Cover Image: If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk

If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk

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Member Reviews

John Pavlovitz has done it again, writing a timely book with unflinching—and necessary—honesty. He manages to challenge the vocal white evangelical status quo with frankness and humor, delivering a script in the void between the loud fringe and where everyone else is (or should be).
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This is quite a powerful, inspirational, and motivational read. The author is clearly a subject matter expert on Christianity and the Bible. The purpose of this book (as I see it), is to "cut the fluff", step away from the religious traditions, propaganda, and rituals that have no Biblical or Christian basis, in effort to come back to a new baseline for following the lead Jesus showed in loving our neighbors (and ourselves), regardless of there range, gender identity, sexual orientation, faith background, and any other demographics we reflect on.

This read is at times uncomfortable, and the author warns readers early on. But, I agree with the author, often uncomfortable talks signify productive topics and discussions.

Several common themes throughout this read include:
-hating is easier than living  how can we hate less and love more? 
    -we need to reconsider our own biases. We all have them, and understanding and accepting them is the first step to overcome them
-are we doing what the Bible says and what God wants, or projecting what we want onto the Bible or God?
-finding ways to connect with people we disagree, or "collaborate compassion", helps understand others' perspectives, decrease tension, and help find ways to love them
-are we "weaponizing" the Bible? 
-why are faith communities competitive to each other?
-does Jesus want us to see Christianity as a spiritual warfare, and converting people as "pawns", or simply love them and share Jesus' live to the vulnerable
-discussion on ways anger can be healthy and productive
-can we stop simply being nice, and rather be Christ-like?

I highly recommend and look forward to reading more from this author!
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I enjoyed A Bigger Table, an invitation to let everyone in to worship. When I saw this book, I knew I would enjoy it as well. John Pavlovitz talks about present-day strains and how Christianity needs some change. I loved this book because he showed me I wasn't alone; that other Christians struggled with the same issues I did. The only issue is that the people who should read this book probably won't. That is sad because we need to all stop being jerks to one another.
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I was already a big John Pavlovitz fan prior to receiving a pre-publication copy of this book--his writings gave voice to so many of us after the 2016 election,  so I was curious to see what he had to say in this new book. I believe current readers of his musings  and new readers alike will find this new book to be thought provoking as the author asks some great questions and throws down some timely challenges. I especially enjoyed the section on "The Church of Not being horrible" where he challenges us to forget about power and polish and instead focus on being a community of believers who grow together. I believe many will be drawn to this reimagining of faith and church in a time where so many have co-opted Christian and made us wonder what Jesus they worship. If you still see yourself as a Jesus Follower and don't think that means being a jerk then this book is for you.
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This book will make you think and change the way you interact with the world! The book discusses how God commanded us to love and how we are failing to live this commandment. The book gives real life examples of people professing their Christianity but not showing it in life. I connected with this book on a personal level and have many highlights throughout my copy. The author gives many examples of how to change the world that is around us. This is a must read book, especially if you’re struggling with your faith in the world we live in now.
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Initially, it was the title of this book that caught my attention. But the content of the book kept it.

“I often envision an exasperated Jesus coming back, and the first words out of his mouth to his followers as his feet hit the pavement being 'You had one job: Love. So, what happened?'” 
– John Pavlovitz

In a world where Christians can often be the ones acting the most unloving, this book is needed to remind us to do better.

“If we were to reflect and have honest conversations with one another—and more importantly, with people outside our gatherings—we’d likely find that the most serious wounds to the body of Christ have been self-inflicted. The Church is not fighting the rebellious, faithless, heathen world, as I’d always been taught, but itself. And as a result, I find myself in two fierce battles lately. I am simultaneously fighting both with and for my faith tradition.” 

The things we hear about the church’s reputation these days is troubling. Another quote from the book:

“Sadly, the American Church has in many ways become the greatest argument for someone not becoming a Christian, for rejecting organized religion and never looking back.” 

But even as we fail to live up to the ideal image of Christ, can’t we at least not be jerks?

It’s not easy, but I want to do this:

“Loving beyond our capabilities is almost always going to be inconvenient beforehand and beautiful afterward, rarely the other way around. . . . Nothing feels as good as when we show someone more decency than they may deserve, when we err on the side of loving them—even if their response is less than appreciative.” 

This book encourages us to err on the side of loving more and judging less.

Love is our one job. Let’s not screw it up.

I highly recommend this book to help us. 

My thanks to NetGalley + Westminster John Knox Pressfor the review copy of this book.
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We Have One Job; LOVE!
Loving God and neighbor and self is the elemental stuff of Christian prayers, songs, T-shirts, and bumper stickers...and we all know that.

However, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Love is the path that Jesus laid out for us. This book is about the walking: about imagining what love should or could look like if we take that mandate seriously. 

