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The 2012 Presidential Election has come and gone. The nation along with the electorate has emerged from the rubble intact, although still very much divided. Social media streams remain flooded with ideological rants, rumors of state secession, and folk apocalyptic treatises claiming the “end” is now near. However, most reasonable citizens have stepped outside and glanced up at the sky, taking note that the heavens have not yet begun to fall to earth. They then lower their gaze, confident the ground will not swallow them up on account of President Obama being reelected to a second term. At the end of the day, life goes on. We will go about our lives much in the same way we went about them before the election. A return to normalcy is inevitable, welcomed, and necessary. Yet the normalcy to which we return is still a society of a radical polarization that runs much deeper than our choice for president. Deep prejudices and ideological differences remain, yet many remain hopeful. Some have suggested another world is possible. I agree. To be honest it is not only possible but essential to our country. To break the cycles of division we must abandon the tired debates that perpetuate this gridlock and elect a new paradigm entirely.

Christianity is still undergoing the growing pains of the Emergent Church movement, threatening to splinter the faithful once again into even further disarray. The secular world is still appalled by the archaic social policies championed by many Evangelicals. The more progressive factions of the church still struggle to reveal a meaningful and logical faith to the world while simultaneously fending off their own spiritual leaders who cry heresy. I once held the optimism many still possess today, hoping against hope that a new Christianity would soon blossom. While that indeed may transpire, such revolution is most likely reserved for our grandchildren, if not our great-great-grandchildren.

In the meantime, church councils continue spinning their wheels developing lackluster programs that amount to little more than self-help programs for a dwindling and aging audience. In the meantime, gay and lesbian teenagers are still sinking into depression or opting for suicide because their Christian friends and families condemn them to hell fire. In the meantime, the rift between theists and atheists continues to grow wider and wider, along with the rift between the gospel and any potential receptivity for wider social reform. While the battle rages to define and defend the meaning of authentic Christianity, the world waits for this Jesus to finally emerge from the tomb of irrelevance.

After a decade of theological courses and several years in active ministry, I came to the personal conclusion that the root of the problem was church itself. It was an awkward conclusion at which to arrive since I had invested the entirety of my education and vocational aspirations to serving and ministering to those within the local church. I do not mean to insinuate churches are evil or corrupt. They are simply not effective catalysts for the type of change the Jesus narrative implies. To be more precise, the “good news” has been supplanted by a mandate to invite people to church functions, “win” souls to Christ, or to promote particular “truths” that must be accepted in order to gain God’s favor. To be even more precise, the church has become preoccupied with reassuring itself.

While many streams of Christianity have begun moving in more meaningful directions, it often resembles a mere flirtation with general spirituality. There is nothing wrong with being a progressive Christian, but if your goal is to somehow transform Christianity into secular humanism, then prepare for a long and heartbreaking journey. Such naiveté is paramount to those expecting to convert the whole world to their particular religion or worldview.

So often I come across Christians whose rhetoric screams, “I am a Christian but man oh man sometimes I wish I wasn’t a Christian, because you know how crazy those Christians can be.” They know it and everyone else in the room knows it. Being a Christian comes with a ton of inconvenient baggage. It is a distraction of astronomical proportions. It ultimately led me to seek new answers. After much thoughtful prayer, excruciating spiritual pain, the sum of my personal experiences, endless contemplation, and several conversations with close friends both inside and outside the Christian faith, it became clear to me that the world was still in need of saving, but awkwardly (again) the church, and Christianity in general, was not prepared to be agent of that change. At least not yet.

Immediately apparent in my conclusion was the fact the world does not need another religion, or even another brand of a current religion. On the other hand the world is still largely a religious place, so calling for fewer religions would only further alienate those at home in faith traditions. The problem with the status quo is an unhealthy preoccupation with belief. Any change must shatter that mold. But how?

I came to believe the unifying factor for humanity must be action, not belief. We must rally around something tangible, something real and life-giving. We must set aside our petty disputes of theology, ecclesiology, ontology, and metaphysics. Put simply, we must learn to love each other genuinely. How is this possible? The narrative of Jesus must be our new unifying factor, but not the way you might suspect.

I started weoccupyjesus.org back in March of this year. It is an attempt to reshape the landscape to include all who are inspired by what Jesus represents, to take back the name of Jesus from special interests and religious fundamentalism. It is a community of atheists, theists, agnostics, and anyone who has been inspired by the gospel narrative. We do not denounce our current convictions, nor ask anyone else to leave their beliefs behind. We simply have a new naive hope that in the midst of our unity and cooperation something truly spiritual is taking place.

