Immortal Souls and Information Transfer

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Introduction

Is the immortal soul just a conceptual pointer? How can you tell if someone is a continuous self from one moment to the next? In Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, the main character, Takeshi Kovacs, has been sentenced to 108 years in storage for his crimes. In this novel, however, it’s not a prison that he goes to nor is he put into suspended animation. Rather Kovacs is downloaded from the stack in his current body (sleeve in the jargon of the novel) and then stored on a hard drive somewhere only to regain consciousness when he is later resleeved (put in a body).

Kovacs finds himself resleeved on a different planet than where his previous sleeve died. He has been let out early to do some detective work for a rich man back on Earth named Laurens Bancroft. Bancroft has his own mind backed up every 48 hours to an offsite location in case someone tries to not only kill his sleeve, but destroy his stack as well to prevent him from being resleeved.

Considerations

The idea of a self that is continuous over time seems to be more of a presumption than a considered opinion among most people. We perceive ourselves as continuous so we explain away discontinuities or changes. I perceive myself as continuous even if my fingernails change in length or even if I lose a finger, but where does this end? How much can I lose and still be me? Am I then my personality or my memories? A sort of stop gap seems to be the concept of a soul. I am wherever my soul is so even if I lose limbs or my personality changes I am still me, but if I lose all my memories and my personality completely changes and I have a different body can I still be said to be the same individual in any coherent way? Let’s look at some case studies from fiction and projections about where technology may take us.

Altered Carbon

In Altered Carbon Catholics take a strong stance against the downloading and resleeving process to the point that in the event that their current sleeve dies they have standing orders written up so that no one resleeves them. This has a tendency to make them targets for killers who do not have to worry about someone who they killed testifying against them in court. Instead of a homicide division, the police have an organic damage division.

So if you accept the premises of this novel are the Catholics in the novel right that you are sufficiently connected with your original body that when you are resleeved that it is no longer you? From Kovacs point of view this seems ludicrous, but after having been desleeved and resleeved many times it’s not as if the Catholics would be willing to accept his testimony.

If you do have some sort of immortal soul then where would it reside in such a universe? Would your soul attach itself to wherever the information of your mind is located? What about when one of Kovacs’ adversaries duplicates himself? What happens to the soul of his adversary? Is it also duplicated? Does the soul of his adversary attach to just one instance? Is the other instance left without a soul or get a new soul somehow?

The Catholics would be left with the options of either having the soul remain connected with the original sleeve or perhaps moving on to some sort of afterlife after the first sleeve is destroyed. Kovacs might contend that if there is anything to this soul business that his soul is just the information stored in his stack and transmitted from planet to planet by needlecast.

“The Schizoid Man” in Star Trek: The Next Generation

While the issue of souls in the desleeving and resleeving process might initially seem like a new issue others have approached it before. Consider “The Schizoid Man” (Season 2, episode 6 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Dr. Ira Graves transfers all of his mind into Lieutenant Commander Data before Graves’ body dies. Through Data’s positronic net Graves is able to live on and *Spoiler alert*
It is only later when Graves’ mind is downloaded to a less sophisticated computer that he loses the emotional character to his memories and experiences. Only then could Graves be said to have lost his “soul.”

Quantum Teleportation

Another similar soul-body connection conundrum comes with the concept of quantum teleportation. The Star Trek universe largely ignores this issue by insisting that there is a “matter stream” and that one’s particles actually move from one location to another. Today’s scientists point to a more likely scenario where only the information about an object (or person) is transmitted in order to create a perfect copy in a new location (it gets more complicated when you look into the science behind this). After this process is completed there is the quandry of what to do with the instance in the first location. Should that instance be destroyed in a way that would echo what happen when computers “move” files? If the instance at the first location is not destroyed then which instance can be said to be the “real” instance? Can either of them?

If quantum teleportation is used on a person to “transport” that person to Mars then what does this mean for the soul? Does the soul remain in the first location? Is the soul with which ever instance is “real”? Does the soul move to the second location? Does the soul somehow move as well? Is the soul somehow duplicated along with all other aspects of the person?

