John Pavlovitz’s words showed up on my Facebook feed in 2016, winging into my consciousness and shouting from the rooftops about social justice, religion, and the ways in which they don’t always play nicely in the sandbox—even though, from what I hear, Jesus liked to stir things up, question the status quo, and call out hypocrites.
Kind of like John himself. He is a fellow minister, author, and blogger, which explains why I relate so strongly to what he courageously shares. Based on comments from readers of his blog, “Stuff That Needs To Be Said”—some yaysayers and some naysayers—he touches many nerves. In his blog, he taps into the copious amounts of inspiration that surrounds him. It is “ripped from the headlines.” He calls people out, himself included.
What he has to say is revolutionary, but it shouldn’t be. Seems to me that wanting equality for all, standing up for human rights, and having pro-social beliefs should be a no-brainer. Sadly, it isn’t.
As a pastor, some of his writing and speaking call his fellow Christians to walk the talk as he believes Jesus would have done. His words are translatable for people of all faiths—and none. He is the author of a number of books, including A Bigger Table, Low, Rise and Stuff That Needs To Be Said.
His latest is called If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk: Finding A Faith That Makes Us Better Humans. In its pages, he continues to do what he does best, which is to tip sacred cows until they moo loudly.
He claims, “I’m a jerk and so are you. Not always, of course, but sometimes, and that sometimes is what we want to pay close attention to if a loving expression of our personal and collective spirituality really matters to us and we’re truly burdened to alleviate the damage in the world and not contribute to it. In order to better do that, it might be helpful to define our terms before going any further and answer the elemental question, So, what’s a jerk, anyway?” He goes on to explain what that means to him.
He was interviewed by Maria Shriver on her podcast as they spoke about the intention of the book.
John also has a clothing line that gives people who want the opportunity to amplify the messages as walking billboards. I have two shirts that proclaim: “I will always stand on the side of love.”
John dares to speak about the divides between us, wanting to bridge them without succumbing to the “agree to disagree” mentality that many peacemakers endorse. Opinions are about which flavor of ice cream is best or is taking the scenic route to get somewhere better than one that will get you there faster? It isn’t about whether book banning is a bad thing, or whether mask wearing and getting a vaccine are acts of kindness. John thinks they are.
“Thank you for wearing a mask.
Thank you for keeping your distance at the grocery store.
Thank you for staying home, as difficult as it has been.
Thank you for cancelling your long-awaited birthday party.
Thank you for only buying the toilet paper you needed.
Thank you for showing kindness to doctors and nurses.
Thank you for sharing factual news about the virus.
Thank you for not saying ‘Only older people are affected.’
Thank you for not ridiculing experts and worshipping ex-presidents.
Thank you for teaching your children about the greater good.
Thank you for remembering that this life isn’t just about you.
Thank you for being a human.”
He shines a light on the darkness of the January 6th insurrection.
“January 6th was a coordinated attempt to kidnap members of Congress, overturn a free and fair election by its people, and install a president whose criminality is simply unprecedented and whose involvement was complete.
It was a threat to our sovereignty.
It was a rejection of our Constitution.
It was antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.
It was the opposite of patriotism.
It was an historic act of treason.
It was a vicious attack on democracy.
It was a partisan act of domestic terrorism.
It was a violent insurrection.”
At this time, he is also facing his own all-too-human issues. “Last summer I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor and my surgery was on October first. I am doing incredibly well. My body has responded wonderfully to surgery and my physical recovery is nearly complete. In two weeks, we’ll have blood work and an MRI to determine if any of the tumor still remains, and if so, what our treatment options are. But right now, I’m feeling great. The support and encouragement my family has received from people all over the world has been simply unbelievable. It’s really shown me the reciprocal nature of virtual community.”
Wishing John healing and resilience so that he can continue to show up, stand up, and speak out about causes that ought to concern the whole of humanity.