I was already curious about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be used to generate the content I’ve been trained to prayerfully produce when a link to an article came across the group chat of my Covenant Group. It was from the New York Post, “ChatGPT AI robots writing church sermons causing hell for pastors.” The article chronicles how a variety of clergy from a variety of traditions have been using artificial intelligence to write sermons, blog content, even Bible studies. If you read the article, you’ll see that some think AI does a decent job creating the content but lacks a certain Holy Spirit/contextual/human element… but AI is getting better the more it learns how to imitate the elements it’s lacking.
I’ll admit I wasn’t just curious; I was waiting to let AI write a post for me to see what it was like. So this week I decided to task Rytr –an A.I. platform trained for this type of writing- with an essay instructing us on our Protestant understanding of Lent with an informative and inspirational tone. This is what I asked it to produce: “Describe the Protestant understanding and practice of Lent using quotes from John Wesley, Richard Rohr, and Nadia Bolz-Weber.” Here is what Rytr produced with some additional coaching from me:
“Lent is an important religious observance in the Christian faith. It is a period of 40 days leading up to Easter, which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Protestants view Lent differently than Catholics, as they do not observe the same rituals and practices. In this article, we will explore the Protestant understanding and practice of Lent through quotes from John Wesley, Richard Rohr, and Nadia Bolz-Weber. We will discuss how these three theologians interpret Lent and how it can be observed by Protestants today. We will also look at how Lent can be used to deepen one’s faith and draw closer to God during this special season. John Wesley is a respected British preacher, theologian, and founder of Methodism. In a sermon from 18th November 1739, Wesley writes about the significance of Lent. He says that “the whole Church does not fast on Ash Wednesday and Friday” but instead “waits for the solemnity of Pentecost” to commemorate the giving of the Holy Spirit. In his view, fasting should only occur before Easter. A couple sentences later he references Lent as a period where people break their pattern with gluttony or discontentment with God and make an effort to repent. He says that “[this] year the Lord’s coming is very near, and [for us to] seek Him aright, fasting should be then made with a good will.” Lent for Wesley is not about inactivity but rather active repentance, renewal of the spirit and turning to God in earnest pursuit of holiness as we are reminded that “the end is nigh” and Christ could come at any time.
Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and renowned spiritual teacher, offers an understanding of Lent that emphasizes the importance of connecting with God in order to deepen our spiritual lives. He believes that Lent provides us with an opportunity to focus on our relationship with God and to experience true transformation. Through his teachings, Rohr encourages us to use this season as an opportunity for self-examination and growth in our faith journey.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor and author who has written extensively about the importance of Lent. She has been quoted as saying that Lent is a time to reflect on our mortality and to practice forgiveness, so that we can be resurrected into something new. Her quotes about Lent remind us of the power of forgiveness and how it can help us to move forward in our lives. Through her words, she encourages us to take advantage of this season of repentance and renewal, so that we can become better people.”
I’ll admit that Rytr did a decent job providing an informative essay on Lent. It could easily pull Wesley quotes from his sermons which are posted on the web without copyright. I think the lack of direct quotes from Rohr and Bolz-Weber (and maybe yours truly) take away from the essay’s inspirational power. So let me add a little inspiration here in this first blog of Lent here: I encourage us all to make this Lent a holy lent; to examine our interior lives and ask God to point out that which needs to go to make room for more of God’s mercy, justice, and grace. Invite the Holy Spirit to help us take up the practices to get us there so that on Easter morning we, too, may be made new with Christ! Don’t worry– AI won’t replace me this Lent!