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Hey everyone. This is Brett, head blogger and founder of WOJ. I have decided to take my work to the next level and actively pursue a career in freelance writing. I will continue to develop weoccupyjesus.org, however my personal reflections and more self-promotional posts require a separate site. I am now officially launching…

iamprobablywrong.com.

If you have enjoyed by previous work, please follow the new blog. I have written an introductory post that I’d be honored to share with you. Please read, like, share, and comment! I would love your feedback. The site is optimized for all mobile devices, so have at it.

Thanks for all the support. #heregoesnothing

 

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I remember a time when “Heaven” was the lens through which I saw all of life. I was taught, as were many of my peers, that life here on Earth was a test. Nothing mattered except getting into Heaven. Nothing. Suffering was fine, as long as we ended up in our mansions in paradise after we died. Having no friends because we had to weed out all the cool ones who said dirty words? No problem. We’d have Jesus to push us on the celestial swing set. Dismissing all that inconvenient “scientific data” because our book of spells told us God made us “zap zap” style? Piece of cake. We knew the truth. Everyone else was just a sucker sippin’ the worldly “cool-aid”. In the meantime, we were to sit still and vote Republican (because the Democrats would usher in the reign of the Anti-Christ, just like the… Bible said would happen… which is what we… wanted… since it was God’s will… but, never mind that).

Over the years I would finally succumb to the irresistible seduction of education, people with different opinions, and the ministry of common sense. Whether you believe in God, or whether you only believe in Oprah, I think we can all agree that Heaven… at least as traditionally promoted… is for suckers. If you feel a sudden urge to defend your very own pie in the sky, that’s cool. Save it for the bloodbath, I mean “comments section.”

You may think you want to live forever, but you don’t. You really, really, really don’t. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s play this out logically. If you live forever, there’s only three possibilities: Conscious eternal existence, unconscious eternal existence, or reincarnation where you only remember one lifetime as a time. Which do you prefer?

Conscious Eternity

To infinity, and beyoooond!

To infinity, and beyoooond!


This is by far the most widely-held belief when it comes to Heaven. Somehow our consciousness will survive the death of our mortal bodies and be transported/sucked up into God/the Cosmos to some other dimension-ish place that somehow defies the known laws of physics, or at least operates on some plane of existence that is more or less magic by our standards. We all agree this place is supposed to be at least pleasant if not borderline orgasmic. And hey, while that sounds all good and reasonable at first, let us consider just what “eternity” would mean.

Imagine the longest day you’ve ever had. Maybe some of us have been awake for a couple days, maybe even more than that. Most of us start feeling really weird when we have stayed up all night. I personally feel like I’m in a time-warp. Other people have started their new day when I’m basically still working on finishing up yesterday. It’s just not right. We all need closure on our days. We are supposed to have a beginning and an end. In an eternal Heaven scenario, we would have no need for sleep. It would be just one, super long, endless day. If we did sleep, it’d be an insult to conscious Heaven since we’d be choosing unconsciousness. What would we be dreaming about? Heaven? Nope, we’d be awake. Forever.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It would be Heaven, so we’d have some kind of super Heaven-brain that didn’t get all weirded out by how long our day would be. I’m sure we’d also have God-bodies that never got tired. We’d also never be bored. Ever. Why? Because Heaven is about being content. This means that either Heaven would give us an unending supply of entertainment options, or we’d be forced to like everything we would be doing. Therein lies an interesting point to ponder. What if Heaven couldn’t please everyone?

Now that we can imagine what it would be like to simply “exist” in a conscious way in this Heavenly realm, let’s revisit just what it would mean to be there forever. Humans, accustomed to living lives of roughly 70-90+ years, would never die. One thousand years would pass by. One million years would pass by. One billion, one trillion, one hundred trillion, ninety-nine trillion-trillion, and on and on and on.

Try to perceive that quantity of time (impossible, I know. Just try).

What if I said something like “And after all that time, you’re no closer to _________ (fill in the blank) than when you started.”

Did you think of the word “dying”? Did you think “being done”? Did you think “Not existing anymore?” Did you think to yourself, “Wow, eternity does kinda sound like overkill, or at least a little unnecessary.” Honestly, I think a number much, much lower would sound reasonable. Can you even imagine living for a few thousand years? Really, think about that. Isn’t that long enough? Maybe today you think you need more time to make things right. But who needs eternity? That’s like saying I need Unlimited Data from my cell phone carrier, when realistically I only need like 20 Gigs a month.