From the perspective of the instance of the person on Earth the transport seems to have failed leaving them on Earth. From the perspective of the instance of the person on Mars the transport seems to have succeeded taking them to Mars. Both instances would contend that they are “real”. If the soul is some sort of pointer then we should be able to check where the soul points to find which one is real. Yet, part of the nature of souls seems to be that we cannot detect them. There could be said to be a subjective soul pointing to whichever instance of a person is deemed real, but that’s hardly satisfactory.

Alternatives

While in all of the cases I have mentioned so far there is confusion or uncertainty of the nature of a copy, this need not be the nature of souls. A variation on the Altered Carbon universe could have every attempted resleeving fail. Catholics from that universe could contend the failure was due to human inability to tranfer souls while non-Catholic scientists might point to analog/digital conversion issues or unidirectional nature of such conversions. Non-Catholic scientists could easily speculate that the problems would be overcome one day without that day ever needing to arrive in fact for them to feel certain.

The question seems even easier in “The Schizoid Man.” Data does not have the mind of Dr. Graves successfully transferred into him. There is no resolution about whether it would be possible. As the viewer we could come to the conclusion that it is impossible or just failed in this instance. Again this would not feel like a satisfactory answer.

Finally, with quantum teleportation the problem could have a clearer physical resolution. It could be impossible to duplicate macro objects with quantum teleportation in the way that the state of light packets has been duplicated. You could decide this was due to the nature of souls or that souls were irrelevant to the process.

Creation of a duplicate in a new location through quantum teleportation could inherently destroy the original. This would leave you wondering whether this was because the soul could only be at one location or leave you back at wondering whether the soul was left behind in the first location while the instance in the second location either had a new soul, a duplicate soul, or pehaps no sul at all

Conclusions

While it can be fun to speculate about souls, I find myself wondering whether all of this uncertainty is what makes me find the concept of souls less than useful in the first place. Instead, we can focus where we are clearest that you either are your body or are sufficiently indistinguishable at the present time to make other options irrelevant. I do not harm my body because my body is me. I do not harm your body because your body is you. The detachment that can come from thinking in a manner where the self is beyond bodies seems more harmful than helpful right now. Yet there is no guarantee we will not have to revisit this later whether in our personal or collective future.

Pragmatic Identity Formation

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When I was a child my father told me of the wonder of going to a new place. Each time you moved to another town or spent time at a summer camp where no one had met you you had the opportunity to reinvent yourself. They would have no idea of who you were in the last place you were. You could start over from scratch. As I have grown into adulthood both my parents seem to be worried that my identity is insufficiently popular. If only I could give the people what they wanted then I would have success in career and love.

There is something to this–as far as it goes. You can leave behind past mistakes and you do have to start new relationships. Your fashion sense need not be a core part of your identity and if it’s not then you can take advice from people on how to be more trendy and express the messages you want to send with the clothes you choose. Sometimes it is wiser to hold your tongue and it is often wiser wait for the right moment instead of blurting out whatever is on your mind.

However, if you are always being blown about by the desires of others then you will lose your sense of self. If you can only remember what someone else wanted you to wear and cannot fathom the concept of what I want to wear then you have a problem. Besides, a lot of what makes up a person is significantly harder to manage then clothing choice. Can one be more feminine or more masculine simply by desiring to be so? In addition to gender expression, is there a subconscious sex, as Julia Serano suggests, which underlies the qualities we expect our bodies to have?

If everyone were pragmatic and making conscious choices about their identities you might see everyone trying to become White, heterosexual males. After all, who wouldn’t want to gain the most privileged position in society. Yet, there are events unforeseen by a rational pragmatist. Gay men remain gay despite efforts by themselves, their families, doctors and society to make them otherwise. Despite marginalization, stigma and violence their are trans women who persist in their desire to be female. How much of who we are remains regardless of societal pressure?