We do not seek to strip away Christ’s divinity, or to convert atheists to a life of religion. We do not seek to elevate works over faith. We simply believe that living like Jesus is its own reward. We encourage Christians to keep their faith, maintain their roles in local congregations, and to be the best Christians they can be. We encourage skeptics to be critical, to always question, to always seek the truth as revealed to them, to value this life fiercely. By setting aside the disputes over the unknowable, there is a new freedom that quickly emerges.

Immediately some Christians took offense that any group would use Jesus’ name without first signing off on all the tenants of the “in-house” theology, as if we cannot value the significance of Jesus’ story and example based on its own merits. Instead of asking the Church to change to fit our personal convictions, we agree to let Christianity decide its own identity. Occasionally we come across an angry evangelical who believes somehow we are promoting atheism by not taking a stance on God’s existence or Christ’s divinity. The sheer terror of a world filled with atheists living like Jesus is simply too overwhelming. The possibility that God would accept a skeptic’s life of selflessness as an act of worship never crosses their minds.

More often we receive suspicion from anti-theists who believe we seek to kidnap them, throw them in a van, drive them to a creepy Church camp and sing 70’s folk Christian songs to them until they confess Jesus as personal savior. We forgive them quickly for this suspicion, mostly because many Christians have been hauled off to “Jesus camp” early in life against their will. While the secular community is slow to come around, the ones who have joined our fast-growing virtual community are some of our most “devout” and passionate members. It is truly a beautiful experience that would be nearly impossible outside of We Occupy Jesus.  

There are also many advantages when doctrine and dogma are removed from the equation. There is no organism we are forced to continuously reform. We are the organism and we are already fixed. We are already united, since unity is our primary goal. We have already agreed to put our differences aside. We are already the embodiment of Jesus on earth because we choose to simply live like him, without the structures put in place by the institutions to cloud our passions, to pacify us with programs and propaganda. When we convene, we have already made the choice to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. We have already forgiven them, and they us.  As Jesus would say… “It is finished.”

We Occupy Jesus is not Christianity, but movements like these are important for Christianity. It allows for those within the Church to participate in communities that affirm their convictions as meaningful without fear of political ramifications or (gasp) excommunication, while reforming Christianity simultaneously by fostering greater love for members of the secular community. We Occupy Jesus is also important because it allows for the general humanistic commonalities held by both theists and atheists to be seen clearly by both sides. For us it is clear that many are saying the same things, working to achieve similar goals for a better world even if we disagree profoundly regarding the metaphysics involved. A new day is coming. Some would say it is already here.

#weoccupyjesus


Originally posted to BrettSaidit on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 02:57 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  At last! (16+ / 0-)

    This is a sensational idea.  I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to a church and engaged only to watch it disappear in a sea of insane politics or get caught up in pursuing a "vision" of a megachurch instead of Jesus.

    I'm with you guys 1000%.  Forwarding your post onward...

  •  I have often thought that the "church" is its (14+ / 0-)

    own worst enemy.  Jesus was not about hair splitting doctrine, not about coercion or exclusion.  

    I am amazed that anyone could look at the Pope and what he represents and think it has anything at all to do with the teachings of Jesus.  Really?  Jesus dripping in expensive robes and jewels with billions in the bank while millions are starving?  Hello?

    The question is not what would Jesus do, but what did Jesus do.  There is a clear model which too often gets lost in it's cultural straightjacket.

    “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

    by ahumbleopinion on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 04:29:32 PM PST

  •  Church is an interesting (12+ / 0-)

    thought and concept--says this devoted church member, who is a Liberal Christian.

    Jesus saw value in the group. He surrounded himself with people to support him, as he supported them. Ultimately, that is the beauty of a true church--support to do the work of Jesus. A community of strength to care for others and to care for each other.

    And worship is an important experience to share with the community. If done well, it brings a community together to rally them to be disciples and to follow in Jesus' footsteps. If done horribly, it brings discord between the community of the church and the community of the world.

    I believe we are called to be in the world to care for others, but we need the support of our fellow believers. We need a place to recharge our batteries, so we can continue to care.

    In that sense, we occupy Jesus could very well be a type of church and support for those who would follow and care for the least of these. Church is not a building. It is a group of people working to better the world for others. So, in my mind, a website can serve as a type of fellowship for worship and for working for a better world.

    My thoughts, for what it's worth.

