If you’re like me, you’ve been smiling, cringing, groaning, gasping, and staring in confusion during the latest season of Black Mirror currently streaming on Netflix. Now in its fourth season, Black Mirror has always been a reliable source of fantastical and often frightening possibilities about the interactions between humanity and technology. Some are predictable, some are ridiculous, but most of the episodes make you think (and look at your Keurig coffee maker with suspicion). Heck if I’m getting an Alexa anytime soon. Yet none of the episodes seem give much consideration to religion, opting instead for social and political commentary. It does make one wonder, though: what would Christianity and a highly-digitized church look like in the future?
Some would say we’re already there. Sermons are streamed online, church services have graphics and laser displays that rival those seen in sports arenas and rock concerts, and any Bible version or language is available at the touch of a button. Some have even speculated that the prevalence of social media would facilitate Revelation 1:7, which states that “every eye will see Him” when Jesus returns. Maybe we will see the second coming of Christ on Facebook Live.
Of course, if taken to Black Mirror lengths, the church still has a long way to go before becoming fully enmeshed in a digital future. So what would some of these science-fiction-but-not-for-long steps be?
One very plausible possibility will be “virtual” churches with congregations consisting of members at home plugged into their VR devices. It’s more than just watching the preacher on your TV screen; you can sit on your comfortable couch but it looks like you’re sitting on a long wooden pew in a soaring Gothic cathedral, surrounded by friendly faces and listening to the pastor preach from the pulpit with perfect acoustics. Who knows – we might even have virtual Communion one day.
For those who would still actually go to a brick-and-mortar building, holographic guest preachers could deliver the message from the comforts of their own home on the other side of the country, or perhaps even the world. He (or she, as the trend continues) could pace the stage and scan the congregation, even though in reality, they might be looking at a blank wall or a bathroom mirror. Imagine a holographic Andy Stanley delivering a sermon in a tiny house church in Laos.
Let’s go a little further and take the church into true Black Mirror territory. How about Scripture Surfaces for the ultra-religious? Any surface in your home – walls, tables, even windows – are screens that can be programmed to display Bible verses with soothing, natural backgrounds when you enter the room or at the touch of your finger. It would be like living in a Bible!
Or how about mind filters that automatically censor anything that offends Christian sensibilities or may cause a brother to stumble. Imagine being able to walk through a construction site and not hear a single curse word! Or if an attractive woman is jogging down the street in a clingy, revealing outfit, your optical filters will instantly add some fabric. Click! She’s wearing a shapeless parka in the middle of summer. You could live a completely sanitized, G-rated life that would make an Amish romance writer proud.
All things considered, technology is not our enemy and has opened up countless doors for sharing the Gospel. However, as we have seen with all other walks of life where technology is now inextricably intertwined, there is always a price to pay.