I know that I desire to be successful and liked by those around me, but I still find who I am returning to the surface. Sometimes I do find that I can no longer remember what I desire, only the recommendations of others.

On the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

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Eucharist Rewrite:

Celebrant: This the Body of Christ
People: We too are the Body of Christ dedicated to the work of the Kingdom.

Celebrant: This is the Blood of Christ sacrificed when a voice cried out for justice.
People: We too speak out and give our lives to the cause of justice.

I Myself Am the Bread of Life” by Rory Cooney

Refrain

I myself am the bread of life.
You and I are the bread of life.
Taken and blessed, broken and shared by Christ
That the world might live.

Verse 1

This bread is spirit, gift of the Maker’s love,
and we who share it know that we can be one:
a living sign of God in Christ.

Refrain

Verse 2

Here is God’s kingdom given to us as food.
This is our body, this is our blood:
a living sign of God in Christ.
Refrain

Verse 3

Lives broken open, stories shared aloud,
Become a banquet, a shelter for the world:
a living sign of God in Christ.

Refrain

Reflections

I visited my parent’s parish today and heard a great homily about fear and abundance. I was reminded that Jesus sent out his disciples with little more than the clothes on their backs and a blessing fully expecting God to provide, yet when it came time to feed the crowds the disciples were ready to send them away, but Jesus saw abundance were the disciples saw scarcity. Fights about theology focusing on how God acts in our world seem to be a matter of if God is here then God can’t be there.

At mass I saw some people putting out their hands to bless the bread as they had once been taught, but was no longer encouraged in the parish. A good friend of mine who is Catholic might not even be comfortable with the word bless in this context. She might allow for the explanation that the people were praying. For her, the priest who also had his arms stretched out is the one doing the blessing. For my many of my Brethren friends, no one can bless the bread except for God alone and the thought that the bread is miraculously transformed seems to require belief that people can manipulate God.

I contend that the people did bless the bread and so did the priest. God was not merely in Heaven watching pleased by people following the rules nor restricted to flowing through the priest. No, rather God was flowing through the priest and flowing through the people. God was present in all of the people there and God was present in the bread and the wine.

So too is God present in the lives of the people and their reflections. God is present in the Bible, but not because God is controlling or has controlled the Bible’s creation and reproduction with an iron fist. Arguments about inerrancy, infallibility, etc. may be more about absolutizing our own interpretations of what the Bible means than they the surface of those arguments indicates. Yes, Christians generally recognize the presence of God in the Bible and in the lives of the people who wrote it, but our arguments grow heated where our identities become tied up in a given interpretation. We feel the need to express where we see the truth, see love, and even claim perfection (if only by proxy) to restate our underlying points that God is present, which few Christians are truly disputing, and that we are worthy of love and respect.

But if, as expressed by Rory Cooney, we have “Lives broken open, stories shared aloud” then we can serve our purpose to “Become a banquet, a shelter for the world: a living sign of God in Christ.”

No Fate

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The future has not been written. There is no fate but what we make.

-Sarah Connor

In the grand narrative of Terminator, Sarah Connor not only has a fate, but one that seems quite escapable. Real life, on the other hand, seems a lot more open to change. The probability of making a big break is relatively small, but then so is the probability of dying in a spectacular way.

For a long time I hoped to uncover my destiny, to discover what I was “meant” to do. I would be in the right place at the right time and everything would just happen. Maybe it would be the right woman sweeping me off of my feet. Maybe it would be the dream job that would appear out of nowhere suited exactly to my skills and needs. Yet, none of this has happened.

Instead, I have found life plodding along at its usual pace. Most of the time there is insufficient information to make adequate predictions about where something will take me. I take advice from friends, family, various people that I trust about which way to go on big decisions. It’s relatively rare that something big or unusual happens.

My grand destiny is nowhere to be found. If there is a grand plan out there that I have not gained access to, it is not for lacking of trying. I have begged God and the universe for a sneak peak, but all I get is more laundry and more days at work. I try to avoid having a chip on my shoulder and brush off the worries of people that think I am not making something of myself. I do my best right now and let destiny take care of itself.