My Thoughts 
John Pavlovitz has written a powerful book that challenges the reader to really think about the conclusions we hold about the character of God. Our ability to be loving to ourselves and our neighbors is in many ways a product of these conclusions.

"One set of answers will yield a hopeful, compassionate benevolence that continually moves us to welcome others in and to live with an openhanded generosity...and another is likely to construct a scalding, brimstone-laden judgmentalism that leaves us predisposed to exclude and prone to finger-wagging."

The author believes we should be compassionate and empathetic to our fellow human beings. We are all jerks at times...setting out to hurt another person and succeeding. We should ask ourselves, "Am I trying to understand this person, or am I trying to defeat them?" Understanding is a key element in love.

We tend to see the world through the filters of our personal background, culture, and education. It is really difficult to be open-minded and understand the reasons for our preferences and prejudices. We live in our own little world and are mostly ignorant about how the rest of the world is living. This book encourages you to open your mind and your heart. It asks you to really SEE what is going on around you. Your religion is not what you believe, your religion is how you treat people.

Mr. Pavlovitz comes down hard on traditional evangelical churches and challenges them to be "The Church of Not Being Horrible." We have ONE job: LOVE!

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Pavlovitz was at one time a successful evangelical pastor. Then he pursued a spiritual journey that took him to a place where he now says he would no longer describe himself in such terms. His is a messy faith, he says. He questions the existence of hell. He questions the purpose of prayer. While there is much about which Pavlovitz and I do not agree, I realize this is a valuable book that should be read by Christians, whatever their tribal description. He's not one of “us” any longer but, my goodness, does he have some insightful comments.

Pavlovitz writes as an insider. He has studied and preached the Bible for decades. He realizes he, like all of us, is working with an incomplete knowledge and understanding of what Scripture says. But he does know Jesus gave us one assignment, one great command: to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves. And Pavlovitz doesn't like how contemporary Christians are handling that assignment. He recognizes a “loveless, Jesus-less Christianity” that exists today. (89/2553) He wonders what happened to compassion, the essential aspect of following Jesus. He identifies toxic faith and bad theology. He knows when a counterfeit Christ is being presented. He is concerned that we are no longer representing a God that non-Christians would want to seek. 

Pavlovitz's faith is messy. His theology is fluid. Nonetheless, his spiritual journey has yielded one statement he can hold on to: “faith shouldn't make you a jerk.” (684/2553) Rather, we should be people rooted in love for humanity (all of it, not just the unborn). We must stop being a barrier to God. Pavlovitz has observed the behavior of Christians during these last years, during the time of crisis, and has seen the facade of loving Christianity ripped away. Rather than wearing a face mask as a deeply spiritual act embodying love for neighbor, for example, not wearing one became a loveless act and a political weapon.

This is a thought provoking book. It is especially of interest to people who have left organized Christianity, feeling the rug has been pulled out from beneath them. You are not alone in your messy faith, Pavlovitz assures. You will be helped to imagine what being a Christian is like when walking out the command to love. This book is not for Christians who think they have their faith settled, however, who are dependent upon that hour Sunday morning for their spirituality. You are not ready for the uncomfortable work of reexamining your image of God and the love He commands.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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Though the title of If God is Love Don’t Be a Jerk, sounds like a directive, John Pavlovitz’ message inside feels more like an invitation, a welcoming home into a shared space for people who feel like outsiders and outcasts in American Christianity. 

This is a book for people who feel perplexed and distraught about the battles than many American Christians are waging and the inexplicable hills churches seem willing to die on. 

This is a book for people who believe that compassion and conviction can, and should, coexist in our faith and our churches. It is also a book for people who need gentle reminders that jerkiness and smugness isn’t limited to any one point of view and you can absolutely do the wrong things for the right reasons.

This is a book for people who look around and don’t recognize what the Christianity they loved has become, but also for those who saw where this road was leading a mile away. It’s a book for people who are passionately and creatively working to re-center their churches on Love from inside those spaces, and also a book for those who have felt compelled to walk away. It’s a book for anyone who believes that God calls us to be advocates for enduring, compassionate Love. 

 Thank you to the author, NetGalley, and Westminster John Knox Press for an advanced copy of this book for review.
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My Review
If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans
If God is Love, Don't Be A Jerk may hit you right between the eyes. No matter what you believe or what political affiliation you might identify with, this book should make you pause and examine your beliefs. I couldn't put it down as the author seemed to be living in my headspace during these traumatic times.