    Peace, Hope, Faith, Love

    by mapamp on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 05:53:55 PM PST

  •  Any move towards de-gunking (10+ / 0-)

    religion (divesting it of authoritarian baggage) I am all for. An agnostic, I sympathize with the religious impulse. But I am not shy about denouncing the abuses of organized religion, some of which you describe in this diary.

    An important book for me has been "The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power," by Kramer and Alstad. Written by and for academics, it doesn't make for the juiciest reading. But its basic argument, for anyone with religious beliefs of their own, or anyone interested in the effects of religion on culture, is seminal: religions, and many other social institutions, get and keep their hold on individuals by breeding self-mistrust. Basic to the teaching of most religions is some unattainable standard of human "goodness," contrasted with the "badness" of mortals in their natural state. Kramer and Alstad are interested in the pervasiveness of this basic morality, even in "New Age" and other belief systems whose adherents fancy they have left the repressive trappings of conventional piety behind.

    Thanks for the diary.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:48:08 PM PST

    •  Thanks for... (5+ / 0-)

      the reply. I'm quite agnostic in my approach to theism, myself. I think that is the result of my own encounters with theology lacking any real inspiration for positive change in both church and society. There is definitely an elusive nature to this goodness we are all seeking.

    •  I often tell the people in my life who are (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BrettSaidit, mskate

      struggling with something to figure out what they want to do and then do it. I reject the notion that mortals are bad in their natural state. But in so many people I see the shadow of that in their struggles. They wonder, "how can what I want to do be the right thing?" But I feel that it's pretty much impossible to ever right yourself from a struggle if you are looking outside yourself for the balance to right yourself.

      It is my major grudge against religion that it disempowers people. It doesn't matter to me whether that is by design or an unhappy side-effect. Making an honest mistake leads to learning and growth. Doing what others tell you to do leads to dependency.

      Anyway I thought all this when I read your comment which I loved. I guess it's a me too comment.

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:30:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In a nutshell (12+ / 0-)
    I came to believe the unifying factor for humanity must be action, not belief.
    Jesus was all about feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and making peace.  Or as Meteor Blades is fond of observing, what you DO tells us what you believe.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:29:07 PM PST

    •  Well, I totally agree that action comes first (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CroneWit

      and foremost. On the other hand, belief should lead to action and be it's guiding force. I'm not talking about believing in a man in the sky, but I am talking about believing in a fundamental force of good. I'm bipolar, and my belief in that divine spirit is part of why I'm still alive despite extended suicidal depressions.
      And I think the author needs to do a little more reading if he/she has come to the conclusion that progressive Christians are no more than secular humanists. Tillich would be a good place to start. For that matter, the Gospels would be the best place to start.

      •  Gosh, samanthab, you mean like how the Gospels (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BrettSaidit

        have done so much in traditional churches to make them the regressive, hidebound, shaming institutions they are?

        The author is bringing forth a new face for Jesus. You don't like it, there's always the Old Testament.

        "I believe more women should carry guns. I believe armed women will make the world a better place. Women need to come to think of themselves not as victims but as dangerous." Anna Pigeon

        by glorificus on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:22:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Where in the 'Gospels' (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ahumbleopinion, NM Ray
          Gosh, samanthab, you mean like how the Gospels have done so much in traditional churches to make them the regressive, hidebound, shaming institutions they are?
          I'm not at all sure which 'Gospels' you refer to that contain teachings that urge regression, entrenchment and harshly judging others. You read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew lately? In those chapters of Matthew that contain that remarkable body of teaching and a call to love as being foremost, people are told that, "Do not judge others harshly, for God will judge you by the same standards by which you judge others." "Shaming" comes out of that? How about the parable of the Good Samaritan, wherein a member of an ethnic group considered by Jesus contemporaries to be unworthy of salvation, was shown to be the one who truly loved his neighbor through action? That's teaching Jesus followers to be hidebound?

          And, the only 'regression' I have been able to find in any of the four Gospels is Christ teaching us that you have be like children, that is, open-hearted, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (A Kingdom that Christ clearly taught is to be enjoined here on earth, not after death.)

          Now my understanding of all this is based on Anglican theology and polity; your mileage may vary.

          Please consider avoiding blanket condemnation through stereotyping.