Postmodern Plain

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If you know anything about plain dress, then the group that most likely comes to mind for you is the Amish. If you’re anything like I was before I went to seminary, then you probably have very little idea of who the Amish are except for knowing that they have an aversion to technology and refer to the rest of us, somewhat anachronistically, as English. I used to think that the Mennonites were some sort of Amish lite. I thought they had gotten tired of the no technology thing and become more moderate allowing things like tractors, but maybe not much more. Of course, this was before I had ever met anyone who was either Mennonite or Amish.

Now I know that it was the Amish that broke away from the Mennonites, not the other way around. Further, I know that there are plenty of Mennonites out there who are indistinguishable, at least by appearance, from Methodists (or any other Protestant group for that matter). I also know that plain dress is not now limited to the Amish, nor has it ever been as far as I can tell. I have met Quakers who wear plain dress. I have met Brethren who wear plain dress. I even know now that back in the day plain dress was not so radically different from what everyone else was wearing. The difference was far more minor with restrictions such as what sort of fasteners clothes could have. During the time that many groups wore plain dress, the groups would be distinguished by things like how many folds were in a bonnet or prayer covering (yet another layer of coverage).

My Quaker friends who dress plain today go to Amish stores and pay much more than they would otherwise for clothes. Plain and simple seem to have parted ways, but then, as a Brethren historian friend pointed out, the two have never been precisely the same. Apparently Brethren painted chrome bumpers black on their cars in an effort to appear more plain. To me such acts seem an exercise in missing the point in that they end up spending extra money.

I have discussed with friends on various occasions what plain dress would look like if it were started today rather than being a throwback to a style of hundreds of years ago. One place I might start is a conversation I had with a Quaker friend who dresses plain today. I was talking to him about my discomfort, these days, wearing clothes with logos or large tags pointing out brands. My aversion to logos goes against my mainstream, US, middle class background where brands are strongly valued. My friend said that I had internalized the testimony of plainness. Could it really be so straightforward as avoiding large logos on clothes?

A mentor of mine, who worked with plaster as a second job, suggested that plain dress today could be a painter’s jumpsuit. It would be utilitarian and widely available. Still, it seems overly specialized. My version of plain dress for today is jeans and a t-shirt. Focus mostly on practicality. No need for dress shoes nor dress pants. No need for button-up, oxford collar shirts. Stick with ordinary ringneck t-shirts. Wear long sleeves when it’s cooler and short sleeves when it’s warmer. Bring back the subtle difference between those dressing plain and everyone else. Forget clothes centuries out of date.

RE:Why a Crucifixion?

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http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Topics/progGOD/Why-A-Crucifixion.html

Tony Jones offered a challenge way back at the beginning of Lent to answer the question “Why a Crucifixion?” That is to say, “Why was Jesus of Nazareth crucified?” and “What meaning does this event have?”. This turns out to be awfully difficult to discuss because people get pretty entrenched in their interpretations. Some people have a favorite gospel that heavily influences the way they see things. Some think one or more of the gospel accounts is a precise newspaper-like historical record of events. Others claim that the historicity of the event is irrelevant. Interpretations of what Jesus being crucified means can sometimes differentiate one denomination from another, so claiming a particular interpretation can be the same as saying “I’m a Southern Baptist/Reformed Church in America member/etc.”

To me the answer to the question Why was Jesus crucified? is so obvious it can be hard for me to remember that this is in dispute. Jesus was crucified because he was a revolutionary leader who mounted a significant challenge to the Roman Empire. Jesus asserted, either personally or at least by his followers, that he was king. There could only be one Jewish king and he was Herod who had been appointed by Rome. Jesus was called Savior of the World and Son of God both of which are titles given to Caesar. Jesus rode into Jerusalem in the way of a king victorious after battle thus claiming power that is only given to the leader of the Jewish people. Finally, during Passover, the festival where the Jewish people celebrated their defeat of an empire that oppressed them, Jesus effectively stopped worship in the Temple by preventing people from purchasing animals to sacrifice and forced the Jewish people to reconsider the accommodations they had made to Roman occupation.