(I actually need much less, of course. But give me this one thing!)

So, why would you want to live consciously forever? If it’s anything like consciousness as we know it, it would be Hell. If it’s something completely different than consciousness as we know it, then we have no basis to judge its benefits. “I can’t wait to experience the joys of something that is completely unlike joy as I know it! Hooray!”

Unconscious Eternity

I so sweeeepy... I sweep for-wever...

I so sweeeepy… I sweep for-wever…


This one is interesting because… we’ve already done this one. All those trillions of years that the universe existed before the earth was made? Yeah, that’s what unconscious eternity feels like. I mean, it’s not like you were sitting around bored out of your mind waiting to be born. You were totally okay with it. Now, imagine that you die but some part of you lives on, maybe “with God” or in some type of “soul sleep” setup, but you’re not conscious of anything. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you’re unconscious for a minute or for twenty-eight universe lifetimes; unconscious existence is all the same to you. Your atoms and/or soul-stuff are free to float about deep space or the tenth-dimensional soccer field as long as necessary. Maybe you’ll get a new skin suit, maybe you won’t.

So, while there’s not a huge downside to unconscious eternity, there’s not really any difference between this idea and simply dying. If you’re not conscious, you’re pretty much dead. If you’re not dead, it’s still (like conscious eternity) a way of living that’s so unlike human life that it’s not anything to “look forward to”.

 

Reincarnation

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I think this is the most intriguing perspective on living forever, because in a way you get three-in-one. If you perpetually reincarnate, you may indeed be more or less “stuck” in a loop of death and rebirth “forever.” The difference would be that instead of existing on a linear timeline, you’d be existing in a circular one. For example, you could possibly be stuck in a loop that is primarily happening during the 18th Century over and over and over, but it could go on and on seemingly forever if you reincarnate into a new 18th Century human (or insect, or blade of grass, or American Flag) each time. That hundred years might resemble thirteen billion before you’re done with it.

What is very interesting about reincarnation is that you don’t remember your previous lives. In that way, it is no different than living once and dying once. (Wait, maybe atheists are just pissed off Buddhists?) And if there is even one second between your multiple lives, that one second was most-likely an unconscious second. So, you might as well have never existed at all before your new (and hopefully improved) upcoming life since you’d have no recollection of that second you didn’t exist.

And when you do reincarnate, are you really you anymore? If you are Jim in this life and Pam in the next (ponder THAT one, fans of NBC’s The Office), then is it really you at all? Maybe we’re all the same person, or the same universal consciousness making the rounds to everyone (kinda like Quantum Leap, perhaps?)

So why would you want to live a reboot-style life forever? Do you really want be the main character in Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, without the benefit of the information learned from yesterday? I mean, isn’t the whole purpose of reincarnation to break the cycle of suffering and death, i.e. TO FINALLY DIE AND JUST STAY DEAD?

Conclusions:

I don’t know if there is an afterlife, or what it would look like. I don’t. But I do believe in Heaven.

I honestly think humans gets so hung up on living forever because we feel like we don’t have enough time. We think that one lifetime just isn’t enough. We cling to the idea of eternity because it feels secure. I’ve had that same feeling multiple times during this finite life though. Have you ever felt the embrace of a loved-one who kindly whispered to you “You’re safe now” or “You don’t have to be afraid ever again”? In that moment you didn’t need reassurance that trillions of years would pass without a moment of discomfort. We can experience the miracle of that moment in the temporal way it was meant to be felt, eternity or not. I think many of us equate Heaven with such a feeling, like a hug that’s waiting for us on the other side to say that everything will be okay, the pain is over, you’re safe now. Who wouldn’t want that?

I don’t ridicule the idea of Heaven in gerneral, or think those who seek it are merely small people looking for a way to cope with the fear of death. I do, however, believe that Heaven isn’t cheap. It goes much further than the superficial themes of pleasure and reward. Heaven is when you carry your kid on your shoulders after a sports game on the way back to your car. Heaven is when you walk across the stage to take your diploma from the president of the university. Heaven is emerging from poverty, or lowering ladders for others to climb out. It is a baby’s laughter, a negative cancer screening, or marriage vows renewed.

