The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

She rolled her eyes a little and sighed with a smile. ‘Yes, you get used to it!’ I had met her twice at the Convention but when it came time to introduce her to the President of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines, I drew a blank. Embarrassing. So I apologised and asked her name. Alexa. And, you guessed it, so began a brief discussion about people asking her for all sorts of the things – particularly the weather! 😉

And then it happened in the ongoing chat, Alexa asked a question and I replied ‘robotically’ – maybe like Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey but not malevolent! 😉 Alexa laughed.

There is a lot of talk these days about artificial intelligence – ChatGPT, Terminator, robots – and where we’re heading as a society – maybe that should be as societies because a lot of the dystopian science fiction emphasises the haves and the have-nots in many of these futures. Technology reflects us and we have almost a need, I think, to anthropomorphise most things – put big eyes on machines and imagine and design humanoid robots – and so the world – even in our imagination is made in our image.

I have been reading recently of increasing concerns about how children are interacting with other people based on how they speak to Alexa or Siri. (I think why just only be concerned about children?) The concern is that the interaction increases selfishness at the expense of consideration of others. Over the years there have been many discussions about driverless cars and how and what to programme in case of an accident (whom to save?) but I heard recently – and something I hadn’t considered before – that if driverless cars are sharing the road with people driving their cars, then it will be the people who will be the ‘bad’ drivers and treat the machine ‘badly’. We’ll have to wait and see but I ‘buy’ the logic. I am looking at the Star Wars world in a new light when considering how the humans treat the droids! 

When Christians talk about human beings being made in the image of God, we’re not talking about God having a head and body, two arms and two legs, and a spleen – let alone gender – but about a relationship – being made so that we can relate to God (not as a pet to its owner) but as family being able to grow in knowledge, emotion, agency, volition where the focus is on others. Such attributes and the world created reflects our God – one who serves.

We ruined the world by putting the focus on ourselves. We turned God into our enemy – the one who most limits us and our human history is marked by our enslavement of others in our desire to have power and control. In the incarnation, God became flesh – yes, now we talk about gender – and Jesus lives among us – then and now – always to serve us. His death on the cross is God’s rescue of the image God had first created so that people need not be dysfunctional and the world we create need not be so dystopian! That rescue demonstrates most of all how our God is not from this world – not an image or reflection of this world – but who is still real and offers us another identity and way to live in this world and beyond.