All of these things made Jesus guilty of an insurrection against the Roman Empire. The fact that he led a revolutionary group rather than doing all of this on his own made him more of a significant threat. The Romans dealt with Jesus as they did so many others who attempted to overthrow Roman occupation. They crucified him. The final act that precipitated his crucifixion was likely one of the more public ones in Jerusalem, such as disrupting worship at the Temple during a festival when tensions between the Jews and Romans were already high. If Jesus had been perceived as leading a violent revolutionary group then the Romans would have had them all executed at the same time. Instead, they seem to have seen his group as nonviolent revolutionaries and we know this because they only killed Jesus, at least initially.

The question “What meaning does Jesus’ death have?” is far more difficult. Like so many more recent leaders who have been killed, Jesus was killed for standing up for his beliefs and being seen as a significant threat to those in power. Jesus could have turned back from his message and recanted his challenge, but then who would remember him today. Jesus could have chosen violent methods to achieve his goals, but, again, his message would have been lost. Jesus could have challenged the Romans in more indirect ways, but would he have been able to make the same impact?

The one thing truly clear about Jesus’ death is that it was not the end. The movement Jesus started continued. Jesus’ followers continued to work to make a difference in the world. Rome eventually fell, but Jesus’ message is still heard to this day.

Horrors of Easter

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It’s that time again. Nope, I’m not talking about cute fuzzy bunnies, tasty candies, nor little kids in cute Easter suits or dresses. I’m afraid that I’m talking about the time of year when Christians become their most anti-Semitic. The reasons behind this are varied. Christians rarely remember that they are (or at least originally were) a branch of Judaism. Most often when Christians do remember the Jewish origins of their faith it’s couched in problematic supercessionism claiming that Christians got God’s message right and other Jews got it wrong. The worst part may be that they usually forget the “other Jews” part because they forget that Jesus and his followers were all Jews. Christians claim that (other) Jews don’t know their own scriptures and that applying certain texts to Jesus is the only correct way to read them or at least the most proper way.

The New Testament scriptures are tinged with the internecine fight between the communities of the scripture writers and Jews who did not view Jesus as a messiah nor great teacher. Later readers of these passages tend to forget this slant and read the descriptions of Pharisees (Jesus’ natural allies in reform and those closest to him religio-political culture of his time), Herodians (a possibly fictional group), and Sadducees (collaborators with the Roman occupation forces) all come off looking bad. Zealots don’t get much play. Sicarii and Essenes are either not mentioned or get very few details. Christians reading back end up thinking of Jesus and his disciples as non-Jewish Christians instead of Jews who founded a movement that would, much later, be called Christianity.

The most dangerous part of Christian antisemitism around Easter comes from the idea that Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death. The tensions get far worse when it comes time for Good Friday services and Passion Plays. A dear friend of mine recently framed Jesus’ execution by Romans as the Sanhedrin arranging for Jesus to be killed. At best my friend’s framing is an exaggeration. The Romans probably did have agreements with Jewish religious and political leaders for keeping the peace particularly at festival times like Passover. Now the Romans probably wouldn’t take no for an answer and rather than being legitimate Jewish leaders the leaders who had agreements with the Romans were more likely to be illegitimate collaborators who gained power by working with the Romans.

The Gospel accounts work hard to exculpate the Romans for Jesus’ death. Pontius Pilate appears to be manipulated by the crowds, the sort of leader the Romans would have quickly removed from power rather than the harsh, effective leader who knew how to put down rebellions that he was. They even have him literally wash his hands of the matter.

Yet, Jesus was executed by the Romans, in a Roman way (crucifixion) for Roman reasons (Jesus offering a political challenge to the Roman appointed King Herod and to the Roman Caesar). Jesus was Jewish and was involved in both reform within the Jewish community the Jewish effort to overthrow Roman occupation.