No, I do not believe what we seek is life eternal. We simply want to leave here on our terms, when we are good and ready. Are you ready to die? It’s okay if you’re not. Just stop waiting for Heaven.

It’s been waiting forever for you.

——–

brettBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

Don’t Should On Me!

Brett Gallaher —  January 20, 2014 — 5 Comments

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So I went to see an R-rated movie the other day. Well, first I sat through the forty-five minutes of commercials about buying the giant discount popcorn bucket, and then I watched an R-rated movie. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself again. After the popcorn propaganda came the previews (including the preview for that upcoming Coca Cola bears movie, aka the upcoming 90 minute commercial about Coca Cola). Since I had paid to see an R-rated film, the previews were for many R-rated films as well. One time I read the description of the rating itself, being told that minors must be accompanied by an adult. For some reason, it made me laugh. I mean, the content of the film doesn’t change simply because your parent is sitting next to you. Obviously the message is “We don’t care if your kid should see decapitations and raunchy sex scenes at age nine. We just want to make sure you don’t mind if your kid sees it. And don’t sue us by the way.”

Can't beat the real thing!

Can’t beat the real thing!

~

I had to catch myself, because my inner monologue had begun should’ing all over the place. You see, I think one of the un-evolved elements of humanity is our propensity to tell other human beings what they should and should not do, think, believe, or feel. We do it all day long. It saturates every conversation from religion to politics to education to… who should see an R-rated movie. I mean, I was sitting there in the theater thoroughly enjoying the adult humor and language used in the film. Honestly, a few years ago I would not have felt comfortable with such content, but I have changed. Depending on your own beliefs you may think I made a change for the worse, letting my morals slowly decay and allowing my mind to be infected with unholy influences. Maybe not. Maybe you think R-rated movies are more in-line with the real world, unfiltered and consistent with our modern society.

What really struck me was the fact I couldn’t simply enjoy the show without first dealing with these kind of thoughts; I was somehow compelled to entertain fabricated debates in my head regarding the nature of morality. That’s annoying. I mean, I paid $10 (plus the nearly $15 for the giant discount popcorn bucket) so I could yell internally at my third grade Sunday School teacher (who was a lovely woman by the way). Why was I letting people “should” on me from the past? From decades ago?

"Brett! Stop reading Song of Solomon out loud!"

“Brett! Stop reading Song of Solomon out loud!”

~

I observed the actions of the characters on screen. The uncensored tone of the dialogue was refreshing, but it reminded me of how any truth or lesson lying behind the film would be totally lost on certain individuals. The unmarried couple laying in bed after sex, having a real human conversation filled with laughter and joy and hope… none of that would come across to those only preoccupied with condemning the “sin” of premarital sex. The woman abused by her husband of fifteen years shares a dance and a kiss with a younger man in a bar… but she’s an adulteress whore and a drunkard to some. You see, characters in films may not be real, but they represent very real ideas, people, situations, etc. Movies are truly art imitating life.

So, who is to say how we should live? What should we do? What shouldn’t we do? It’s easier for us to get those answers from other people. For some that is as easy as picking a religion. Right and wrong are able to be defined, creating a framework for living. In such a scenario, one must simple do all they can to avoid what is wrong and pursue what is right. This creates a tendency to dismiss “gray areas” as confused or twisted logic, created by dark forces conspiring to trip you up at every turn. Reality is only black and white to many people, therefore anything gray is to be met with suspicion at the very least.

That reminds me of another R-rated movie coming out soon...

That reminds me of another R-rated movie coming out soon…

~

While I won’t fall into the verbal trap of attempting the phrase “You shouldn’t tell people what they shouldn’t do” …I’ll propose what I see as an obvious downside of should’ing on people. To define life (and particularly your life) as existing within any pre-defined framework is to reject the experience of life. If you tell someone else how they should feel, who they should love, what they should do, etc., you are telling them that their own experience, their own journey, their own path is pointless. Their unique existence? Meaningless. And worse, you are tell them that your unique existence isn’t unique either. You’re kindly (or often unkindly) breaking it to them that life isn’t about doing the work of discovering your own place in the universe; you’re saying life is already decided to be [fill in the blank]. Get use to it.

And much worse, you can rob people of some of the most beautiful moments. You have the power to take something miraculous, or freeing, or life-giving, and write it off as selfish, sinful, or even demonic. Any particular brand of happiness not grounded in your particular worldview can be met with ridicule, dismissal, or scorn. And again, the real tragedy is that you reject the truth behind the packaging. You miss out on life, trading it for a concept you’ve elevated to the place of God.

