Faith, Media

Minecraft, Creating, and Consuming

For the last year and a half, I’ve been absorbed in a game called Minecraft (this feels like a confession, not sure why). It’s become an internet phenomenon and seems strange to anyone who only thinks about the photorealistic graphics you’ll find on the PlayStation3 or Xbox 360. Minecraft’s viral appeal spread not because of its graphical power, but because of a powerful idea: you can create your entire world.

The world is rendered in 1 meter blocks. As the player, you have the ability to remove, collect and build blocks however you want. You gather different resources to build more advanced tools and structures. I know I sound like a complete nerd, but trust me, it is awesome.

This game captured my creative urges more than almost anything I can think of in my life (Again, feeling a little sheepish to let that cat out of the bag). This is what I find most interesting: in this post-modern Western culture, it’s so much easier to express our creativity in a virtual world rather than in the real one.

We live in a culture of consumption. Instead of being what we eat, we are what we buy, what we consume. I’ve said it before, and I probably won’t shut up about it: the message we are bombarded with thousands of times a day in so many nuanced, tongue-in-cheek, parody-laden ways is that we are not complete as a human being until we buy X. Geico Insurance. Nike shirts and shoes. Old Spice deodorant. Go Daddy websites. Levi jeans. The newest, newest iPhone (which I thought looked really silly until I watched Apple’s little video, and then I was all like “That thing is beautiful.”)

So it’s no wonder that with all these creative powers rolling around within me (rolling around in all of us), that I would find it much more appealing to express those in a computer game rather than in my writing, or in my relationships, or in my faith.

God creates. It may be the most distinctive and persistent part of God’s character versus all the other gods that have been imagined. And while I believe being created “in God’s image” means a lot of things, one of those is most definitely that we humans are set apart in all creation as creators ourselves. It’s in our being to want to create.

I remember when the show “American Chopper” was first hitting popularity, I watched and thought, “Man, how cool would it be to have a job where you created something every day.” I longed for that feeling at the end of the day to look at my work, touch it, and say: “That’s what I did today. That’s what I created.”

But as long as I listen to the commercial message that engulfs us, my creativity has zero value or purpose. Maybe less, because by creating I’m replacing my need to buy their product. What’s perhaps most ironic with my Minecraft obsession is that I paid for the game. I had to consume before I could create.

So it’s really no wonder to me that the Christian faith, scratching and clawing to remain viable in our culture, has become so consumer-friendly. We go “church shopping” like we’re looking for new shoes. It’s no stretch to imagine visitors wondering, “How does this church express my individuality?” And since so many are programmed to think this way, the church was worked very hard to turn faith into a commodity. If we didn’t no one would know what to do with it.

Is the greatest expression of who we are what you have consumed or what we create?

Are your friends a commodity you consume or are you creating community?

Do you consume your faith or are you creating faith?

Do you spend more time consuming God as a product or are you willing to co-create a more beautiful life with God?

With your creation, the world will be so much more beautiful than it is with the robotic march of a billion consumers. The church would be so much more vital if we all felt we could create there rather than just consume. And she would stand as a stark witness over against this consumer culture, declaring the good news that we are not what advertisements say we are, but instead we are what God created us to be.

I for one have waited too long to share God’s image that I carry around. We’re here to create, let’s get to it.

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