Artificial Intelligence Worship Artist Sparks Controversy

By Sarah Einselen
artificial intelligence worship
Georgia firm Marquis Boone Enterprises recently made waves in the Christian music industry by announcing the launch of an artificial intelligence (A.I.) artist called “JC.” (Video screen grab / Marquis Boone Enterprises)

A Georgia firm recently made waves in the Christian music industry with an announcement it’s launching an artificial intelligence (A.I.) artist that it’s calling “JC.”

Relevant editor Tyler Huckabee wrote in a recent article, “So much of the modern Christian worship industrial complex is already fueled by market tested formulas that it’s probably no enormous loss to cut out the middle man and just let a slightly modified calculator do the work.

“With A.I., there are no complicated egos, no messy spiritual deconstruction process, no doubts and, of course no career-jeopardizing scandals. All you’ve got is all the modern worshiptainment biz really needs: a pretty chorus, a few Bible-y buzzwords and a passably diverting emotional high.”

Some of Relevant’s readers were turned off by the idea, too. “Oh, knock it off,” one wrote. “Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should do a thing. Sheesh.” Others labeled the concept “creepy” or likened it to an episode of “Black Mirror.”

However, the song billed as JC’s first single is a cover of a song by a flesh-and-blood British artist. And it’s unclear to what extent JC is more than a digitally rendered image and voice.

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Marquis Boone Enterprises announced its “very first Gospel A.I. artist” early this month.

“JC is the voice,” a press release explained. “While he is not a real person, he’s an artist created solely from artificial intelligence and technology.”

The firm said that the song billed as “JC’s first single” is premiering on streaming platforms in early 2022. A short clip was posted twice to the Instagram account for JC with 45 seconds of footage from a video published nearly four years ago by BibleProject.

The song itself is a cover of “Biblical” by Calum Scott, with some lyrics changed to be from the perspective of Jesus.

Scott is a gay singer-songwriter who gained a following after performing on “Britain’s Got Talent.” He released “Biblical” earlier this year and has said he had the sense of “biblical proportions” in mind when he wrote it.

“The message about unquantifiable love and immeasurable love at a time when we’ve been separated from for so long, just seems very apt at this time in the world,” Scott told Entertainment Focus in July. Scott’s music video depicts couples proposing or getting married.

Marquis Boone Enterprises, long involved in the Christian music industry, used similar language in describing the single, saying in the press release that it’s “about unquantifiable love beyond description or measure – a love of biblical proportions that transcends to everyone and everything!”

YouTube posted a full-length recording of the JC cover provided by a music licensing and distribution service.

The Roys Report reached out to both Marquis Boone Enterprises and Calum Scott but neither responded. A video posted to the JC Instagram account didn’t go into much detail about the artist’s creation.

“How did they make me? This is where it started over a year ago,” the voice says while the video shows the face of JC in visual graphics software. “I was created with computers, or should I say, on a computer. Structure, design, shape, texture, skin, complexion. Someone on my team said my lips weren’t big enough. I don’t know why that was important, but they fixed it. I can’t wait for you to see me.”

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have revolutionized visual effects in recent years. AI-driven software helped one YouTuber make actor Mark Hamill look younger in a clip from “The Mandalorian.” The YouTuber’s video went viral and led him to a job with the visual effects company founded by George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars,” according to an IndieWire report.

Although Marquis Boone has said he’s “excited to be one of the pioneers and trailblazers in this A.I. space in the gospel industry,” the project’s critics remain.

“Can tell there’s no actual soul behind the words,” one viewer commented on Instagram.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.



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11 thoughts on “Artificial Intelligence Worship Artist Sparks Controversy”

  1. Can the already overly business-y and commodified American “church” go lower?
    This idea is so creepy. It reduces our worship of Jesus to a series of code and algorithms with no soul. Is it that difficult to get a human, who know the ones Jesus died for, to lead worship under the power of the Holy Spirit?
    And…why name the AI JC? Really?
    I wish this article was from the Babylon Bee.

  2. An old semi-retired pastor was very candid at my church one Sunday. He told us, “look, I know how to tell you a story that will make you cry and leave you feeling like you had an encounter with God.” A lot of emotion can be easily manipulated. I think what’s presented in this article should give people pause about attaching too much meaning to what one feels in the moment.

    On another note, biblical love is heavily qualified by God’s holiness and supremacy. Songs that make God sound like a love-sick teenager may have pop appeal, but misrepresent our relationship with God as a peer relationship.

  3. Despite autotune, compression and other tools of over-production, the AI voice sounds “off,: The timbre of the voice and the overtones in the sound are weird, making it sound out of tune in places. The phrasing is dull and there are virtually no dynamics in the voice itself. The breathy bits are about the same volume as the shouty bits. And that’s before we get to the ethical/spiritual issues……

  4. Oh my! Max Headroom has chronoported in from the 80’s to be a worship leader! Hillsong and Bethel be forewarned! A challenger has entered the fray!

  5. The expansion of AI technology into the warp and weave of everyday human life, is inevitable. That technology will so develop and evolve in leaps and bounds, that it will challenge every field of human understanding and action. That development and evolution will blur the distinction between itself and all other mediums of understanding.
    Not forgetting that we have already blended all sorts of other material technologies, including printing of the written word, into this warp and weave. Such that what we are currently calling AI, is simply another phase or chapter in the ongoing technologising of human occurrence.
    Could AI grounded technology eventually mediate Christian conversion events and experiences? Undoubtedly. Perhaps the more pressing issue for Christianity as it currently stands, is: that the broader general population will very much give over to all that AI makes possible; such that this might end the non-Christian human context to Christianity. Such that the Christian argument regards faith, will then be had with that particular wider general population, informed by a faith in AI as it will be.

  6. I have my doubts about it being AI. It may not be good, but it’s better than any AI singing I’ve heard. I doubt someone put that much work into this.

  7. Steve Truthonline

    I’ve always been creeped out by the worship music industry. Relevant on the other hand doesn’t even rise to that level. It’s that irrelevant to me.

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