February 16, 2009
Scot McKnight on "Virtual Community"
A response to Shane Hipps video from NPC.
Thanks for your video, Shane. Your point about not equating virtual community (grant me the term for the moment) with real community is one that needs to be heard. But, I'm not so sure it is this simple...
First, as a blogger who has what I have sometimes called the Jesus Creed "community," I do think there are some senses in which community is apt. For some, this is about the only "community" with Christians they can right now have. I honor that. For others it is therapeutic to dance, as it were, at a distance -- not the complete thing, of course, but still participating in some dimensions of community. And there is another dimension: there are clearly dimensions of fellowship at work in blog communities. Never the whole, but some. And that needs to be considered for what it really is.
But now something perhaps more significant: by shrinking community to embodied community I wonder if we have written "communion of the saints" (a community) off the map. Isn't there something eternal, something spiritual, and something profoundly true that all Christians of all ages and of all locations are in communion with one another?
This means it may be appropriate to refer to internet communities as a participation in the communion of the saints (I have experienced this with some folks whom I've gotten to know at some levels via internet and via e-mails and via parcel post letters) and as virtual communities.
I would agree with you that some substitute virtual for real at their own loss; I would also agree that some think they are the same. But I wonder if it is not swinging too far the other way to deny the word community to what can happen -- palpably so for many -- in cyberspace.
Come to think of it, I wonder if you might just provide for us a full definition of "community." Do you mean "ecclesia" or "koininia" or something else?