How a Ragamuffin became a Mormon Transhumanist

This post is part of a series of personal narratives written by members of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. Each tells their story of how they became a Transhumanist. Guest: Michaelann Bradley.

The central guiding myth of my life springs from one man. Rich Mullins is a Christian pop singer who became very famous in the early 90s for songs like Awesome God and Sing Your Praise to the Lord.[i]

Rich lived his life according to the Ragamuffin Gospel; a Gospel that declares: "Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think: that if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor."

Rich spoke passionately of a life with Jesus to come, and he lived recklessly, and when he died he was living out his life with the poorest of our nation, on a Native American reservation teaching music and giving away most of his wealth from his popular music.

Help is not on the way

This is the central myth of my life, my north star, my liahona. When I think about who I want to be and what my life needs to look like, I think about Rich — a life dedicated to the giving away of myself, taking no thought for the morrow, and trusting in a hope to come.

I’ve struggled a lot to find my place in this mythos. During one particularly tumultuous year of my life I quickly and sequentially made a number of plans, but quickly discarded each to provide speech therapy at Primary Children’s in Salt Lake, teach preschool in inner city Memphis, mobilize volunteers to tutor children, gain skills in the study of sociology, create and provide literacy curriculum to Title 1 teachers, and finally fundraising for United Way.[ii]

Here’s what I wished for: someone to tell me how to live out the Ragamuffin Gospel — a leader, commander, an easy answer of what I should do, or at least one free of moral quandaries. For example, I could go teach school in Memphis, but as an outsider, wouldn’t I actually be doing more harm than good? For example, I could study sociology, but that’s pretty Ivory Tower, and who would actually benefit? For example, for example, for example. I have wished for a smooth way, and a clear path forward. I have been incapacitated by the potential to screw things up. It seems better, at times, to wait — to wait until the answer is clear to me, and until I feel the hand of a God guiding me in my life.[iii]

We are the vanguard

There is, in fact, a seemingly magical promise in the Ragamuffin Gospel, in the Christian Gospel. The promise is of a triumphal end to suffering and slavery when Christ comes again to set things right — a magical end to a wretched beginning. There is a comfort and an excuse in this for what we fail to do or cannot do.

This mindset tells us that we are helpless. You cannot do what Christ is anointed and predestined to complete. It sets obedience as the highest virtue and commands you to wait on God for answers, instructions, and justice.

Although I still cling as fiercely as ever to the Ragamuffin Gospel, through the Mormon Transhumanist Association I also have begun to understand something else. When my husband brought me first to the MTA, I resonated with the brilliant minds I encountered. But recently I have begun to understand what revolution lies at its heart.

This is the truth I have learned: humanity has never had anything but the tools of its own hands to craft its world, and with those tools, all the requisite and inevitable perils; including all the uncertainty, all the potential to do more harm than good, all the mistakes. If we are waiting for God, or a godlike perfection, to descend upon us, the transformation will never happen.

But this is not because there is no God, and the promises of the Christian Gospel are not in vain.

In my friend Carl Youngblood’s words, "Many people have believed in the concept of a resurrection and redemption, but few have imagined that this is something we would ever participate in. The vast majority have taken it for granted as a kind of external event that would take place regardless of our desires or choices. We believe that the redemption and resurrection of humanity cannot be imposed, but must be a cooperative and voluntary effort. We believe that the outcome depends on our choices here and now. We are the vanguard — the first to accept and embrace this responsibility and to begin deliberately contributing towards this great work."

While we’re waiting on God, God is waiting on us.[iv] And this is why I am a Transhumanist. It urges me to action. Rich Mullins taught me to identify with Christ. Mormon Transhumanism taught me that to identify with Christ is to participate in his work of redeeming the world.


[i] For what it’s worth, these are NOT my favorite Rich Mullins songs. :) I highly recommend Be With You, If I Stand, and, just because it’s a fun song, Jacob and Two Women, which here is sung by a woman, not Rich, but Rich himself actually found the song more evocative that way.

[ii] The story about why I landed at United Way and why, in fact, I am still there almost four years later is too long a story to tell here, but for starters I can only recommend to you the book, The Soul of Money. See Goodreads excerpts here.

[iii] If you’re looking for some inspiration of some people who I think actually lead a consecrated life quite well, I would suggest Nicholas Kristof, journalist; Jacqueline Novogratz, investment funder; Bryan Stevenson, lawyer; and David Hilfiker, doctor. At great sacrifice to themselves, they are navigating the murky waters of change making, and each in their own corner in truly transformative ways.

[iv] My cute husband told me I could steal this. He actually said it first.