          "We will find fulfillment not in the goods that we have, but in the good we can do for each other." ~ RFK

          by paz3 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:40:54 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I've read... (0+ / 0-)

        plenty. I have not concluded that progressive Christians are no more than secular humanists, but I get the impression that many have adopted a liberal philosophy and then expect Christianity to simply change. I am myself quite progressive, but I feel the latest pushes by liberal christians to reform the church are less about true orthodoxy and more about trying to make the church adopt all the secular philosophies they fancy, which comes across as more pettiness than genuine acts of love. I guess I'm saying it's getting old hearing Christians talk about how they are so annoyed by Christians, as if they can have their Christ and eat him too (Communion reference?). If they want, they can just come out of the closet as a WOJian. I have, lol.

        "Love is our god, and she is no myth." #weoccupyjesus

        by BrettSaidit on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:12:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  "There is definitely an elusive nature to this (5+ / 0-)

    goodness we are all seeking."  

    I like that admission.  It would be taken as a statement of existential despair by some, but I think it can be a description of a mindset that permits one to see God's presence in the world.  It returns the focus to what He may really be doing or saying, rather than what we think or wish His actions and motives to be.  

    •  Interesting diary, thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BrettSaidit

      I am a non-christian and hadn't heard of this movement.
      I feel that life is about living - and doing.
      Seems like focusing on personal action and in a sense, back to the community is a really positive shift. Just my observation, and maybe I'm mistaken, but it seems to me that the mega-church movement has shifted things away from that focus...like you're just one of the crowd/audience rather than being part of the group. I suppose this is a personal reflection of what is comfortable for me. Any thoughts or clarity on this feeling? Has this movement helped to strengthen local communities and the feeling of belonging so many yearn for when seeking a place of worship?

      ...inspiration moves me brightly

      by wbr on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:45:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, WBR... (0+ / 0-)

        We're still relatively a new movement, so our community is mostly virtual at the moment, but we plan on starting the grass-roots movement once we have a strong following (which should be soon). A new day is coming.

        "Love is our god, and she is no myth." #weoccupyjesus

        by BrettSaidit on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:30:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Your comment on what God may really be saying (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BrettSaidit

      or doing makes me think of what an acquaintence of mine (a retired prison chaplain) says prayer should be - 5 minutes of talking, 55 minutes of listening.

      This IS a great diary.

      The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it. -Ezra Klein

      by bubbajim on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:04:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  one thousand amens to you... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BrettSaidit, ahumbleopinion

    it doesn't take religion to live like Jesus, but all the religions in the world can't teach you that if they don't get it.  

    "It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment." *Ansel Adams* ."Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."*Will Rogers*

    by Statusquomustgo on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 08:26:47 AM PST

  •  Too much dogma, too little following Jesus (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BrettSaidit, ahumbleopinion

    I think that churches through the centuries have focused too much on orthodoxy and not enough on actually living as Jesus taught.

    “Suppose we had written in our creeds and had repeated each time with conviction: ‘I believe in the Sermon on the Mount and in its way of life, and I intend, God helping me, to embody it!’ What would have happened? … The history of Christianity would have been different.”  (E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of the Mount, 12–13)

    Join the 48ForEastAfrica Blogathon for the famine in east Africa: Donate to Oxfam America

    by JayC on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:22:03 AM PST

  •  Great diary! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BrettSaidit

    And a wonderful idea - best wishes for success!

  •  Good diary but.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BrettSaidit

    does Occupy Jesus really need a CEO?  Doesn't sound like the right model to me.

    Tenets, not tenants.

    But I love the idea...I think we need more wandering and active monks, maybe active contemplatives.  And we certainly need to stop taking seriously the institutional churches.

    In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act--Orwell

    by jhannon on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:30:45 AM PST

    •  A letter from the CEO: (0+ / 0-)

      Lol, I'm the CEO in that I created the movement, and it looked nifty on my Facebook status, haha. I'm not sitting behind desk in a city hightower surrounded by bodyguards are anything. But maybe ONE day..... hm.....

      "Love is our god, and she is no myth." #weoccupyjesus

      by BrettSaidit on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:38:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  occupyjesus.org (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BrettSaidit

        I just landed that URL at an auction. Before going to "weoccupyjesus.org" I thought I'd see who had the other URL, thinking that you might have settled for the longer URL due to the other being already registered. Well, GoDaddy was auctioning off the domain because its previous owner had failed to renew. So I bought it. Providence or something. You want that I should re-direct requests for occupyjesus.org to weoccupyjesus.org? Occupyjesus.com seems to also have had its registration expire, but GoDaddy is trying to make a non-trivial amount off that domain name.

