Syrmor, a YouTuber known for finding humane stories in VRChat, has documented one of the most fascinating phenomenons to come out of virtual reality. Not only do people go to church in a video game, there’s also a pastor who performs baptisms digitally for those looking to cleanse themselves spiritually.
In an unreal 10-minute video, Syrmor interviews DJ Soto, a Christian pastor who is looking to redefine what faith looks like. As Soto tells it, part of his interest in taking up a virtual house of prayer is that it opens up the experience to people who might otherwise be excluded from real-world congregations, such as folks in wheelchairs and recovering drug addicts. Soto describes one instance where he baptized a woman who couldn’t leave her home, and the experience was so intense that she started “bawling,” as she never thought she’d have the opportunity to do it given her condition. His service also allows him to reach people he couldn’t if he preached solely through typical avenues. He has been performing virtual reality baptisms for a year now.
It’s a moving tale that is juxtaposed with the complete absurdity of VRChat. Much of the conversation takes place in the clouds, with a sunset gracefully resting in the distance. A Winnie the Pooh and a pink-haired anime girl listen closely as Soto describes his spiritual journey.
Later on, Soto actually performs the ritual on the anime girl in what appears to be a bathhouse. There is no actual water, of course, but all the same the person on the other side of the screen crouches into the pool. The character stays down there as Soto describes the symbolism of baptism, which is meant to help people start anew with the grace of god by their side. The audience, which includes a banana, cheers.
And then SpongeBob SquarePants steps into the water and soaks it all up. God bless video games.
What gets me about this whole situation is that while it’s silly on one level, it also captures something beautiful about what video games allow us to do. We can make a church look otherworldly, which is what faith represents. We can focus more on who someone actually is when a body isn’t in the picture. It’s fantastic.
You can watch the baptism from the anime girl’s perspective below courtesy of Drumsy.