Obviously we can have our convictions. We can believe strongly in principles that guide our lives. We can fight for what matters to us. But it must be the fruit of our own labor, to work out who we should be as individuals. It will involve trial and error. You will mess up. You will get discouraged. But if you pull through, if you discover what is good and pure, what is dark and empty, what gives you meaning and what poisons your soul… if you experience pain and rebirth, if you conquer yourself and find who you really are…

…No one should ever be able to define life for you ever again.

——–

brettBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

Is heaven a destination or a journey?

waiting-by-phone

DISCLAIMER: There are clearly very obvious reasons why Jesus would not call Mark Driscoll after a date (e.g. Jesus isn’t really the “dating” type, Mark Driscoll is married to what can only be described as a “happy” wife, and as far as we know… they are both heterosexuals). However, I have compiled a list of reasons a hypothetical date between these two would not yield the slightest possibility of a second encounter.

Mark Driscoll loves Jesus. There’s no doubt about that. Mark loves Jesus so much that if the Nazarene knocked on Mark’s door with a pair of tickets to see Gravity in 3D, Mark would jump at the opportunity. A dismayed Mrs. Driscoll would nervously wave goodbye from the doorway, clinging to her new book Mark bought her entitled Why My Husband Will Never Love Me. She’d pray she’d have the quiz in the back pages completed before his return.

But most of us know Mark would be back soon with an entirely different opinion of that Jesus fellow. New incompatibilities would come to light. Some might even call them irreconcilable differences. Mark may have friended Jesus on Facebook, Followed him on Twitter, and even created a new contact in his smartphone, but deep down he knows what we all know.

Jesus isn’t calling him back. Why?

1. MARK KEEPS DISSING JESUS’ HOMEGIRLS

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…and pointing in their faces in the girls’ bathroom.

~

You see, Jesus would have eventually brought up his friends, especially his homegirls. Jesus has lots of them. Most of them are called Mary. A few are called Jaquita. One is called Esther. Esther from… the book of Esther, Esther (not Madonna Esther). Jesus and Esther go way back. Well, Jesus was more or less spying on Esther because his Act wasn’t until the Romans showed up, but he was there. But the moment he would have brought up Esther, Mark would have interjected with some less-than-kosher remarks. It’s just what Mark does whenever that broad gets brought up. Exhibit A: Mark’s own words.

“She grows up in a very lukewarm religious home as an orphan raised by her cousin. Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions. Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women. She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite.”

[He goes on to say...]

“Feminists have tried to cast Esther’s life as a tragic tale of male domination and female liberation. Many evangelicals have ignored her sexual sin and godless behavior to make her into a Daniel-like figure, which is inaccurate. Some have even tried to tie her story in with modern-day, sex-slave trafficking as she was brought before the powerful king as part of his harem.” -from his article at pastormark.tv.

Jesus would possibly give Mark the benefit of the doubt. Biblical hermeneutics is really hard! He’d politely ignore this one issue and change the subject. Perhaps he’d ask Mark about his own wife, Grace. “Tell me about her, Mark. Tell me about a moment that really sums up your relationship.” If Jesus had read Mark’s book, Real Marriage, so many questions would have been answered. Perhaps he would have taken up Rob Bell’s pottery class offer instead.

Driscoll writes in Real Marriage about his wife
(who deals with depression after sexual abuse):

“My previously free and fun girlfriend was suddenly my frigid and fearful wife. She did not undress in front of me, required the lights to be off on the rare occasions we were intimate, checked out during sex, and experienced a lot of physical discomfort because she was tense…One night, as we approached the birth of our first child, Ashley, and the launch of our church, I had a dream in which I saw some things that shook me to my core. I saw in painful detail Grace sinning sexually during a senior trip she took after high school when we had just started dating. It was so clear it was like watching a film — something I cannot really explain but the kind of revelation I sometimes receive. I awoke, threw up, and spent the rest of the night sitting on our couch, praying, hoping it was untrue, and waiting for her to wake up so I could ask her. I asked her if it was true, fearing the answer. Yes, she confessed, it was. Grace started weeping and trying to apologize for lying to me, but I honestly don’t remember the details of the conversation, as I was shell-shocked. Had I known about this sin, I would not have married her.” [pages 6, 11-12]

So yeah, then there’s the issue of…
2.
MARK’S CREEPY FLOATING TELEPATHIC PORN-O-VISIONx-ray vision

“Hey there, Grandma.”