        •  Whoa..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Betty Black

          that is kiiiinda crazy you happen to own that url, lol. That would be FANTASTIC if you could redirect to my site. And I did actually choose weoccupyjesus since the other was taken, and I actually am glad I took it too because there are a lot of strange occupyjesus things online who aren't trying to start a movement but only want to sell a t-shirt or something. It made our movement distinct from the rest.

          "Love is our god, and she is no myth." #weoccupyjesus

          by BrettSaidit on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:50:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Will do. (0+ / 0-)

            BTW, the tumblr message re:occupyjesus is from me, too.  Anyway, saw it was available, took a gander at your site and then went back to buy it.  Figured it was too valuable a domain to leave unclaimed.  You're welcome to it when it comes up for renewal next year.  

  •  "a mandate to invite people to church" (0+ / 0-)

    How keen UR observation of this strategy which IMO is naught but the first move in the playing of this religious game of
    harvesting those who have not yet succumbed to the often churchly inducements of those many, who are simple enough to be had by only candles, incense and hypnotic ritual or those  gathered in  by beautiful architecture, a variety of musical
    offerings, giant TVs, sports fields and play grounds for their kiddies.

    That type of invite to their church was extended to my wife and I by a new couple that we
    met.
    They took us to lunch afterward to talk about the experience. The whole thingy was not at all unpleasant for us and certainly not, IMO, as rudely intrusive as the wife of our friendly  couple   who badgered a mutual
    acquaintance of the four of us...who was in hospital dying  and had made it known that she wanted to be left alone into allowing the wife to come to her hospital room...
    The wife, we found out later, barged into the dying woman's room immediately exclaiming,  " ARE YOU RIGHT WITH JESUS?"
    So much for evangelism for me
    no matter how it is labeled.

  •  Citation needed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BrettSaidit

    You said "On the other hand the world is still largely a religious place".  Do you have some information to back this up?  The polls I have seen seem to indicate otherwise.    From a worldwide perspective, I mean.

    •  Well... :) (0+ / 0-)

      http://richleebruce.com/... quotes data from David Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia with the following stats.

      World Population Percentages by Religious Group
      religious 86%, non-religious and anti-religious 14%.

      Religious Groups
      monotheists 54%, reincarnationists 20%, ethno religions 10%

      Monotheists
      Christians 33%, Muslims 21%

      Reincarnationists
      Hindu 13%, Buddhist 6%

      Ethno Religions Chinese 6.3%, tribal 4%

      Non-religious groups
      Non-religious and agnostic 11.9%, anti-religious and atheist 2.3%

      "Love is our god, and she is no myth." #weoccupyjesus

      by BrettSaidit on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 01:21:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thier is hope for families of Jehovah Witness (0+ / 0-)

    I know two Jehovah Witness, i wrote   them  a  letter during the   Thanksgiving Holiday ,these are born in Jehovah Witness, i think my letter  was well recieve by one of the Jehovah Witness, i am not trying  too get them to leave thier faith, i thought  they should at least have least somekind of liberal propective once  in thier  life, i had never been a Jehovah Witness, i have learn how some of them think ,lots of you that have families that  are Jehovah  Witness ,you should always keep  in touch with your Jehovah  Witness families members,someday they will see  light one day

  •  thank you for this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BrettSaidit

    I'm a minister who has been struggling with the issue of how to keep individual spirituality relevant while admitting that the old institutions just don't work anymore -- and folks are staying away in droves to prove it.
    I had to laugh at the line about how invested we ministers can be in the old institutions, since that was my drive in diatribe/self-sermon the morning I found this. I want to be part of creating something new and fresh and accept that I have blind spots around the "right" way of doing things. How can I be part of the solution when parts of my brain are part of the problem? And at a human level, I invested about 13 years and a ton of money into becoming a minister. How can I blow that up now?

    In our Center, we start the sunday service with a candle lighting ritual that honors the major religions because an essential part of our teaching is that there's truth in all of them, and no one path is right for everyone, including our own. I see my job as one of offering tools for self exploration, and to keep teaching folks that they can't look to me for their answer. They have to be willing to find it on their own.

    This is a long post, but there's been so much bubbing in me around this topic that I just needed to spill it. It seems to me that it's not so important to believe in Jesus as it is to believe Jesus, who I call the great example rather than the great exception. Seems to me that most of what (we think) he said was, "Watch what I'm doing. Now you try."

    "I wish I could show you, when you are lonely and in darkness, the astonishing light of your own Being." Hafiz

    by mskate on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 08:49:32 AM PST

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