How Virtual Reality Challenges the Body of Christ

Posted on : Jun 21st, 2018 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This Sunday should be quite an exciting Sunday!  We’ll be celebrating Emma Benson’s graduation from High School and her admission to Cal Arts.  Emma was born into our church community.  She and Michaela were the youngest of the first generation of kids that came into our church 20 years ago.  I’ve asked her to share some of her observations and experiences about growing up in our community and as the first generation of youth in the 21st century.

We also will welcome Maggie Ritchey and her spouse, Myra Kazanjian.  Maggie moved to western PA many years ago, but is still our church treasurer!  It will be great to see them and welcome them!

And then we will continue our summer worship series on The Apostle Paul: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.  This Sunday we continue with “the good!”

One of Paul’s greatest teachings is about the diversity and the oneness that we all share as members of the one Body of Christ.  Paul’s beloved teaching uses the image of a human body to describe our inclusion in the Body of Christ.  He begins with these words: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to partake of one Spirit.”

Those words took on new meaning this week as we saw infants, children and youth torn apart from their Central American mothers and fathers and locked up in children’s prisons by our government.  On Monday, Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics said President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border “amounts to child abuse.”  Our government leaders who developed this policy seem to have overlooked the cruelty of this policy and the trauma this is causing to children, in an effort to deter parents from crossing the Border into our country.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is fond of quoting and misquoting the Apostle Paul, should look at I Corinthians 12: 12-27.  Referring to the Body of Christ, Paul says in I Cor. 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

The Body of Christ is suffering dearly from this horrific treatment of children and families.  There are some 2,300 infants, children and youth who have been separated from their parents with no plan on how to reunite them.  This kind of suffering cannot continue.  We have a moral obligation to demand that these children and families be reunited.  One has to wonder how we got to this point in the first place?  Have we lost all sense of human compassion and value?

Paul’s teaching about each of us being an inseparable part of the Body of Christ has been given new meaning by a group of scientists in Barcelona who are experimenting with Virtual Reality (VR). They have figured out how to make a subject wearing a VR headset feel that they are truly in the body of the person they are watching on a screen, a process they describe as Virtual Embodiment.  It has been used quite successfully to teach empathy and compassion to perpetrators of sexual and spousal abuse.  In another experiment, Caucasian participants experience being in the body of a black person.  Afterward, their scores on a test designed to reveal unconscious bias shift significantly, and “seem to last for weeks,” one researcher said.

I think this VR experience is a lot closer to what Paul was trying to teach than the more traditional (and dated) images of everyone being one part of the body.

Virtual reality may well challenge us Christians to not only talk about diversity but experience it as we literally become “the other,” as well as to learn the empathy and compassion that Christ has for us all.

More on Sunday!

Blessings,

Dan

I Corinthians 12:12-27 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to partake of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as God chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be?

As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

 

 

 

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