~

Jesus may forgive Mark for revealing this case of spiritual abuse and all-around “bad husbandry”. He is Jesus, after all. Mark may have a real felt-need to discern the presence of sexual sins in the lives of those around him. Such matters are serious and should never be treated like opportunities to convey spiritual superiority over those in such vulnerable emotional states. That would be a misuse of authority and borderline manipulation. Jesus says a quick prayer for Mark. Afterwards he checks YouTube out of sheer curiosity.

Jesus does a facepalm.

Jesus would send out an emergency text to his homegirls to come rescue him. He’d stall in the meantime. Come to think of it, why was Mark taking him to some abandoned construction site? Scared he’d anger Mark by asking, Jesus would quickly come up with another topic. “Mark, I’m really flattered that you’ve devoted your entire ministry to me. That means a lot. Tell me more about what attracted you to Christianity.” Mark would lean over and whisper two words in Jesus’ ear.

“Real. Men.”

3. JESUS DOESN’T WANT TO FIGHT SWEATY MEN IN CAGES

Wait a minute... This wrestling looks fake!

Wait a minute… This wrestling looks fake!

~

Mark’s vision for Christianity [from Life on Mars (Hill), Bitch Magazine]

“Church today, it’s just a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. Sixty percent of Christians are chicks, and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks.”

Mark previously encountered difficulty worshiping “a gay hippie in a dress.” But something about those disciples changed his mind. They were anything but hippies. They were real men. Real hardcore, violent men looking for trouble. Trouble for Jesus.

“I’ve gotta think these guys were dudes. Heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.”

Christianity was about men. Real, sweaty men. The sweatier, the Godlier. Sweatiness is next to Godliness, they say. Wait, that’s not what they say at all. Jesus didn’t want Christianity to be “Manly”. That would imply that there’s something inherently wrong with being feminine. Womanly would mean “weak”. Such an idea is fundamentally insulting to women. It’s essentially saying that women’s main flaw is that they’re not men. Mark would look over at Jesus, sensing the date going downhill. “What’s wrong, Jesus?!”

“Nothing!” Jesus would say. “I’m just… err… um… checking out your YouTube videos! So relevant!”

Mark might try his luck by shifting the discussion.
Obviously we know the futility of even trying, especially since we all know…

4. JESUS IS TOO “PRO CHOICE” FOR MARK

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Approaching “Can of Worms” Ohio.

~

Mark would ask Jesus a very significant question. “Are you pro choice?” Jesus may look over at Mark with a smile. Finally Mark would show interest in what he thought. Jesus is an expert on this topic as well. He is a huge advocate of free will. He practically invented it. Maybe this would be a game-changer for the evening. But we know better. Jesus would open his mouth to say, “Of course! Choice is essential to freedom!”

Mark would lash out at Jesus, rudely interrupting him mid-sentence. This misunderstanding would be preventable, if only Mark could suppress his obsession with the topic of abortion. But he can’t.

“Mark, no. That’s not what I-”

“You do not submit to the authority of Scripture! You don’t value human life!” -Mark would exclaim.

After about an hour, Jesus would become fed up with Mark monopolizing the conversation. “You know what, Mark? I’ve had it with your ego, your insensitivity, and your misogynistic rants. You don’t even listen to me anymore! Don’t you understand? Our relationship is all about communication!”

“I can change!” Mark might say.

But it’d be too late. Jesus would have found a ride, possibly like a stranger on a bus, just trying to make his way home, back up to Heaven all alone, nobody calling on the phone (except for Mark). #straighttovoicemail.

In closing: I’m not bashing Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll is bashing Jesus. I’m not even talking about any version of the “true” Jesus, or the most “Biblical” interpretation. Some things are mysteries. We can’t know exactly what the historical Jesus would think today. But Jesus represents something life-giving, something powerful and moving and capable of literally saving lives. You may be reading this and have no belief in Jesus whatsoever, or you may be a life-long Christian. That’s not the point. We all have our own views. But at the end of the day, does the Jesus that Mark calls upon resemble a symbol of love, or of resentment? Does Mark call upon a Jesus who saves lives or who shames lives? Does Mark sound more like a spiritual leader or more like a pseudo sex therapist? You have to decide, but one thing is for sure.

