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Josh Garrels – “Farther Along”
-What is “We Occupy Jesus”?
A movement for all individuals, regardless of their own personal beliefs or disbeliefs in any god, who identify with the positive message of the Jesus narrative, who can unite under common principles and practical goals to make the world a better place through tolerance, activism, non-violence, and love for all humanity. This organization serves as a meeting place between those from both sides of the God debate. ‘We Occupy Jesus’ is for anyone who is compelled by the life, message, metaphor, or model of Jesus.
-What are the main objectives of the movement?
1. Reconciliation between theists and skeptics is the primary goal. We wish to put differences aside and enter into genuine dialogue and/or unity (i.e. friendship).
2. To create an environment of mutual cooperation to create positive and tangible change in our societies.
-What does “Occupy Jesus” mean?
We occupy an idea. Just as the Occupy Wall Street movement seeks to expose the greed and corruption of the financial institutions of the United States, while also serving as a new platform for creative solutions to change the status quo, “We Occupy Jesus” seeks to take back the narrative of Jesus which has been hijacked by special interests, political parties, religious extremism, and all forces of corruption, bigotry, and false piety. To occupy Jesus means to stand in the middle of the conversation and say you are done being demonized because of the bigotry of the past and the social apathy of the present. The message of Jesus is one of love, service, and self-sacrifice and now is the time to take it back from circles who would pervert that message. Our hope is that one day, the name of Jesus will only be synonymous with love.
-Why was this movement started?
Those of us who began this movement felt that the rift between theism and atheism was growing unnecessarily vast. This rift has also been perpetuated by ignorance, apathy, and special interests. There have been countless movements to reform the Church and organized religion in general, including the intellectual, theological, doctrinal, scholastic, ecclesial, and missional aspects. It is the opinion of “We Occupy Jesus” that such endeavors are noble and those who wish to fight for these goals should feel free to do so. However, the world cannot sit around and wait for such reforms to take place. To be frank, the Church is beyond “fixing” at this point, nor should anyone feel obligated to change the minds of all Christians who disagree with them. Those who identify with the teachings and/or example of Jesus should waste no more time debating metaphysics.
-Is “We Occupy Jesus” a Christian organization?
No. ‘We Occupy Jesus’ is not a Christian group, or a religious group in any respect. We are composed of atheists, agnostics, and theists who have chosen to focus on unity, cooperation, and mutual respect instead of dogmas, doctrines, or metaphysics. While many of our members are spiritual, our beliefs are quite diverse and often transcend the traditional and sometimes narrow classifications and labels. Our movement is a joint-effort by all who think the world would be a far better place if we all embodied the spirit of Jesus’ message to love our enemies, feed the hungry, comfort the dying, mend the broken hearted, defend the weak, care for those who suffer, and stand up against hatred, discrimination, and bigoty in all its forms. Christians are welcome as members, but the group is not defined by Christian beliefs.
-How is this different from Christianity?
Christianity is a religion, filled with diversity of belief, dogma, and tradition. However, ‘We Occupy Jesus’ is not a religion. We have no set system of metaphysical beliefs. We are politically neutral. We are theologically neutral. We have no statement of faith. Our members are allowed to believe or not believe in God, gods, the divinity of Jesus, or the historical Jesus. Christianity has no such luxury, at least not in the orthodox sense. Even our emphasis on the narrative of Jesus is a point of reflection, meaning we do not dictate any rigid guidelines as to how one should be inspired by that message. We are all thinkers, but our thoughts are our own. We have our own beliefs, but they are our own. We simply choose to be defined by our actions instead of our ideologies.
-Why the Jesus narrative?
We often are asked the questions, ‘Why Jesus? Why not Buddha? Why not Martin Luther King? Why not Gandhi? Why not another narrative? Why not simply be a good person?’
