Ponderings with Doug – October 4, 2019

Robots have been around for a while. A long while. At least the concept of robots. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians had visions of artificial companions, servants and soldiers. Dragon’s teeth might be sown in a field and soldiers would pop up to defend the gods. Vulcan forged handmaidens out of gold.

In recent history, robots have also captured the imagination of us mortals. Slowly, mechanical servants have become a part of our mundane lives. Machines wash our clothes and dishes with little human interaction. Robots have been programmed to work in factories and have replaced the human worker on many assembly lines.

In the 1950s, humanoid robots usually looked like tin men and had a funnel or colander on their heads.

The Star Wars franchise brought to the screen the most lovable robots of all time: R2-D2 and C-3PO.

RoboCop generated debate as to the extent that robots could replace humans in vital roles. Thirty years after the 1987 movie, robocops are patrolling the streets in Dubai.

Millions of non-humanoid robots are vacuuming carpets in households around the world. I listened the other day to a guy extolling the technological virtues of a Roomba vs his own human vacuuming skills. The Roomba was selected as superior.

And now, a robot priest in Germany is blessing worshipers in five languages.

If there’s one occupation impervious to automation, surely, it’s the priesthood, right? You can’t simply remove the pastor from his or her role and insert a robot made of metal, plastic and circuit boards. For one thing, robots could be very difficult to fit for a robe; the stole would keep sliding off the shoulders as well.

Could you program a robot to tell bad jokes?

And then there are denominational concerns. Would a Presbyterian robot differ in appearance and function from that of a Missouri Synod Lutheran robot?

And yet …

In Germany, a robot has been developed to offer blessings to congregants. It’s called BlessU-2 — which sounds like it might be a robot that says “gesundheit” every time you sneeze. It’s German, after all.

Instead, the robot will bless you, upon request.

It’s made from the body of an ATM machine. It’s activated by a touch screen on its chest. It gives you the option of hearing your blessing in a male or female voice. It asks you the language you’d like to hear — German, English, French, Spanish or Polish.

Then, BlessU-2 raises its robot arms and pronounces a blessing.

Technology is squeezing out the simple. Technology is squeezing out humanity.

That is why I so love our car show weekend. I can look at great old cars and remember when a paperclip could cure vapor lock. The only technology in the vehicle was an AM radio. I imagine a church parking lot filled on Sunday with all vintage vehicles recently acquired and a sanctuary filled with folks. All have arrived to be touched by the divine.

I suppose that no profession is safe from the march of the machine.

Jesus loves me this I know, for the robot tells me so.

As long as you know Jesus loves you and respond in faith to His grace, it doesn’t matter if the messenger is carbon based, silicon based or an angel.

The issue is your response.