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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ Virtual Christianity ~



    “Cyberspace” is a term that evolved to describe the Internet, a wealth of electronic information accessible only through the software designed to harmonize with it. For uninitiated adults who have lived most of their years without this new venue of knowledge, learning to navigate it requires many hours of learning and practice. Their children, however, tend to be right at home in cyberspace, often being teachers and consultants for their parents. Interestingly, Christ taught the kingdom of heaven is like that also.

     “Virtual reality” describes much of cyberspace, especially its games. In opposition to the perception of many, “virtual” does not mean “fake” or “false.” By definition, if something is virtually true, it is a reflection or construct of truth. If virtual reality is dismissed as “illusion,” so must “physical” reality. In this sense, the Hindu concept of “maya” that asserts all reality is “illusion” has a degree of validity. Consider that in the Christian tradition, we assert Christ is “the Truth,” as He himself proclaimed. Thus we must categorize anything outside of Christ as being untrue or just “illusion,” as the Hindus would put it. Thus we must engage only Him, the Truth, and not follow illusion or false prophets.

     What is the strong appeal of the virtual reality we humans have created for the entertainment and education (and lucrative financial returns) for our children? The inculcation of power, of course. This is the same force and passion that fuels adult enterprise, economics, war (or “regime change” as we now call it), and the nationalistic moral superiority that kingdoms, brutal dictatorships and “democratic” republics all claim. When our children play the virtual reality games in arcades, youth centers, and in their own homes, they feel in control and in power. That they are, for the consequences of their mistakes or losses are as temporary as the time it takes to push the reset button. This virtual reality becomes their living reality. The realities are merged and virtual.

     In a similar way, there is a blurring between virtual Christianity and living Christianity. Actually, both are indeed lived in real time physical reality, but the virtual version tends to be oriented toward self-promotion and self-empowerment. The living version presents as Christ-exulting and self-denying. That version is not at all attractive to the human ego or our self-esteem. Our personal wills dig in against such a version of truth.

     But how free are our wills? Are there “virtually” free and “really” free wills? I think of how many times I started the day planning to accomplish certain tasks and ended up doing something else that was more significant or, at least, unplanned. They were many, and I am happy about those times...more than I am for those days through out which I stuck to my schedule and did not allow deviations or diversions.

     Upon awakening in the morning, I pray for God’s will to be done. (Anyone who uses “The Lord’s Prayer” does that.) Then I often schedule my day to make sure my will is done. When this my-will-be-done schedule is interrupted by an emergent need to address something else that wasn’t planned, I am reminded of my prayer.

     The world nods in admiration of the willful person who declares, “I’m productive. I account for every minute of my time. None is wasted.” That time economy is so valued that we tend more and more to impose it on our children: “No, dear, you can’t go over and talk with your friend tonight. Remember you have piano lessons at 5:30 and soccer practice at 7. Then tomorrow is your big game and Saturday is your recital. Uncle Joe and Aunt Jane will be there and we can’t disappoint them, can we?”

     How unfortunate that “time is money” or time is equated with productivity. I suggest the notion of “quality time” was invented by guilty adults. “Well I don’t have the quantity of time with my spouse and children, but I give them ‘quality’ time.” The latest statistics reported by people who study such things documents that the national (US) average time spent by mothers with their children per day in personal interaction (and this doesn’t mean watching them play soccer or baseball) is 90 minutes; for fathers it is 7 minutes. I guess we relieve the guilt by declaring these minutes to be “quality time.”

    My fondest and most treasured memories of time with loved ones are not those planned big events like going to the circus or a special dinner. Rather, they include things like the bay fog blanketing our little boat forcing us to slowly prod up the coast to get home or be totally disoriented...or having the electrical power fail in my home during a severe storm and needing to place lit candles throughout the house and waiting, with only family members for our focus of attention, until power was restored so we could go back to what was “planned.”

     Did something like that ever happen to you? Did you not feel tempted to shut the power off after it was restored just to prolong the unplanned magic of that truly quality time? Maybe that’s why Americans and Europeans love to go camping. We must excuse  those, however, who bring so much stuff and define the quality of the camp as to how close it feels like home!

     “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42, NIV).

     Both Mary and Martha were in separate realities. Martha whirled around in her own created cyberspace while Mary rested in that of Jesus’. Our world would hold up Martha as being the model, the practitioner of the virtue of a task-oriented person of accomplishment. But shall we join her?

     It might be a “guy thing,” but as young boys, my friends and I would take great pleasure in kicking a discarded rusty can to each other as we walked down the street, just talking and laughing. We would place huge rocks in a creek to make a dam for no particular purpose. The doing and not the end result was the purpose. That was our cyberspace, so superior to that of a virtual combat game with laser guns in a boardwalk arcade, where the cadence of the crashing surf cannot be heard.

     If invited to join us in the arcade, I think Jesus would politely say He will wait by the beach for us. If invited to kick a rusty can around on an aimless walk down to the creek to build an aimless dam for no reason, I know Jesus would say, “Sure, let’s go.”

     I know this because I know, in physical reality, Jesus was playing along with my friends and me, all of us having a heavenly time.  Children know these things, and remember them as adults. Jesus taught unless we maintain the spirit of the child we once were, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus also knows this from physical reality, for He chose to be the human child of Mary and Joseph, and to be the Incarnate Child of our Father, our God. In so doing, Jesus made us His siblings. This reality is beyond my understanding, but, thankfully, not beyond my experience.
 

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
www.prayergear.com

Weekly Reflections © August 2, 2003
Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com
 
 

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