I don’t always give careful attention to Christian Reflection, a journal produced by Baylor University’s Center for Christian Ethics — some days I’m just not that reflective, or the topic explored in that particular issue doesn’t grab me.
The most recent issue has a number of fascinating articles, however, especially for those of us who spend some time in cyberspace. Entitled “Virtual Lives,” the issue incorporates articles that explore the digital universe, new information technologies, and the various ways they may impact our lives as Christians.
Amy Grizzle Kane, for example, notes that Facebook can become a platform for contention and ugliness — but also provides an opportunity for Christians to have a positive witness by “making our virtual lives virtuous.”
And, in an article that drew me in because of my son’s penchant for role-playing video games, J. Cameron Moore explores the role of moral choices one can make in video games. Calling on the rationale offered by Christian fantasy writers George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkein, and C. S. Lewis, Moore likens immersive video games to fantasy novels, where one employs “fantastic imagination.”
Fantasy allows us to participate in an act of secondary creation of new worlds in which natural laws may be different, but the same moral laws should apply as in our world, Moore writes: good and evil should not switch places. The best fantasy, he says, allows readers or gamers to experience “eucatastrophe” — a good ending that emerges from the midst of evil. Tolkien’s and Lewis’ classic books provide good models of fantasy worlds in which good ultimately triumphs.
While some video games incorporate those principles, others ignore them, and Moore bemoans the fact that in some games, like Fable 2, the moral choices players make have no outcome on the end of the game — whether the player chooses to be helpful or hurtful, altruistic or narcissistic, evil is still defeated and peace returns to the world.
I haven’t yet had time to read the other intriguing articles, but they’re on my list. If you spend much time in the virtual world (or love someone who does), you may want to click your way over to the journal’s website, where you can read the entire issue online or sign up for a free print subscription. You’ll find it not just virtually, but actually worth your while.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.