Mark Driscoll wants to wrestle with sweaty men in a cage for Jesus.

——–
brettttttBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

There is a force that drives history. It is a raging and chaotic machine that fears nothing and spares no one. It is everywhere, yet it is nowhere. Some call it evil, or cruel. Some call it indifferent.

Others simply call it Satan.

The valiant fight it, sacrificing everything at times. The cowards cling to it, shielded in a guise of power and status. Others are simply run down by its progress. Do not confuse it with death, for death is the exit, or transition to another mysterious country. Yet this force wields death like a terrible weapon of fear, intimidation, and leverage to accomplish its objectives.

Over time this machine has become oiled, fine tuned, and painted with bright welcoming colors, gleaming with the seductive light of nationalism, progress, and profit. Some bow to it, still their heads tilted towards their primary idols of vice, not wishing to appear ungrateful to either master.

At times, the reign of the machine is challenged. The battles are often short and bloody, merely an obstruction in the gears which grind their way onward. There are other times when the machine must stop, its wheels pushed back on course by those pushing it along.

But then there are times the machine breaks down. This is still merely a delay. Soon it is back on track, breaking the bones of the saints, the idealists, the poets, the dreamers, the naive sons and daughters of time.

There was once a man who stood infront of the machine, not asking it to stop. Tauntingly, he stared into its menacing eyes, laying down in its very path. The machine crushed him under its weight, thinking nothing it.

Soon the man became a legend, both revered and ridiculed. Those driving the machine claimed victory and still do to this day. But something had changed. Others stood before the machine. More and more, they came.

And they’ll never stop.

The machine rages on, more erratic than ever. Its campaign of bloodshed has been packaged and sold to the children who it orphaned. But more and more lay down before it.

And they’ll never stop.

The machine still rages, and so do we.

And we’ll never stop until the drivers join us, leaving no one to drive the machine.

And we’ll never stop…

And we’ll never stop…

A love that saves…

Brett Gallaher —  August 30, 2013 — 3 Comments

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I remember how it felt, the boldness rising up in me as I would begin to consider getting up from the church pew. The pastor would ask if anyone needed to make sure they were right with God. That was the hook, the doubting of my own security. The pastor seemingly had good logic. It was entirely possible I could die at any moment and my sinful adolescent soul could be sucked into the eternal fiery abyss. After all, I was pretty immature. I had a lot of things I needed to bring before God. I was a wretch, worse than a criminal.

And I was seven.

You see, when you grow up in certain traditions like mine (Holiness) there is a culture of doubt, of fear, of uncertainty. No one really knew for sure if they were “saved” or not. I mean, we had a pretty good idea about other people (like Jews, atheists, gays, Baptists, etc.) but we were “right”. Being “right” meant being held to an even higher standard. Any sin was direct rebellion against what we knew to be right. God was keeping a tally of our sins, and we’d better wipe the slate clean every night before we risked waking up in the devil’s funhouse.

Image

I always imagined the devil’s playhouse would kinda look like this.

On my trek through the land of Christendom, I became ensued with the question…

“Am I saved?”

As the years went by I was blessed with an ever-widening view of God, one that incorporated theological and philosophical diversity. I soon became more “secure”, believing more or less that God was a good God, and that “good God” didn’t mean “He’s so good he has to burn the evil out of me with a pitchfork.” College and Seminary (aka advanced Sunday School) even left me unable to imagine a God who wouldn’t move heaven and earth to reconcile all things to himself.

Case closed. Right?

Well, awkwardly enough, I’m no longer a Christian, at least not in any traditional sense of the word. My search for truth brought me to the personal realization that faith in Jesus’ power to save me was something I could never verify, never know for certain. Obviously faith isn’t about knowing with certainty, so I don’t pretend to ignore that fact. But I realized that most Christians I know don’t see faith as… faith. They have always treated faith like facts. That is why any competing logic can cause many Christians to basically freak out.

Imagine someone told you gravity wasn’t true, and they could provide evidence that your primitive gravitational fixation was most likely false?

Image

“Sir, I believe you do not understand the gravity of the situation.”

As odd as it sounds, I feel God has led me past faith in the Jesus of Christianity and towards faith in the love of Jesus, which would in turn be the love of God, which in turn would be the same love that I sought to save me all those years ago.

