According to reports, Meta (formerly known as Facebook, Inc.) recently shipped 10 million virtual reality (VR) headsets. Once considered the stuff of sci-fi movies, one-on-one VR sets are now an everyday feature of the technological society we live in.
Like all technological advancements, virtual reality comes with great opportunities and great challenges, not to mention pressing moral questions.
Educational institutions, entertainment media, video games and other industries have quickly grasped the potential of delivering VR content. A well-known mega church in the area has also jumped on board and is now offering virtual reality worship services.
What should Christians consider amidst this trend? What are the most pressing issues and challenges?
The first issue to address is pornography and inappropriate online content. During the Christmas shopping season, a news article explained how the most popular VR device bought as Christmas gifts for children offered inadequate parental controls to guard against pornography. If the rise of Internet porn has taught us anything, it’s that there are millions of pornographers out there who will work day and night to deliver evil content to people’s eyes. Christians need to better protect their own hearts and homes against this.
Then there are relationships to consider. Unlike other entertainment media, the VR headset is completely individualized. This means that the person wearing a VR set is completely unaware of the people around them directly, even if they are playing a game against others online. We recognize that God said:It is not good for man to be alone(Gen. 2:18) and that we are created to be in relationship with God and with each other. Christians must guard against virtual reality time that alienates real-time relationships like family, friends, church community and neighbors.
Finally, there is the danger of discontent. An article recently published by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke about it. “The more time you spend in virtual reality, the grayer the real world becomes. Technology becomes problematic when it promises to bore users with the real world that God has created. Many people are already using entertainment as a retreat from real-world struggles. Virtual reality can greatly increase the appeal of virtual retirement and further increase our dissatisfaction with our lives.
There are undoubtedly other disadvantages and advantages of virtual reality that could be discussed here. Yet now is the time to have these conversations with young people and others. If and when you make the leap to virtual reality (which I recommend you do hesitantly or perhaps wait altogether), count the cost and protect yourself against the temptations it will inevitably bring.
We are told, after all, tomake the best use of time, because the days are bad(Eph. 5:16). Ultimately, we will all be better off as a society if Christians step in to deal with this emerging reality – virtual reality – in a wise, biblical, and prudent way.