We do not mean to imply the narrative of Jesus is decidedly ‘better’ or that his narrative is ‘the perfect story’ or ‘the only narrative’ worth living for (although some of members may personally hold those opinions). Our answer is simply this. No other narrative has impacted Western civilization more significantly than the Jesus narrative. This is not a statement of favoritism, only one of observable truth. While The Enlightenment, for example, has been very significant, it has not prevailed over the still very religious world we live in. The narrative is at the core of our very society. We have the opportunity to let it fade into oblivion, or to let it be the new catalyst for change once again. Simply ‘being a good person’ lacks inspiration and a call to action. We live stories. We are inspired and united by stories.
The Jesus narrative has always adapted to the political framework of its point in time. Christianity was once an option within the larger world of Paganism, then it adapted to both eastern and western forms of Christendom/Kingdoms, and eventually Capitalism. We fear that Capitalism is where the name of Jesus has gone to die.
We are not speaking out against Capitalism per say (at least, not today) but what Capitalism does is take, package, market, and sell Jesus (and everything else). The close relationship of Capitalism to Politics only makes matters worse. If you hear the words “Jesus” or “evangelical” or “religion” or “family values” and think “Republican Party” then you know you’ve been conditioned by the American corporate machine. If you hear “Jesus” and immediately think of a political party, a scientific stance, or a particular style of music, you know what we are talking about. We are done letting this status quo continue.
-Why should an atheist care about the Jesus narrative?
1. Many atheists are former Christians and carry some of their unresolved feelings about their religious past with them. Our community affirms their frustrations with organized religion and seeks to bring closure, healing, and renewed community with those still in faith traditions or those of spiritual world views.
2. Atheists may not feel any connection to the Jesus narrative, but that narrative effects them nevertheless given the religious nature of many societies. We Occupy Jesus is a new conversation about how the humanistic commonalities shared by theists and atheists can be realized to curb religious extremists’ attempts to wield a harmless religious narrative as a tool for manipulation, bigotry, and obstruction for civil rights. Basically, while Atheists may not feel they need the narrative, partnering with logical theists will promote a more progressive understanding of the narrative that underscores their mutual concerns, will expose the motives of extremists for what they truly are, and will help create a more tolerant world for both believer and skeptic.
3. We do not expect all atheists to value the narrative in the same manner Christians do, but it is an observable fact that many atheists indeed do value it (i.e. we have several atheists in the movement already). Above all, we wish to create a place where atheists and theists (and of course everyone in-between) can share their convictions and passions for humanity without fear of isolation, ridicule, or judgment. While other social movements have included both atheists and theists, WOJ specifically exists to foster community between the two groups, that we might learn from each other.
-Where does WOJ stand on “hot button issues” like LGBT, abortion, civil rights, etc?
WOJ is politically neutral. We are made up of a diverse group of members who fall on very different ends of the ideological spectrum. However, as a general rule, WOJ is more inclined to support individual conviction, so it may appear we are left of center. We have no official stance on political issues, but any member (including the founder) is free to express their own opinions at any time. These opinions do not speak for WOJ, only the individual at any given time.
-Who can join?
-Even Atheists? Jews? Skeptics? Agnostics? Gays?
Did we stutter?
-How do I join?
Find us on Facebook here and here. Not on Facebook? We’d love to converse by email. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, being a member of WOJ is more about living life than being in a social media group. Be creative. Find people of a different religious persuasion and learn more about them. Start a book club. Volunteer together. Start your own group based on similar principles. Get involved in local government. Protest something worth protesting.
Be your own Jesus, whatever you feel that means. But don’t let anyone tell you how to be Jesus. Jesus wouldn’t put up with that. Neither should you.
Skillet – “The Older I Get”
Answer and Reblog.
Thomas Ogletree, Frederick Marquand Professor of Ethics and Religious Studies at Yale Divinity School, lists these four common beliefs:
- The assertion of the unreality of God for our age, including the understandings of God which have been a part of traditional Christian theology.
- The insistence upon coming to grips with contemporary culture as a necessary feature of responsible theological work.
- Varying degrees and forms of alienation from the church as it is now constituted.
- Recognition of the centrality of the person of Jesus in theological reflection.also, i need to become better acquainted with Thomas J. J. Altizer.
Yes, it is indeed a thing. Join us? :)