anyone in SL. I'm sure that you are all being completely honest. However having kept my rl gender a secret for my first several months in sl, I know how easily someone can misrepresent themselves and I never even really lied about who I was, I just didn't say one way or another. People asumed from my avatar that I was female.
Also I have a feeling that some people receiving these sacraments may be using avatars that detract from the dignity of these sacraments. I personally would not think a furry avatar or any type of fantasy avatar would be appropriate. The entire ritual loses its respect and dignity when it is being carried out for what appears to be a low rent Bugs Bunny knock off. Often people don't have avatars that are accurate representations of who they are in rl. Take myself for instance. Part of what makes sl interesting to me is being someone different than who I am in rl. However that one must be completely themselves in everyway when receiving the sacraments.
3. I'm also not sure how these procedures are going to be carried out. It seems that there would need to be a large number of animations, inventory items, etc, which may be bulky. Someone who isn't quite as computer savvy may have a hard time figuring out how to take the sacrament. I know I occasionally have trouble sitting down in sl and I work on computers for a living. Also the sequence of click here, click here, drag this here, click wear, etc. isn't really worshipful for to me. It brings a holy sacrament down to the level of checking for spyware on your hard drive.
4. I don't believe taking these sacraments in SL should be held as equivalent to the same in RL. We run the risk of giving that impression, whether we want to or not. It is important that everyone take part in these rituals from a rl priest in a rl setting. The argument was made that this would allow those who are shut-in and bedridden to receive the sacraments. However most ministers will visit those who are bedridden to administer these sacraments to them. My church even trains "Eucharistic visitors" who can administer communion to those who are bedridden with our priests blessing. There are ways in rl for those who wish to receive the sacraments but are unable to visit a church to do so.

SL is a wonderful place for Bible Study, religious discussion, witnessing, sharing your faith with others, prayer, and Christian community. However I feel that many of the rituals and sacraments of worship are best left to rl. This will be the case for me until SL becomes so realistic that it is like the "holodeck" from Star Trek. While I do not ask that you refrain from practicing this in SL nor do I ask that if you do practice these things in SL that you not use Wings to promote your church, I do ask that you refrain from using the Wings of Hope group to promote the specific services in which you will be administering these sacraments. I ask that you do this out of respect for me and the others in the group that feel the same as I do.

I have made compromises in the past during my time at Wings of Hope. I originally wanted to have an article once a month showcasing another religion that is practicing in sl, such as Buddhism, Islam, etc. etc. This is due to my Inclusivist view that I mentioned in an earlier post and the fact that I believe that there are truths and meditative practices that we can learn from other faiths that will be valuable for us, while not detracting from our own. I still would like this, but I realize that most others involved think that including other faiths will detract from our Christian message. Though I disagree, I respect that opinion and have made that concession. I ask that you please grant me and the others in the group who feel as I do the same courtesy when it comes to using the Wings of Hope group to promote events that will include virtual sacraments such as Baptism and Eucharist. I don't ask that you stop doing these things, just don't use our group to promote them.

I again apologize for the areas where I was out of line last night. I do however feel that this was partly due to the fact that my opinion was initially dismissed and brushed off and at several points the arguments degenerated into personal attacks directed towards me rather than civil discourse. I do however apologize for my part in it. I was out of line and did overreact at times. I also admit that I was misinformed on some of the details involved.
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Stations of the Cross [Mar. 19th, 2007|02:29 pm]
Wings of Hope magazine

There has been some confusion in the group as of late about what exactly is Stations of the Cross. I am writing an article on it in the next issue but for those who would like a preview:

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Welcome to the Wings of Hope Livejournal [Mar. 8th, 2007|01:49 pm]
Wings of Hope magazine

Now we have a way to communicate and announce things outside of Group Notices, notecards, and IMs. We also have a great new way to express our thoughts to each other and bring the group together.

I wanted to tell everyone what a blessing being a part of Wings of Hope has been for me. Because most of the church related activities I have in rl are at my church, this is one of the only experiences I've had working with Christians of widely varying traditions and backgrounds. I will admit this has been somewhat challenging to me and not always pleasant in that there have been some conflicts. However I think that I have ultimately grown in my faith from the experience.

So here's what I've learned from my time at Wings of Hope. We all believe in the same Jesus Christ and that's what is important. There may be differing opinions when it comes to theology, certain scripture passages, certain worship traditions, etc, but that is because we are human, imperfect, and don't have all the answers. It is up to us to work together despite our differences and to love and respect one another. We are all ultimately working towards the same goal. That viewpoint that someone has that seems so repugnant to you now might start to make sense over time. As Christians, we have to learn and grow from one another. Also even if you never see eye to eye with the person that you disagree with, talking with them may inspire you to research your own views and find out what the scripture says about what you believe. Our differences actually make us a stronger organization, in my opinion.

Also Lasher and Sedona showed me this week that during any conflict, if you let yourself get too angry at the other person. You are in essence letting the person have power over you when in the past they had none, which is a valuable lesson. There are going to be disagreements again in the future, just due to human nature and the wide variety of beliefs that we have represented. However I am hoping that in the future, they will result in healthy dialogue that lets all parties involved grow in their faith, rather than conflict that results in members leaving the group.

This week's events made me research a bit about what I personally believe and I happened upon 2 websites that offer an outline of various ways of looking at scripture and Christianity. I thought I would share them with the group. I am hoping that they might help us to better understand and learn from one another. Please check out the links below:

Views on the authority of the Bible - I personally believe in the "conservative" approach, along with a few elements of the "catholic" approach.

Views about salvation and other faiths - I personally am an "inclusivist" as was C.S. Lewis.

I hope this livejournal community will help us to grow closer to one another, to understand each other better, and to grow in our faith together.

In Christ,
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