At the end of the day, faith in Jesus was really faith in God all along, faith in God’s ability to save you. Or maybe it was faith that in God, we are already saved. We are already good enough. But like a gift, we have to open the damn thing or else it’s just a box.

But even more so, I believe that God has led me past…

Wait for it…

God.

I’m not a atheist, at least not by my own definition. I simply don’t believe in the God many others believe in. To imagine God is to imagine the unimaginable. Whenever someone describes God, they’re not describing God at all. They’re describing an idea about God.

Here’s where it gets down-right heretical.

If someone’s idea of God drives them to love others, is that not the same thing as God telling them to love others?

If someone’s idea of God drives them to feed the poor, how is this any different?

If an atheist’s idea of love drives them to do the same things, is not the atheist’s idea the same force driving the Christian?

Anywhere in this exercise did you say to yourself, “But the atheist’s good deeds won’t get him into heaven” or “If God is just an idea in someone’s head then what’s the point since there’s no heaven?” If so, congratulations…

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You’ve missed the point!

Salvation has been packaged all wrong for so long. It has been the prize just out of reach, the mystery you must solve but can’t, the end of a journey where you feel lost the entire trip. But salvation can be known.

We can be saved from our guilt, our hatred, our bitterness, our unhealthy lifestyles, our abusive relationships, our pettiness, our ideologies, our sadness and depression, our addictions…

When we can’t save ourselves, it can come in the form of friends. I have found salvation in my children, in my girlfriend, in my community.

But what about Jesus?

I have faith that my introduction to the life of Jesus of Nazareth was for a purpose much larger than myself, a purpose wrapped up in a mystery that still draws us in. My salvation moment was the moment that Jesus started being that…

…and stopped being this.

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ImageBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

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We Occupy Jesus is pleased to announce our first major fundraiser…

“Jesus, that was expensive!”

We are going to pay off one person’s student loan debt. It could be you (or someone you nominate. Click here to enter.

Magic Jesus…

Brett Gallaher —  July 6, 2013 — 5 Comments

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Yesterday one of my co-workers told me something. He said he no longer believed in Jesus. My natural reaction was, “Jesus? Like, you don’t believe he existed?” My friend went on to say that he no longer believed in God, Jesus, the Trinity, or anything like that anymore. Whether Jesus, the charismatic neighborhood rabbi from the 1st Century Palestinian “block” existed or not was of no consequence to him. He no longer believed in Christ, the God-Man, or as I like to call him…

“Magic Jesus”.

His reasoning was, as is usually the case, the amount of suffering in his own life and the world around him. He said he’s not worried about blaming it on a god anymore. He doesn’t believe in it anymore. He’s just going to “live life” he said. And I don’t blame him.

Now, I am not saying I share his dim outlook, but I understand the exhaustion that comes with trying to make excuses for a deity (or a set of beliefs about a deity) that seems distant, oblivious, unable, or unwilling to give a damn about the rest of us down here. “He’s God. He doesn’t need defending,” some say (ironically in a defensive tone). But basically it just comes off as “God is good even if all evidence points to him being a jerk.”

Let’s not let him off the hook this time. After all, “Magic Jesus” should be able to show up and do something. Let’s call it like it is. He’s not doing a good enough job.

Christians and atheists alike are tired of Magic Jesus ruining their lives. Instead of the human Jesus being a symbol of what we can all strive to achieve, his influence has been usurped by a narcissistic and easily offended long-haired Swedish Superman knockoff, only interested in weekly self-help seminars with a cover charge. 

Depending on your preferred model, Magic Jesus may even tell you who to vote for, which news outlets are biased, and who isn’t allowed to get married. How does he know all of this? Because he’s magic. 

I am going to suggest something radical. Believing in a certain type of Jesus has absolutely nothing to do with being a good person. It also has no bearing on who Jesus actually is/was. If I think he’s magic, that doesn’t make him any more or less divine. It is simply an expression of my current state of mind. That state of mind does not reflect how “on track” or “off track” our spiritual health may be at any given moment. 

