Online Community and Personhood – In the Eyes of Christ (Kimberly Knight)

Kimberly Knight is a pastor and evangelist in cyberspace. This is the second of her postings that describe this online spiritual experience. I met Kimberly at the Theology after Google conference and we struck up a conversation we’re continuing in this space.  Her previous post is entitled:  "Being Church in Cyber-Space."


Online Community and Personhood – In the Eyes of Christ

By Kimberly Knight

In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:
“Because Christ has long since acted decisively for my brother, before I could begin to act, I must leave him his freedom to be Christ’s; I must meet him only as the person he is in Christ’s eyes”
I would like to encourage a discussion about how online community fosters or hinders a truer “seeing” of a person as they are in Christ’s eyes. I’m thinking that in “virtual” spaces, where individuals define how they are visually perceived, but who often become deeply transparent about their heart, mind and soul, have a unique opportunity to be seen for the person she is in Christ’s eyes.

The best description of what an avatar is in Second Life comes from the creators of this virtual world.

"You may have heard the term ‘avatar’ from friends, on the Web or in the news. For example, there's the James Cameron-directed movie Avatar and a popular animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. But, what exactly is an avatar in Second Life? In a virtual world, an avatar is a digital persona that you can create and customize. It's you — only in 3D. You can create an avatar that resembles your real life or create an alternate identity. The only limit is your imagination. Who do you want to be?"
When I meet people in Second Life as they wander into the church, or I bump into their avatars while out exploring, I am in a position to get to know the person behind (or inside, or partnered with) the avatar. I have to take the time to develop a relationship based on heart and mind. I do not have the luxury of using my socially-constructed (but tirelessly fought against) biases to determine how or if I will interact with this person, this child of God. I simply must be open. And that is a bit scary.

Don't get me wrong. How can I judge the sincerity of the person? How can I know their intentions? Well really, in first life can we do this any better, or do we make assumptions based on physicality that betray the inner light of Christ in every person?

There is one small theological issue at the heart of this conversation: Bodies vs. Souls – who are we? (Both, one or the other, neither?) and how does The Incarnation speak to this?

I truly mean this to be a discussion for every step I take in life is an exploration and I am at peace with "living the questions"

- What say you?

Kimberly Knight received her M.Div. from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and is the Circuit Rider for The Beatitudes Society, to which she brings more than fifteen years of experience across a broad spectrum of technology settings including multimedia production and instructional technology. She currently serves as the pastor of an online congregation that has been gathering for two years in the cyber-world of Second Life.


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