It may not be as exotic as a mission trip to a faraway corner of the globe, but more and more evangelists are venturing into the uncharted depths of Second Life and other online games. A recent piece in a Jesuit journal has brought new attention to the phenomenon of online-game evangelism:
Father Spadaro urges Catholics to go out into the simulation game of Second Life, to lead the cyber-embodiments of their fellow men and women out of the many temptations that exist there. Second Life players create a virtual version of themselves – an avatar – and wander through an ever-growing virtual reality with its own currency, industry and culture. [...]
While the virtual world might be a refuge for some people seeking to flee the real one, it is also full of people seeking something more from life, including, possibly, religious enlightenment, Father Spadaro says. “Deep down, the digital world can be considered, in its way, mission territory. Second Life is somewhere where the opportunity to meet people and to grow should not be missed. Therefore, any initiative that can inspire the residents in a positive way should be considered opportune.”
It's not the first time that missionaries have ventured into Second Life to offer its inhabitants a spiritual alternative to the less-savory attractions to be found there. LifeChurch.tv has a well-established presence in the game, as do churches, synagogues, and mosques from all over the religious spectrum. Unlike in other, more traditional online games, the creators of Second Life don't mind the recent influex of openly religious players--in fact, they welcome it as an important part of the virtual life.
Meanwhile, Wired.com blogger Lore Sjöberg offers a snarky but amusing outsider's take on evangelism in Second Life (caution: irreverence/language).
Are any readers Second Life players--or even Second Life evangelists? Right now, in the relatively early days of massively-multiplayer online gaming, the issue of evangelism might seem like just another quirky aside to "real" Christian evangelism and community. But one thing's for sure: as games and virtual environments become more popular as ways to relax and interact with others, churches and missionaries will become regular features of virtual culture. Five years from now, will your friendly neighborhood Christian church have a Second Life missionary on staff?