Category Archives: Christ
Now that we have AI, do we really need God?
I confess the AI conversation makes me a bit uneasy. It has for quite some time, but now that its general application and participation is rapidly advancing among us, it really has me shuddering a bit. I’ve always seen my physical nature as an essential ingredient in my learning and experience. The notion that I can “have” an experience without actually “having” it feels not only foreign but wrong. Life isn’t just a mind game, after all, it’s a people game. You, me and everybody else.
Yes, AI is coming. No, I can’t stop it. And I can see, by listening to the many arguments of its various “creators,” what a valuable tool it can be to “speed our workflow,” and “enhance our capability.” What a time saver it will be not having to search through all those references, or pour over all those documents in order craft the perfect paragraph, synthesizing all I’ve learned. All of this will be done for us! What a relief this artificial intelligence will be.
It’s not really artificial, though, is it? It’s hand-crafted by many hands, many millions of hands? All of us contributing to the vast store of human knowledge that is scannable — today’s podcast called it scrapable — and thus readily available for harvest. Now AI can ascertain all of this in the blink of an eye, shuffle it according to your personal instructions and deliver it to your inbox with a tone, a voice, a personality, suitable to your specifications. Pretty ingenious. Makes me look look like a genius. (which I just had to google because the one is not spelled like the other, go figure) All I could ever want is right at my own fingertips. The easy way — per someone else — and no one is the wiser. Heck, if everyone is doing it, it’s the only way to keep up, right?
Honestly, it is tempting right now to ask ChatGPT to go ahead and write me a Kinesthetic Christian post. Let’s see: write a 500 word blog post on … whether AI, umm, replaces the Incarnation… Geez, I can’t even come up with a proper query. My brain doesn’t seem to work right without my fingers at the keyboard or my pen on the page.
With practice perhaps I’ll get better at asking AI the right question. Then, of course, once I know what to ask, there will be no point in thinking about this, let alone writing about this. Those who are interested will simply have their say. We can debate, you and me, my bot against yours. I’m not sure how we determine who wins. I guess it’s always a draw.
But, if you’ll indulge me, let’s for a moment think about the Incarnation the old fashioned way. We read or perhaps we’ve read or we’ve heard that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Why? Here at the Kinesthetic Christian we’ve always understood that, it was to make God real to us, tangible for us, human like us. To allow us to see God in action: living, breathing, eating, sleeping, tasting, touching, speaking, listening, doing and not-doing. And somehow, even over and across the centuries, to do it with him. To feel with him, as he felt, so we can feel with him in our here and now, as we try to make sense of our circumstances and dwell among others trying to do the same.
I mean, don’t you catch yourself asking, why was I even created for this world — riddled as it is with difficulty, disaster and heartache. As I write, Turkey and Syria are reeling in the loss of 10’s of thousands from earthquake, yet they search the rubble desperately seeking lives to save. Ukraine is under deadly bombardment from ever more Russian firepower, yet they stand and fight, sustaining each other until overcoming their intruders is accomplished. People of Iran are risking their lives in protest over the treatment of a young girl by the “morality police.” And that is just scratching the surface of it all.
In each of these maybe our answer to the “why” is plain: everywhere there are people in need who need each other. Tangibly, heartily, physically, emotionally, and in all the ways a body can be sustained. With food and water, shelter and warmth, calls and comfort. With presence. None of this can AI supply. And, of course, it’s not meant to. It’s just a tool placed now in the hands of people. Flawed people. Faulty people. Misdirected people, yes. But also, in the hands of the best of us; there is the best of us in all of us. Perhaps that’s what the One Incarnated came to say. Even AI can’t put that into words.
Years ago I participated in a Bible study group where one of the participants attended only irregularly and, when he did, he brought some outlandish commentary and some off-the-wall suggestions. For instance, once he asked, “Why is the Bible scripture? Why not the newspaper or the comics? Couldn’t God just as well use these?” As I was quite new then to the faith, I shuddered and retreated from his questions, letting others manage these outbursts.
But, somewhat to my surprise, this young man was always welcomed back around that study table. In fact, his attendance was so sparce, he got applause when he showed up. And that got me wondering… what kind of a God would allow this kind of questioning?
And there was my answer: any Creator who would allow — no, create — creatures with the capacity to so freely and daringly question, explore, challenge and frankly to contend in the ring with the Divine, now THAT that was a God worth believing in. In fact, that was the only God worth believing in. And even getting to know — by the means I have available: my ears, my eyes, my nose, my touch, my taste, my thinking, breathing, feeling, heart-beating self. My only self.
Will AI make this blog obsolete? Perhaps. But as far as I can tell, God knows what God is doing. I wonder what that God has planned for AI.
Disclaimer: I did not ask AI to write this blogpost.
You are exactly what God had in mind
New year. New me! I think, striding up to the mirror, hopefully and perhaps a bit forgetfully. What looks back at me is as yesterday: puckered, lined, wrinkled and folded. Never mind the dark spots and crusty places, nor the gray, the soft, or the sagging. Ugh…. Ugly! I can’t help but think.
And yet, what I see is, as Father Boyle has so beautifully written, “exactly what God had in mind when God made me.”*
Do I believe this? can I believe this? That the Creator’s unique word spoken into me when I was laid so gently into the world years ago has aged according to plan, grown according to design, responded exactly on cue. Can I believe I have become just what God hoped?
Because, if I do, then I am not disgusted, not even disappointed in the me I see. I don’t cringe or turn away from what seems so unsightly. It’s not unsightly to God. God has seen it all along. In fact, God saw it coming. My imperfections are part and parcel of me: the me God is glad to see.
Do I believe this? can I believe this? That this broken down me, God is glad to see?
I take this with me to communion Sunday where the New Year’s Day pastor has particular difficulty breaking the loaf of Communion bread. I know they pre-pare it. There’s a finger-hold and the start of a separation to make it easier for the pastor to pull apart. Still, she tugs and pulls and works at it until the two portions are fully separated. Finally, she holds them up and announces, “His Body, broken for you.”
Broken, I think, not sliced.
Sliced bread is clean cut. A carving performed swiftly, sharply, evenly. No, this bread, this broken bread has seen warfare. It has battled and been torn in two and it shows. The two halves, their exposed surfaces mounded and shredded. The edges ragged, uneven, hanging; the terrain an unwelcome landscape navigable only by all-terrain vehicle. But I’m not navigating, I’m looking. Looking at the lusciousness that invites me to partake of mouth watering goodness.
So different from the polite bite I would have taken from the perfectly even slice neatly delivered to the toaster to be browned on both sides.
No, bread that’s broken is way more enticing. It says come, take, eat, by the handful, pinch-full or mouthful. To each according to their hunger. Beautiful. Not the least bit ugly. Exactly what God had in mind.
Can I believe this?
- ~ Gregory Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries, The Whole Language, the Power of Extravagant Tenderness, Avid Reader Press, NY, NY, 2021, pp. 6.