Archives For joy

Don’t Should On Me!

Brett Gallaher —  January 20, 2014 — 5 Comments


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.

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Answer and Reblog. 


We get along so wonderfully, but I wasn’t surprised when she told me. She told me at one point she asked her preacher what she should do when she found out I was an atheist. She feels that as a good Christian that she needs to do something about that. She asked me two days ago if I think there will ever be anything to make me believe in god. Knowing she meant the Christian god, I answered honestly and unabashedly: No. I’d always be an Atheist, and my reasons for it were not small or irrational or emotional.

She wasn’t happy with my response, obviously. I told her she’s welcome to tell me anything she wants, and she’s welcome to ask me questions. That I would never hold her faith against her as long as she didn’t act against society as a whole with it. I am highly curious as what will transpire.

You did the right thing, and with compassion.

Everyone follow #love

I think it is safe to say that you now have all my props. Take them. They are yours. 

I will take you up on the inbox invitation. You won’t hear any arguments from me regarding your choice to join or not. But I’m always about clarifications, so I’ll address your above comments briefly. This group is about the message, metaphor, and principles of a narrative. If you don’t believe Jesus existed, that has no bearing on membership of the group. Regarding the name of Jesus, well, it’s not about subjugating to a god, or Christians. It’s just a name. And regarding joining hands with people that promote dangerous ideas, no one is in this group unless they promote tolerance, peace, and love, the very qualities you are all for. I have had plenty conversations with types of Christians who didn’t want to join us because we were open to atheists, and because we don’t take stands for doctrinal issues. This is not a ploy to “Christianize” anyone. Again, this group is about creating a meeting place between the two sides. We are not a Christian group. 

In closing, I am sorry you won’t be joining our group, but I am glad you took the time to drop us a message. We wish the best for you.

New Jesus…

Brett Gallaher —  July 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

Many times online I see conversations about Jesus that are quite odd. I see many proponents of Jesus speaking about unconditional love, only to be swamped by counter-attacks regarding the atrocities of religion and the less-attractive and even violent parts of scripture that paint a different picture of God’s love.

While not promoting any particular theological view, is it not evident that a new Jesus is emerging?

While the aim of “We Occupy Jesus” is to promote the values of the Jesus narrative in this new post-modern society, many Christians are doing the same thing. While they may not have the doctrinal details ironed out, many know that Jesus represents tolerance, love, and forgiveness. For example, they might have friends who are gay, or bi, or a drug-addict, or promiscuous, or sarcastic, or atheists (not meaning to lump atheists in with immorality or anything), and these Christians love their friends, and they know Jesus would love their friends more than they themselves do. So it doesn’t take any research into the original Greek text for these Christians to make up their minds. They love and worship and follow a Jesus that loves everyone. Period.

Some theologians and church leaders may not agree with such inclusion, but love is trumping their voices. Some skeptics may further ridicule them for misrepresenting the Bible, citing examples they feel show God to be cruel or ludicrous. These Christians just don’t care. Their God is love.

When I say a new Jesus is emerging, I do not mean to say the old Jesus was not loving. I mean to say that this Jesus is compelling the world through love all over again, in a new and life-giving way that transcends the Church and its dogma. While the skeptic should welcome this breath of fresh air for what it means for society, those in-love with Jesus would say…

This is what Jesus has always done.




Brett Gallaher —  July 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

While some may have the natural tendency to defy authority, there are actually quite reasonable reasons to do exactly that. Authority is not the problem; power is the problem.

Those who are in power, whether that power be corporate, capitalist, totalitarian, or dictatorial, fascist, liberal, or conservative, those who control the world are without-a-doubt… corrupt, cruel, manipulative, and not in your corner.

Now, they may not be personally evil, but then again… they may be. Regardless, they are a powerful piece of the evil machine that is interested in only more power, more control, at whatever cost, no matter how violent, no matter how direct, no matter how subtle, no matter how seductive.

And we are expected to simply go along with their media, their propaganda, the very sources of information that they fund and own, simply because they say they are the experts, they have the power, they know what is best for us. They discourage our assembly, instead encouraging our isolation from those who have woken up from their hallucinogens. They want you infront of a television and off of the internet. 

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain”? Such logic would appear to be reasonable, if we actually had a choice. There is no choice.

Anyone who’s spent any time at all in a church, in a company, in any position of power knows that the world answers to only one authority.


Fight with your love, your civil disobedience, your voice, your passion. They want you to settle for their world. Let’s give them a taste of ours.

A better world is possible.



Brett Gallaher —  July 4, 2012 — Leave a comment

There are countless people who are handed a particular brand of life at an early age. They are told that there is one true way to be happy, to experience joy and fulfillment. Not only this, but they are always estranged from other paths in life.