If you think my friend is “struggling” spiritually because he no longer believes in (magic) Jesus, then you may be missing the larger point. People have been “Jesus’d”. People have tried for years, since childhood, to come to know, understand, and love Jesus. Some end up wide-eyed in a church camp crying out to God while others run screaming out the door because they can’t pretend any longer. Neither of these two extremes or anyone in-between is any “better” or “worse”; they have run the gauntlet of the Jesus experience, and here they stand, sometimes with the living crap knocked out of them. 

Would you stand over them with your finger pointing down, conjuring the spells of your warlock?

I challenge you to consider that life is more than what we believe. Whether there are gods watching over us or not, we must look out for each other. If there are indeed gods, let them ponder our great love, more powerful than any magician.

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ImageBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Cleveland, Tennessee, the second largest Cleveland in the United States. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee. 

Winter is over…

Brett Gallaher —  June 9, 2013 — 2 Comments

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I have not had the strength to write a blog post since it happened, since I separated from my spouse a little over two weeks ago. Obviously I know there is a time and a place for everything under the sun, yet it never seems the right time to write a blog post about something as sensitive a topic as this. I am someone who hates being hated, someone who avoids conflict at all costs. I did not want to use this blog as a means to bring more pain to those I’ve hurt or to garner increased support for myself. Yet here I am. Here goes nothin’.

First, a little backstory. I, like many others, am jaded by various individuals and circumstances from my past. The example I wish to use here involves another blog I used to follow. One day I opened my laptop and saw an intriguing article on the front page of MSNBC.com. A student pastor (who I will not name) was fired for his repeated blogging in support of progressive issues like LGBT rights and Christian Universalism. When I first discovered his blog I was still a United Methodist youth pastor. I was outraged that someone would be fired for expressing their personal theological views. I immediately “friended” him on Facebook and the two of us soon began sharing horror stories from our ministry years. It turned out that he had moved back to his wife’s hometown after his firing. That town was Cleveland, Tennessee. My hometown. After I left youth ministry, I moved back there as well to join him in planting a church. I had put all of my hope in this new venture. 

To make a long story short, it didn’t pan out. This “martyr” for progressive Christianity ended up being what I came to abhor about those who claimed to speak for the Christian left. He ended up being a self-adsorbed egomaniac who used progressivism as an excuse to live from the bottom of the moral dung heap, while still calling himself a pastor. After his many infidelities, he still went to his blog and spoke of his calling, of his role as a leader, as someone you should still send checks to. I was horrified he had used his blog to somehow appear noble in the midst of his rancid false piety.

Do I sound jaded enough yet?

Anyway, this individual became the epitome of everything I hoped I would never become. I knew I could never speak for God, for Christianity ever again. It was so stereotypical, the hypocritical pastor who drags the name of Jesus through the mud. I could never become that. It was too predictable. 

So I made We Occupy Jesus, an attempt to push the spotlight back to issues that matter, not about myself and my own Jesus-ness or lack thereof. I do not intend to speak for a religion, only for my own experiences. Yet the ghosts of my past return, telling me I’m just like that other guy, that phony, that charlatan, because I’ve missed the mark.

I know I have hurt people. I do not claim immunity from my actions. In fact, a friend told me not long ago that I had to own my decisions; I couldn’t hide behind my own confusion and apprehension. For once in my life I had to be honest with myself, and with those in my life, regardless of the consequences. I finally did tell my spouse I was unhappy and that I had broken our wedding vows. 

Now comes the long, cold winter. Now comes the self-doubting, the guilt, the fear of condemnation and shame. Here in the south it is especially difficult to live this down. Obviously I’m a monster. Obviously I must simply have a sexual addiction. Obviously I’m a sinner. Obviously I’ve been brainwashed by “the world.” Obviously I have no morality. Obviously We Occupy Jesus is a cult. 

Obviously life is more complicated than that. We are human. We are broken. We have to start over sometimes. We wish things weren’t so messy, but sometimes they are. Sometimes we have to hurt people, or risk losing our own souls. This is the deck life hands some of us. We wish we could go back and change it all, but in doing so we would unmake our own lives. 

Am I asking for anyone to forgive me because I admit my faults? Is honesty somehow a ticket to an admirable humility? Does it make me any less broken? No, not one bit. Yet I can say this. The truth does indeed set you free. Have you mistaken your cell for liberty? The darkness has a certain comfort to it, does it not?

Look deep within yourself. Lift the dungeon gates. Winter is over.
A new day is coming.

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ImageBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Cleveland, Tennessee, the second largest Cleveland in the United States. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.