New Church Life NCL May/June 2018 - Page 53

       :    new level. Pepper’s new code will let it chant sutras in a computerized voice while tapping a drum, providing a cheaper alternative to a human priest to see your loved ones off into the eternal sleep. The cost of hiring Pepper is about 80% less than the cost of hiring a human priest to run the funeral. With Japan’s population aging and shrinking, many Buddhist priests receive less financial support from their communities, prompting some to find part-time work outside their temple duties, said Michio Inamura, Nissei’s executive adviser, who suggested Pepper could step in when a human wasn’t available. Would-be funeral arrangers have the option to deck Pepper out in the robe of a Buddhist monk and can even live-stream the ceremony to those who can’t attend in person. Pepper has yet to be hired to conduct a funeral, but with robots slowly creeping into most facets of life it seems inevitable they will be involved in religion and the church sooner or later. For me, all of this brings up the question of what it is to be human. Academics, philosophers and the like have put forward all sorts of ideas, including having “heart,” “empathy,” or “spirit.” The Writings give us a different answer as to what it is to be human: “For a person is human because of intelligence and wisdom – essentially truth and good respectively – which people have solely from the Lord.” (Arcana Coelestia 2305) In other places we are taught that our freedom and rationality are big parts of being human, as is having a will and understanding. But there’s more to it. There’s a connection between higher and lower planes that is essential to our humanity. This quote from True Christianity illustrates how our humanity is integrated into the various aspects of our life. Pepper has yet to be hired to conduct a funeral, but with robots slowly creeping into most facets of life it seems inevitable they will be involved in religion and the church sooner or later. For me, all of this brings up the question of what it is to be human. “...if we had no free choice in spiritual matters, we would have no free choice in civic, moral, and earthly matters either, this stands to reason from the fact that the spiritual things that are called theological dwell in the highest region of the human mind, just as the soul dwells in the body. That is where such things live, because the door through which the Lord “comes in to us” [Revelation 3:20] is on that level. 229