Honestly, these same people may grow up and believe they are truly happy. I do not doubt it, any more than I would doubt the happiness of anyone faced to cope with the reality they are dealt. I’m sure some coal miners take satisfaction in their work.

However, there will always be that space inside that is left empty, because these people have been handed someone else’s idea of joy. It is not their own. Even if they make it their own, it is a forced acceptance. It is unnatural.

Before we can be happy, we must be at peace. Before we can be at peace, we must find our own joy. Before we can find our own joy, we must want to find it.

Before we can want it, we must know that we need it.

Go get it.

Whenever the name “Jesus” is uttered, it evokes emotion.

Some think of unconditional love, sacrifice, morality, inspiration, divinity, miracles, kingship, creation, etc.

Some may think homophobia, mythological, pseudo-science, ignorance, brainwashing, fairies, unicorns, madman, or zombie.

The name of Jesus has always been a magnet for strong opinion, debate, and confrontation. This has never been a secret. Reading the gospel narrative will reveal this fact immediately.

I am not suggesting we go ‘round and ‘round arguing the same old tired arguments any longer, at least not within this movement. The name of Jesus will always carry great significance, but it is on the verge of losing all relevance.

Why should we care?

Because (for better or for worse) the last 2000 years have been shaped within the context of the Christian narrative.

So what?

It is not just a story. It is our story. This is the year A.D. 2012 (in the year of our Lord, 2012). Whether or not you believe it should be named as such is not the point. The point is that it is named as such.

The 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, then colonialism, and now Capitalism. The expressions are quite diverse (e.g. Socialism, Asceticism, Monasticism).

I fear that Capitalism is where the name of Jesus has gone to die.

I am 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 I’m talking about.

I am sick of this. I am beyond sick of this. I am DONE with this.

To occupy Jesus means to stand in the middle of the conversation and say…

“We’re done letting special interests, pundits, corporations, politicians, and yes… even churches tell us how we’re supposed to think about Jesus. You don’t represent him, his message, or us anymore.”

We’re done being demonized because of the bigotry of the past and the social apathy of the present. The message Jesus is one of love, service, and self-sacrifice and we’re taking it back from you.

Our hope is that one day, the name of Jesus will only be synonymous with love.

The narrative is good news, not Fox News.



Brett Gallaher —  May 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

Once I set out on a journey for truth. That journey was understood to be a long one, a trying one, yet an exciting journey nonetheless.

It began with a healthy dose of naivete. If you don’t have this at the beginning, you won’t get very far. You’d never be up for it. You’d stay at home, playing Halo. You have to be focused on the destination. You need to know exactly what you’re looking for.

I am a theist, so I naturally set out to discover truth in the context of theology. My venture into the world of theological academia began as a stripping away of many preconceptions I had accrued while growing up. I believe we all have our own preconceptions to wade through, but the willingness to alter, add to, or remove many of them is also a necessity when seeking truth.

I soon found answers… and then I found more answers… and more answers…

I found so many answers that they stopped being answers. They became voices, opinions, positions, theories, expressions, guidelines, etc.

After a while, a new reality begins to set in. Reality is not black and white. Truth is not (at least not entirely) absolute. Things change and shift. Experiences become our realities. There may be more than one valid answer to your question. Some answers may be right for you but wrong for others.

I do believe in truth, but I believe it is elusive. You may know that something is true, but the real significance for us is how we respond to it.

Do you believe in God? You may or you may not. That’s not even really the main issue. The main issue is… how do you live in response to that belief?

If you believe in a loving God but then hide behind that belief to do whatever you want, then the original belief doesn’t really mean anything at all to you.

If you don’t believe in a loving God but you live morally, you’ve obviously found inspiration outside of divinity to love your neighbor.

A real problem ensues when positions harden to the point that you lose touch with the fluidity of reality, the mystery of it all, and you literally lose the ability to truly reflect. You discount anything other than what you assume to be true. You have the inability to grow. You only want to worship the god (lowercase g) you’ve created inside your own mind. You admit you don’t know everything, but you know enough.

You don’t move because you don’t WANT to move. You become a coward.

You may have the inescapable urge to comment on every status update, blog post, or tweet that you feel is misinformed. You become locked in an eternal struggle against the forces of ineptitude.

Whenever you lose the ability to express humility, you stop moving forward as an individual. It isn’t conceding your convictions; it’s simply being aware that whatever position you hold, it is incomplete. It is lacking diversity. It is always in need of greater clarity. It is always in need of more love, empathy, and perspective.

You. are. never. done. growing.