Sacraments for Techno-sapiens 

Christian sacraments are the instruments ecclesia employs to gather and guide persons into the mystery of God. Could humanity be on the verge of another genesis that challenges people's fundamental notion of being human? A comprehensive sacramental system demarcating humankind's deepest longings, in natural rhythm with the seasons of life, giving way to a techno-age? Humankind is now endowed with instruments from science, that enable this species to reach further into the cosmos, convoluting its ideas of time, space, and what constitutes personhood. Will the church’s traditional sacramental construct remain relevant to emerging "beings" loaded with artificial intelligence for a post-pandemic age? 1 Pope Francis, (2014), in his weekly Wednesday general audience, said,

          The Church must be open and welcoming to whatever, or, whoever may seem socially foreign                    and unaccepted, adding: "If-for example-tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some                  of them came to us, here....Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like                            children paint. Moreover, one says, 'But, I want to be baptized!' How will homo-sapiens respond?"          

Conversations involving a hypothetical and futuristic techno-sapiens could discover new ways of animating what remains merely the dream of one common baptism. Baptism enacts, a spiritual re-entering into the womb, from which a new creation emerges.[1]  Death and rebirth are like two symbiotic actions moving people towards the mystery of God. Could COVID-19 usher in this long-awaited hope, by producing a radical new creation, constructed entirely of artificial intelligence? Would techno-sapiens fabricated with non-biological materials be sympathetic to interfacing with the carbon-based elements of the universe?

People born after 1981, in most societies, have never experienced a time,  without advanced and mobile telecommunications. Social media fabricates the new public square, resembling a potential womb that gives birth to techno-sapiens. In many communities, devices and websites, once prohibited, are now commonplace throughout daily living. Advanced telecommunication is as natural today as a scribbler and pencil were to earlier generations. Facebook controls breakout classrooms in cyberspace where users exchange ideas exercising few rituals. Lyotard (1984) declared, "The Internet is also producing a global community and redefining nationalism.[2]  Perhaps advanced technology will provide the means that finally enables the Gospel's' "Great Commission" to be fully realized?

 

          All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all

          the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and                        teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Moreover, know surely I am with you                always, to the end of the age.[3]

 

Technology broadens access to education, transforming this social domain into a profitable enterprise. Although not a recent or unique phenomenon, human commoditization pursues markets first, easily derogating people into objects for exploitation, rather than subjects onto themselves. Open websites such as Wikipedia and YouTube have become cyber worship places, like the narthex of a church. However, access to live streaming  technology is not universal, and societies still attach a stigma to people, with, and without access to technology. Rural parishes are struggling to remain open while emerging mega-churches raise concerns that sacramental praxis may soon mean another trip to the city. A shift in demographics, provoked by new economic paradigms, may well be responsible for maintaining  inequalities between urban and rural dwellers. Statistics Canada shows a gradual detachment from the land and sea as people migrate to densely populated cities. Perhaps COVID-19 will trigger a reversal of that rural to urban migration? [4]

 

Throughout development, people have imagined many metaphors and rituals to express their understanding of God. Some include the expert naturalist, the vengeful judge, the benevolent ruler, Creator, timekeeper, father/mother, etc. When John the Baptist was in prison and heard of Jesus, he sent his disciples to ask, "Are you the 'One' (the Messiah) to come or are we to wait for another?" Jesus referred his inquirers to the book of Isaiah, saying, "Go and tell John what you hear and see, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them."[5]  In a sense, a movement toward techno-sapiens, could be just another inquiry towards discovering the Kingdom of God. Was Jesus' response to John the Baptist linked to today's advances in modern-day prosthetics, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, and bio-medics? Modernity indeed witnesses the lame walk, blind see, deaf hear, and the dead kept virtually alive. Techno-sapiens anchored in Christian values could more fully enact the commission given to its species predecessor. Sacraments never cease inviting people to continue the work inaugurated by Jesus, while humbly acknowledging that the project remains far from complete.

 

[1] A hypothetical debate in which techno and Homo sapiens, might engage, in uncanny ways, modeled on processes raised between European and Indigenous peoples.

[2] The Internet could become modern public infrastructure today’s evangelists must embrace to enact the Great Commission of Jesus.

[3] See Mat28: 18-20.

[4] Canada 2020 population was estimated at 37,742,154 people at midyear according to UN data. The nation’s population is equivalent to 0.48% of the total world population.

[5] See Mat 11:2-6