Archives For morality

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.

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Running a blog means encountering people with their opinions of your content. Running a blog called “We Occupy Jesus” means encountering people who don’t know how to read our About page (that I took a long to to write, so please take a moment to read it, por favor).

The overwhelming majority of feedback I have received has been positive. However, every once in a while I encounter someone who can’t handle our concept. Here is the general flow of things whenever this conflict rears its ugly head:

1. Someone doesn’t understand our movement, so I explain it and/or refer them to our About page.

2. Someone either understands or misunderstands, and then changes the subject immediately to all the reasons why this is a dumb idea and why they’d never support something with the name Jesus in it, or they then attempt to define atheism as something inherently contradictory to… liking anything about a rabbi from 1st century Palestine. Of course I don’t care if they want to join or not, since the original point was simply clarifying our group’s intention, but somehow now I’m trying to wreck their atheismojo.

3. I, having accepted the fact that the conversation is no longer about the FACT our group is simply a group for atheists, agnostics, and theists who are pro-Jesus principles, then have to make a decision. Do I continue with a clarification of the movement (knowing there is no real point in doing so), or do I systematically refute the obvious petty agenda and ego that is before me. I do not mind clarifying the movement, but when I do this the person feels as though I am trying to persuade them to join, take communion, start a parish, and somehow bow down to the Pope. If I continue with the rebuttals, I suddenly become classified as “defensive” or “arrogant” and conveniently begin to “reinforce” the person’s tainted view of religion (even though I never once make a reference to following a religion… since this is not a religious blog… and I am actually rather agnostic on many levels). Now responding with any hint of emotion, sarcasm, wit, or logic (gasp) justifies everything they are thinking about you.

I honestly don’t care if someone wants to join or not. We’re not an evangelistic group in any sense, besides the fact we want to get the word out that this type of group exists. We know there are lots of pro-Jesus folks who do not identify as “Christian” who are looking for something that is positive, community-driven, and doesn’t require dogmas.

I have some amazing followers who have recently defended the movement (brilliantly) and I am humbled to know them. However, this issue is so ridiculously simple to comprehend. I am a proponent of concise and direct messages, so here goes…

This is a group for everyone who likes the general message of Jesus.

I could say “period” to drive home this point, but sadly people don’t want to let this issue go. Some may feel “true atheists would never like the message of Jesus.” While that is an opinion, it’s false. And when I say it’s false, I mean it’s demonstratively false. People who self-identify as atheist follow this movement. People who do not believe in any god follow this movement. People who have vowed to never set foot back inside a church follow this movement. Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and even those nifty atheist+ peeps follow this movement. If you feel they’re really theists in disguise, you’re simply delusional.

Sometimes things need to be defined. Other times these definitions need to be expanded. Some may seek to re-write atheism as anti-theism, but that simply is not being objective. While the vast majority of atheists are not following a spiritual path driven by convictions about the Jesus narrative, many of them are. Many of them are finding us. And in the process, they are expanding their own perception of atheism. There is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t make you less-atheist if you think Jesus was a good guy, teacher, or even an inspirational myth.

Let me put this simply again.

This is a group for everyone who likes the general message of Jesus.

If you think that is something atheists shouldn’t do, make your own group and knock yourself out. We’ll still be here…

being fabulous.

-Brett.

P.S. And yes, we will always use the #atheism tag, son.

Well, that’s your choice/opinion. I’d probably ask which doctrines you were referring to, out of curiosity, since Jesus wasn’t all about doctrine, since doctrine and dogma were later developments of the historical church. Since I am not in the “assuming” business, I’ll await your response if you choose to divulge. 

To address your first question, it takes a little perspective. The narrative of Jesus has been the cornerstone of western civilization. It is also based around the most influential figure in world history. Does it have to be based around Jesus? No, but there has been no other narrative or figure more powerful than that of Jesus of Nazareth. Whether we believe he was divine or not, his story shaped our world and still does to this day. Also, this story has been hijacked by special interests and is in the midst of being used to divide people. This has to stop. While Christians can fight to “take back” the narrative for themselves, such an “in-house” fight is rather futile and does nothing for those outside of the tradition who are left in the aftermath. But, if we all fight to make the narrative something that transcends the organism that is Christianity, then it can no longer be wielded as a weapon by the far-right, the corporations, and any other special interest group. So, does it have to include Jesus? Well, since religion has done so much damage, I’d imagine rescuing what is good and sacred about the narrative would be a common priority for all, since it would help reshape the landscape, wake up those who are still asleep within Christianity, and reconcile the true followers of Jesus’ teachings to the world their religion has scorched.

Regarding your second question, while the Jesus narrative obviously implies an attempt to find common ground with those outside its traditional boundaries (i.e. atheism), Judaism, Islam, and spirituality in general find much in common with the narrative. These theists would also benefit from such an attempt at unity. 

This is the aim of occupyjesus. I personally think it’s a powerful idea. 

Truth…

Brett Gallaher —  June 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

If you believe you pretty much have theology, philosophy, morality, and reality figured out, you are either adorable, abhor-able, or maniacal. 

…or a freshman in college.

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.

#occupyjesus