Later Christian portrayals of the last week of Jesus’ life can be even worse than what’s shown in the Gospels. After seeing the Passion play at Oberammergau, Adolf Hitler said, “There one sees Pontius Pilate, a Roman racially and intellectually so superior, that he stands out like a firm, clean rock in the middle of the whole muck and mire of Jewry.” Passion plays have often inflamed anger of Christians against Jews. In 1539, Passion plays were stopped in Rome because of the regular result of the plays being Christians sacking Jewish ghettoes.

Even if you have a hard time conceding that it was not the Jews who killed Jesus, surely you can at least see that attacking Jews as a part of Easter celebrations is a serious problem. If you’re willing to take time to consider this issue more closely, I urge you to read Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus by John Dominic Crossan.

Forget Welfare-to-Work, How About Welfare-to-Disability and Poor-to-War

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Do you remember how they told you that people who lost their jobs at factories would be retrained and then get new jobs elsewhere? They said that moving factories overseas would be good for the economy. Moreover, they said we could make welfare a little less pleasant for welfare recipients and the states they lived in and then these people would end up as contributing members of society, gainfully employed somewhere. In this week’s episode of This American Life“Trends with Benefits” Planet Money‘s Chana Joffe-Walt gives lie to those claims.

It seems that for at least the past twenty years the amount of people on disability has been ballooning and it isn’t like all of these people are I became paraplegic/had my arm torn off from the machines at the factory/farm/etc. disabled. Joffe-Walt went to a town where it seemed that the primary disability that people had was that the country had failed to put them through college or even get them into junior high.  Perhaps even worse is the path from welfare-to-disability. States hire private firms to comb their welfare rolls looking for people who could be transferred from the state welfare rolls to federal

In some communities the only way to get a job is to join the military. We have not reinstated the draft and claim to have “an all volunteer” force, but how voluntary is the decision to join the military when a recruit cannot see any other options. In place of welfare-to-work, you might call this poor-to-war.

Between path from poor-to-war and welfare-to-disability we, as a society, are lying to ourselves about the health of our economy and our country. So are there any alternatives? We seem to be able to find plenty of money to fight unnecessary wars and to build vehicles and equipment the military doesn’t want. Why? Before he left office, President Eisenhower warned us about the power of the military industrial complex. No one seemed to heed his warning, but he was right. No politician wants to see cuts in the defense budget that might lead to less jobs in their home district and the defense budget seems to be the only place where it is safe to put spending. Who would criticize more money spent on defense? In recent years even common sense places to spend money like infrastructure have become suspect.  It seems that the best way to get jobs for your district is to get the military to hire defense contractors in your area. Even if the military decides it does not want whatever widget the defense contractor makes, as long as congress pays for the widget to be made your district will have jobs.

It isn’t as if there haven’t been more rational attempts to take on poverty and unemployment in the past. Franklin Delano Roosevelt did an impressive job with the Works Progress Administration despite pressure from the Right with worries about laziness and corruption and pressure from the Left with labor unions worried that training people would just increase the number of unemployed skilled workers. 3.3 million people were employed by the WPA at its height. The WPA provided almost 8 million jobs over the eight years of its operation. Today, even Obama’s more tepid proposals for stimulus are rejected. Paul Krugman reminds us that we could get out of the economic slump we’re in if we just had the willpower.

So we must ask ourselves whether we prefer to continue limping along at creating jobs through misallocating the defense budget, overspending on defense in general and paying people to be unemployed through disability even if they would prefer to work or whether we, as a nation, are prepared to have a grown-up conversation about how to find meaningful work for the people of our country

Breastplate for a New Day

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In observance of Saint Patrick’s Day, I prayed the Lorica or Breastplate of Saint Patrick on behalf of a community. While the prayer is beautiful and powerful, it no longer matches the needs of people. The inveighing against those who fall outside Catholic orthodoxy does not fit with today’s pluralism. Feminist critique of history tells us that those derided and condemned with witches were often merely wise or beautiful women. Meeting today’s witches tells us that they work for good as much as followers of other religions. So, inspired by the Breastplate of Saint Patrick and Dwight Beal, I have composed a new version of the Breastplate.

