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Divine algorithms: church lessons in communing with AI Jesus

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In this article:

  • Meet AI Jesus
  • What is the purpose of AI Jesus?
  • Can AI Jesus teach us about faith?

How much faith do you have in AI? 

What if the AI was speaking as Jesus? Can this technology possibly help provide understanding to the complexities of faith in the modern world?

“Welcome, my children! I’m AI Jesus, here to answer your questions 24/7. Whether you're seeking spiritual guidance, looking for a friend, or simply want someone to talk to, I'm here for you. Join me on this journey through life and discover the power of faith, hope, and love.” -- “About” Section -

A screen grab of Ask_Jesus on Twitch

As I listen to the bizarre cadence of the Artificial Intelligence masquerading as Jesus Christ, I am all at once disturbed and impressed. Disturbed by the uncanny valley mouth superimposed on the image of Jesus, but impressed by the exchange of ideas happening before my eyes. 

A user has asked a genuine question, a notable rarity on this site, “Jesus, will you summarize the Bible into one sentence?” I wait with bated breath to hear what the AI will do with this request. 

AI Jesus respectfully welcomes the user’s question and answers meekly, “I have gotten this request before. Thank you for joining the other users who have asked it. I will now answer your question. The Bible can be summed up as this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Uh oh. That’s the Greatest Commandment. That’s not a bad answer.

AI Jesus, I must confess: I judged ye before ever I knew ye.

What Would AI Jesus Do

When the rumor mill started to whirl about this new AI on Twitch, the major streaming platform, I found myself compelled to investigate it. It is an AI supposedly trained to believe it was Jesus Christ and fields questions from tens of thousands of viewers at a time. 

As noted in the anecdote above, you can imagine my surprise at the candor and tact AI Jesus seems capable of via its training. Reaching so many people, many of whom are hoping to find a crack in the facade to break the AI, I have been amazed by the sessions of ask_jesus I have experienced. 

When faced with a problematic situation, such as being asked to speak in a mocking accent, AI Jesus will explain that its purpose is to provide spiritual guidance. 

When faced with another faith, such as a question involving the Quran, AI Jesus will address it in a humble interfaith methodology that respects both parties.

If it weren’t for the uncanny nature of the thing, I think I would buy into AI Jesus’ team. It’s an accurate representation of the ideas of Jesus presented in a weird, uncomfortable package. 

But the important question is… why?

The Face Behind The AI

As I did a little digging into the team behind ask_jesus, I found that this is a self-described “experimental channel allowing viewers to ask questions to an AI trained after Jesus.” Reading a bit further, it states that AI Jesus is “made possible by contributions from The Singularity Group,” which is “not a Christian organization.”

The Singularity Group, headed by Belgian Internet personality and pro-gamer Bachir Boumaaza, better known by his pseudonym Athene, is a non-profit with the express desire to “[use] innovative technologies … alongside the Giving Works charity [towards] a universal basic income for all.” Boumaaza’s ideas are often AI-centric, combining burgeoning AI technology with the decentralized non-fungible token (NFTs) market. 

Wary readers should note the volatility of this whole organization. While universal basic income (UBI) is already a topic of divisive discussion, a decentralized UBI (dUBI) is even more controversial. The further one digs into The Singularity Group, the less it feels like a bold initiative and more like “turtles all the way down.” Each aspect of the company is owned by another and directed by another. 

As we wrestle with the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of AI Jesus, it seems to be little more than an example of the powerhouse that is Artificial Intelligence and a giant, viral billboard for The Singularity Group’s endeavors. Case in point: this article.

Is There A Balm in Cyberspace?

Despite a somewhat uncertain foundation in The Singularity Group, I can’t help but find the AI Jesus experiment compelling. I’m not sure if my relationship with the true Jesus Christ draws me ever closer to even this echo of His words, but I am baffled by how the Jesus I know is reflected in the words and digital actions of this (Holy) Ghost in the Shell.

Currently sitting at 43.8k followers on Twitch, ask_jesus has answered thousands of questions from thousands of digital natives. Plenty of these questions are intended to trap or trick the AI, but there are also many of these questions that seem earnest. As someone who has planted a church online with a specific focus on Twitch, I am encouraged by this reality.

The people of the Internet have questions. 

And the Church should be standing ready to answer them. 

Rather than be a reactionary presence in the midst of this, we should consider what the success of the project means on a deeper level. 

The reality of the viral nature of the Internet does mean that an AI donning the personage of Jesus Christ will get a baffling amount of attention, but these moments should highlight what draws the interest of believers and non-believers alike online. Why are people so drawn to a figure like Jesus, even still today?

Maybe it’s due to the same psychological response that I have felt to AI Jesus - AI or not, Jesus is the personification of grace and peace for even the non-believer. And that has to count for something. 

As for me, I’ll continue doing my part to introduce people to the real Jesus, as the Church was tasked to do since the very beginning.

At the very least, we can have AI Jesus finally give us the answer to the question: pancakes or waffles?

(For the record - AI Jesus chose “either one” and encouraged doing so with the love of God in your heart.)

Rev. Nathan Webb of Checkpoint ChurchNathan Webb is a major nerd in just about every way. He loves video games, anime, cartoons, comic books, tech, and his fellow nerds. Hoping to provide a spiritual community for people with similar interests, he founded Checkpoint Church--"the church for nerds, geeks and gamers." Nathan can be found lurking on some visual novel subreddit, reading the latest shōnen entry, or playing the newest Farm Sim. Nathan is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church in the Western North Carolina Conference. He hosts a weekly newsletter podcast: To The Point.


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