Someone once asked me, “Does everything have to be a theological issue?” I’ll let you guess what my answer was. But this development in 21st century worship does raise some thorny issues. I understand both sides. I think the technology can be quite useful but I also take seriously the “embodiment” or incarnational issues it raises.
Young is part of a new generation of pastors who can be in two places at one time. They are using technology — high-def videos, and even holograms — to beam their Sunday morning sermons to remote “satellite” churches that belong to their congregation.
It’s no doubt the “Trekkie” in me that sees no problem with holograms. Holodeck vacations anyone? If NASA, Buzz Lightyear, or anyone else manages to go to Mars or beyond, it might be nice to have a friendly worship service, say for healing, for death, for any number of events, while separated from home base. A more down to Earth example would be services beamed into remote military posts in Afghanistan or scientific posts in the Arctic.
On the other hand, the disembodiment, de-incarnational charge is legitimate, I think. Hermits and solitaries aside, most religions do factor in some corporate, communal elements. The question really is whether virtual community adequately fills this need. What’s the beer commercial? Great taste? Less filling? Perhaps the holo-vangelist experiment warrants a “yes” and a “no” to each of the two questions.
My concern here isn’t solely on the religious side of things. What I’m most interested in are the educational, or rather, the pedagogical issues this raises. Online learning. Can there really be such a thing? Once that question is asked, seriously asked, and even more seriously considered, one soon realizes that the answer is elusive. Social scientists, psychologists, cognitive scientists, education experts, and conflicting data notwithstanding, the matter may very well come down to where one stands on the nature, and thus, the purpose, of a human being.
See? And you didn’t think that everything had to be a theological issue.