Shame is critical. It stops our stupidity in its tracks and compels us to cease from sin. But shame is under threat in Western society on two fronts. You’re familiar with the first. The threat of the sexual revolution looms over us ominously. It threatens us daily with its soothing words, comforting the spirits of its victims with falsehood. It says, “Be yourself, God’s law be damned.” But for Christians, there’s another, greater threat to shame. It’s not the Left or the progressive agenda. Instead, it’s anonymity.
Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook was becoming Meta. Their new focus as a company is on building what they call “the Metaverse.” The Metaverse is supposed to be a digital universe to extend our world. No more Zoom meetings—we now have virtual offices. No more going out with friends—everyone can get together from their own couch. From the comfort of home, we’ll be able to enter into a hyperrealistic digital world. We’ll have digital property only accessible in this world, and we’ll be more connected than ever to virtual ecosystems.
In many ways, the Metaverse project is reminiscent of the Tower of Babel. It is our attempt to bring heaven to earth improperly. By brute force, we are attempting to make ourselves gods. Realistically, we are not even that far off from discussions of simulated immortality. Soon, the Metaverse will be filled with AI versions of the dead, and it’s entirely possible that a simulated Mark Zuckerberg will be running long after his death.
We could spill gallons of ink discussing the risks of these technologies, and over the next few years, I imagine we all will. There’s quite a lot to consider. For example, we’re seeing more and more a pattern of disembodiment and a return to the age-old problem of humanity a self-deification. These are serious concerns that are worthy of our time, but more pressing is the loss of shame.
What can Christians do about this? Last week, the Gospel Coalition put out a helpful article on the Metaverse. One of their key points is that Christians can’t afford to outright reject these technologies. Whether we like it or not, the world is going to change, and we need to be prepared to adapt to it. We need to evaluate the risks with sober minds and consider how to both protect our own and rescue the lost. Throughout the twentieth century, the Church has failed to keep abreast of these changes. The hope is that this time will be different.
In days past, people sinned in public by necessity. If a lustful man wanted to act on his fleshly desires, he had to go out and do it. He had to go out to the brothel or the strip club or the video store. These kinds of activities carried a certain level of risk. Beyond the dangers inherent to sexual sin, he was also faced with the possibility of running into someone who knew his wife or his kids or his pastor.
Today, we have drastically reduced the risks of sin by our lifestyle choices and technology. For one, we’ve lost the benefit of tight-knit communities. A man who lives in a large city probably can visit brothels and strip clubs without getting caught, simply because our urban centers are so massive. Alternatively (and more insidiously), he can just shut his door at home, and all those seedy places find some form on the internet. He can satisfy his sexual fantasies in complete and total anonymity, and it’s only getting easier. Big Tech is steadily making the digital world “more real,” and blockchain technologies are making it more private. We’ve managed to create systems that allow for maximal sin and minimal repercussions. We can commit endless vile acts without ever having to experience the associated shame.
This should lead us to consider a chilling prospect. Without shame or risk, we must be a holier people than ever before. Men and women who would have been chaste and honorable had they lived a hundred years ago are now falling into grave, unrepentant sin. The barriers to sin which were once a standard part of daily life are rapidly being broken down, exposing the saints to all sorts of untold evils.
Now, I don’t want to be a fearmonger. Solomon’s wisdom is still true: there is nothing new under the sun. We may have new ways to sin, but at the core, the sins themselves are the same sins of old. With that in mind, we’ll certainly feel the temptation to new programs and gimmicks, and as much as I appreciated the Gospel Coalition’s article, I fear the authors may be falling into the pattern of “the shiny new thing.” This cannot be the way forward. The Church’s mission and biblical methods cannot be subject to the changing whims of the culture.
So what can we do? What’s the solution to the problem of the shameless Metaverse? It’s simple. We must obey God rather than man. We must hold each other accountable. We must not let a brother stumble into internet anonymity. We will probably need to be uncomfortably open with one another. As the body of Christ, we must not keep secrets from one another. Pastors must get comfortable getting involved in the lives of their people, and we must diligently defend the Lord’s Table from those who would malign it. In other words, we must do simply what God requires.
All of this is just ordinary, everyday obedience. These are just the things that the Church has always been called to do. We should certainly be concerned about the Metaverse, but we shouldn’t be afraid. God has not given us a spirit of timidity. Through the ordinary means of grace, we can have quiet confidence in the faithfulness of God to protect his people, but we still have our obligation to faithfulness as well. We are still called to obedience, and God will sanctify all of these efforts for his purposes according to his good will.