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Scott thanks for all your comments and push back. Always appreciated.
Clearly we’re playing with semantics here. I don’t say that
dismissively. Semantics matter–some times more than other times. I’ll
let others judge whether it matters here. It may be that we agree
First, my language in the video was less nuanced than it might have
been in written form. That is my tendency in a spontaneous oral
interview. I will try to be more precise here.
When I say that “virtual community” is not “community,” that does not
mean it has no value. As I indicated in the interview, I know that all
kinds of deeply meaningful connections and interactions happen online
all the time. I have experienced them myself. Some may want to call
this “community.” Fair enough. I just don’t call it “community.” That
is not intended to dismiss or demean any one’s experience online.
I play with semantics in an effort to help us see that “virtual
community” and “unmediated community” are not interchangeable things.
In my opinion, one is actually better than the other. The reason is
that “virtual community” occurs primarily on one frequency of the
human experience. It is mostly a disembodied, and largely cognitive,
connection. This is not a bad thing, it’s just not as valuable as
unmediated community, which involves the entire range of the human
experience–physical, non-verbal, intuitive sense, subtle energies,
visual cues, acoustic tones, etc. These are extremely powerful things
that should not be quickly dismissed as “nice but not necessary.”
Most of us see these ingredients as essential for healthy marriage and
parenting. It’s the reason no one extols the virtues of online
parenting or the value of sex with your spouse in a chat room rather
than a bedroom. The same is true of community. For me, community is a
sacred and powerful institution, and I prefer to treat it in the same
spirit as marriage or parenting.
I guess what I’m saying is that virtual community is like playing the
guitar with one string. You can make music; it’s just not as
interesting or as good as music on a guitar with six strings.
To observe that “real” community is worth more than “virtual”
community may seem rather obvious to some and thus not worth stating.
However, there is a growing legion of young people who can scarcely
tell the difference. A subsequent rift is emerging between parents
and teens because of this very issue. It will only become more
complex in the years to come. We gloss over this distinction at our
own risk. I hope that putting words to these things is actually
freeing for us.
Finally, I’m not against virtual community anymore than I’m against
the wind and the tides; I’m just concerned that too many of us grant
it virtues it does not possess. This undo esteem can undermine the
profound and lasting impact of an incarnated and embodied Gospel. But
perhaps we agree on this point.