LifeChurch.tv, the high-tech evangelical church, has opened a 16-acre campus in Second Life, reports New Scientist. Bobby Gruenewald, LifeChurch.tv’s Pastor-Innovation Leader, writes on his blog that the virtual church will feature on-demand video, free virtual t-shirts, a special “LifeKids” area for little avatars, and something called a “Mysecret.tv glass house.” Beyond providing a gathering place for the virtual faithful, LifeChurch.tv hopes to use its presence to help redeem Second Life. Writes Gruenewald: “I need to warn you that there is a huge problem on Second Life with porn and ‘virtual sex.’ It is one of several reasons we are there, but it is also something that you need to be on guard about.” To combat the licentiousness, LifeChurch.tv has invited the “Porn Pastors” from xxxchurch.com to set up a mission within the campus.
The establishment of virtual churches and congregations of avatars would seem to raise some knotty theological questions, which I’m not sure the LifeChurch.tv pastors have fully thought through. In creating virtual worlds, aren’t we usurping God’s role – and hence committing a heresy? Are avatars created in God’s image or our own? Can they be saved? Can they be damned? Does sin even exist in a virtual world? Is there a Second Afterlife?