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St Johns Southgate

06 Jun 2017

Robo-God?

There was a time when I thought that there was no wrong way to share the love of God with someone. But I’m becoming more and more convinced that however it’s done, a person – a real, living and breathing person who can be looked in the eye – has to be the one doing the sharing.

From time to time I’ll lurk in the swamps of social media where discussions of spirituality and religion take place. In these forums the discourse almost always descends into self-justification, incivility and downright rudeness.

I’m sure most people have the best of intentions when they post a reply, comment or tweet to someone’s innocent question. But there seems to be a collectively ill-conceived notion that if interactions are just keystrokes on a qwerty or thumb taps on a touch-screen that the communication is merely intellectual, not personal. But that’s not the case.

We live in the age of “likes”, “scores”, “up-votes” and “re-tweets” which transforms even the most banal brainwaves into commodities. The so-called social media is more like a social trading arena where esteem and degradation are bought and sold and thrown around with smiley faces and piles of poo. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of a nasty comment knows that shaking it off is easier said than done and can lead to obsession and self-loathing.

Sadly, this new market place of ideas is depersonalised and lacks the nuance that body language and eye contact bring, so it’s no wonder that the exchange of ideas often ends in ALL CAPS shouting matches. But even worse, one might argue, is how users then retreat to the echo chamber where they’ll not be challenged, only be affirmed and sadly stagnate in festering ignorance.

There are limits to what technology can do for us, and when it comes to the spiritual ponderings of life, technology is very limited indeed. Without human-to-human interaction, finding a spiritual connection is virtually impossible. In fact, in the Christian tradition it’s taught that

God himself became a human being precisely because he sought a face-to-face love-connection with the people of the world.

A church in Germany recently installed a robotic pastor called BlessU-2. It’s fully equipped with a touch screen on which you can request the particular blessing you require (in any of five different languages) and instantly it will speak upon you the blessing you think you need.

BlessU-2 is sparking a bit of interest and getting a few laughs, but in my opinion, it’s a sad but inevitable result of our techno-social demise.

Confessing your sins on a website or being blessed by a robot will never be an effective substitute for having another person look into your eyes and tell you that you are worthy, you are loved, and you are created in the image of God.

God’s not a robot, but a person just like you, and he will never let the trolls get you down. He might know your confusion and the contradictions between your words and deeds but he will never block you or unfriend you.

Jesus won’t even “like” you. Jesus only knows love – and he offers it face to face. Come to St Johns and find out how.

 

Tom Hoffman

Pastor - St Johns Southgate

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