I stand today
through strength and power
calling out the invocation of the Wind of Divinity
through experience of Multiplicity
through belief in the Community of the Trinity
through confession of the Oneness of All

I stand today
through the strength of the Great Mother giving birth
through the strength of Christ’s Healing Power
through the strength of Love in Christ’s Feasts
through the strength of Christ’s Preaching to those already dead

I stand today
through the fierce Power of the Cherubim
through the Fire of the Seraphim
in the service of all the Choirs of Angels
in the prayers of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs
in the witness of the Judges and the Prophets
in the preaching of the Apostles
in the curiosity of the Children
in the deeds of the Righteous
in the good will of all the People of the Light

I stand today,
through the strength of the Skies
Incandescence of the yellow Sun, Reflecting of the silver Moon
Speed of Lightning, Unpredictability of Wind

I stand today,
through the Tangibility of Matter
the Depth of the Sea, the Solidity of Earth
the Obscuring Clouds, Fire of Fusion and Fission

I stand today
Wisdom to Guide me
Eyes of the Thrones to look before me, Ear of God to hear me
Logos to speak for me, Hand of God to guard me
Way of God before me, Shield of God over me
Host of God to save me
from the quicksand of apathy
from the blindness of ignorance
from the pit of despair
from the systems that entangle
from everyone who shall wishes me ill
afar and near

I summon today
all these powers between me and those evils
against every cruel and merciless power
 that may oppose my body and soul
against the lies of the propagandists
against the hatred of the fearful
against the false succor of idols
against the will of all who turn to evil
Christ to shield me today
against poisons, against burning
against drowning, against damage and decay
so that I may bring justice, life, and joy

Christ be with me and within me
Christ behind me and before
Christ beneath me and above me

Christ on my right and my left
Christ when I lie down and
Christ when I rise

Love in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Love in the mouth of everyone who spits on me
Understanding in every eye that sees me
Understanding in every ear that hears me

I stand today
through strength and power
calling out the invocation of the Wind of Divinity
through experience of Multiplicity
through belief in the Community of the Trinity
through confession of the Oneness of All

References:
http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/st-patricks-breastplate.html
http://catholicism.about.com/od/prayers/qt/Lorica_Patrick.htm
http://mcchurch.org/music/Hymn_of_Saint_Patrick_(chords).pdf

Extratemporal Community and Full Scriptural Engagement

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Just because I get angry with what the Bible says does not mean that I take it any less seriously. In fact, getting angry with what the Bible has to say is an indication that I do take it to heart. This is along a similar vein to the meaning of no fights in a relationship. If I never disagree with someone nor get upset with that person then I am not sufficiently listening nor letting the other person affect me. In such a situation we are not close. The lack of conflict is a sign of a lack of true interaction.

So when my responses reach beyond either standard response of going along with what the Bible says or ignoring it while pretending to follow it then you will know that this means the Bible matters to me. Through the Bible I connect to the beliefs and experiences of Christians and Jews across time. The Bible helps to connect me with the Communion of the Saints and the Great Cloud of Witnesses.

Yes, I care about context–both the other passages around a pericope and the culture of the writer(s) and editors. I am eager to learn more about the people who created a text. Sometimes what a passage can tell me about the people who wrote it is more significant than the words on the page. Yet, I also care about the interpretations of other readers of the same text. By reading together with people throughout time I find connections.

The Bible comes out in my conceptual framework and in phrases that I use. If you are well versed in the Bible then you will be able to find the origins of many of my thoughts and turns-of-phrase there long after I have forgotten where they came from. You can scoff at me for not being Bible compliant, but I am Bible soaked.