After posting this morning on how the church has abandoned its call to be an “alternative”; a reflection of and expression of the truth as revealed by God in Christ; I ask myself again the question about what “Real life” is; or what “the real world” is. This designaiton is used a lot in contrasting online activity with “real life” or “the real world”. But how close do we get to challenging this notion “out there” , say, in the church? If we are able to explore these things online, and never mention them “in church” (that is to say, in our various attempts at church that all too often consist of little more than theological justifications and “clarifications” of what “most everybody already knows”). If these asumptions can be challenged online more directly, in which setting are we “closer” to “real life”, in the sense of comprehending that there is a disconnect between “the way it is assumed to be” and “the way it ought to be or the way God calls us to be and to envision”?
I am always cognizant of the side of this argument that might suggest that I think online life is more important or More human than “real life”, or that an “online church” can be a better church than most “brick and mortar” churches (ie. “face-to-face;” or “real life” or “churches” as opposed to “virtual churches”). There’s another tricky concept. “Virtual”. Does this mean “almost” (that’s the usual usage of the term. ie. “I was virtually flying”. Maybe it’s more like “sort of”; “partially”. All these can be useful adjectives for assessing “church life”. In what sense are we “virtual”; and what is missing that we refer to the aspect of its lacking?
I definitely believe that there has to be a face-to-face, physically gathered aspect of a community to be “church”. But not all physically gathered, close-knit communties are church, either. There are certain other characteristics that constitute “church”. If most of the “other” characteristics are missing, dormant, whatever, then in what sense is this gathering NOT church? Some may insist that we have to “accept” this church escahtalogically. That such things do not, or cannot be expected, to happen in this “time between the times”. But I also suspect that, due to our propensity to accomodate our theology to the “real world”, we fudge on these “vision things” all too often.