John Pavlovitz will have you exploring your beliefs about God and religion and where they originated in your life. Were we blindly led along our path to believe what we do?  Did we question and explore and challenge the religious authority in our lives that led us to where we are today? Is the way we treat people based on our religious background? Are we cruel in our judgment because we believe that is what God tells us to do? How do we interpret God's love? Is it a love of inclusion or exclusion? If God is Love Don't Be a Jerk should have us all examining how we live in the name of religion.

I would imagine the author is going to get flack over this piece of work because it goes against the norm of what we expect from books about Christianity.  Finally, someone says what many of us have wondered but not dared to speak in our religious affiliations. John Pavolitz in If God Is Love Don't Be A Jerk, Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Human Beings, challenges all of us to do better in our lives and our interactions with others.
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John Pavlovitz makes a lot of good points in his book If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans. I agree with much of what he says, and yet the book left me with very mixed feelings about it.

He speaks of the tendency of many churches (evangelical and mainline alike) to have very homogenous congregations, which tend to reinforce their own beliefs and don't lead to opening their hearts, arms, or thinking to those who would be outside their circles. He tells of the many people who have been hurt by organized religion, ignored, made to feel evil or less-than for being who they are. He urges readers to look deeply at themselves, at their true beliefs, and at whether they are living their beliefs in their daily encounters. He reminds us that we have ONE job, to love, and gives us examples of how we have fallen short. We have taken Jesus and his teachings out of the main focus of our religions and turned them into nationalistic and political platforms. I have seen that for myself in many churches and agree with him on that as well.

I believe that Christianity should be about following the loving, compassionate, inclusive nature and teachings of Christ; to serve more people, not less; to look for ways to make someone's life better, not making them feeling less than or as an outsider. I believe we should speak with respect, gentlesness, and seek to understand the things that we don't.

Where Pavlovitz lost me in several places is that he seemed to become what he was speaking against; crossing from strongly making a point to ranting against the groups he accused of their own biases. How is that any better? Rather than giving me hope that we might be able to change and embrace "the only job you have is to Love" and "religion shouldn't make you a jerk" themes, I just saw the same divisiveness that's been playing out in our country and churches for years and I am so, SO, tired of it!!!

My thanks to NetGalley and Westminster John Knox for allowing me to read an ecopy of this books scheduled for publication on 9/28/21. All opinions (and any errors) expressed in this review are my own.
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I loved this book. It was basically preaching to the choir but I appreciated knowing I haven't been alone in my reevaluation of the Evangelical church and where my faith fits in all that.
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Wow! This book is exactly what I didn't know I was looking for in my faith journey. When John Pavlovitz says that spirituality should constantly be unfolding & that we should always look at new information to possibly move us from a stuck position (paraphrasing on my part), I wanted to stand up & cheer. This is such a positive view on a religion that has taken a lot of negative turns lately. I always thought about the question if Jesus was always for the least of these & told his followers to be for them as well, how are we in our current situation? I know it's not as black & white as that but this book really helped with some of this struggle. Whether is you're someone that labels themselves as "Christian" or someone that isn't sure about the whole "Jesus thing," I highly recommend this book. If nothing else, maybe it'll help us all love a little better.
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The premise is simple:  Christians are instructed to love.  This book is about implementing that love--walking the walk and taking our mandate seriously.  Pavlovitz walks us through what that looks like--and what it does NOT look like--as that is implemented by Christians in the US today.  He uses clear, unashamed, direct talk about authentic Christianity.  His writing is accessible to a broad range of people: Christians, atheists, and those of other religions can all equally access what he is saying and how it fits into our cultural context. 
His writing seems passionately disenchanted with mainline evangelical Christianity, which strikes a chord within my own uncertain soul.  What am I really certain of?  He breaks it down to the core tenants and what it means to really be a follower of Christ in word and in deed.
Having said that, he also seems to be almost partisan, pointing a finger at people he disagrees and seeming to be unsympathetic to the haters and Trump followers.  This strikes me as almost un-loving, but I suppose it could also be seen as "tough love".  I have observed that it is easy to be accepting of everyone, but to reserve a special kind of intolerance for those who are intolerant of others, and Pavlovitz seems to stray into that territory at times.   He has a kind of Paul-like arrogance at times (claiming in other words to be "Pharisee's Pharisee"), while simultaneously claiming to be uncertain and against being categorized.  His vehement opposition to (or rejection of) some things is in start contrast to his praise and support of others.
In the end, I found this book to be extremely powerful and I absolutely will recommend it to others.  It uses plain speaking to talk about real issues and what Jesus' priorities were--and what ours should be too.  He doesn't mince words in pointing out that Jesus is growing to be irrelevant in the very religion that bears his name, and I took this as a wake-up call for myself and my culture.
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"If God is Love, Don't Be a Jerk" by John Pavlovits 
A Bit of Something for Everyone… 
    A good book to get you THINKING,,, IF you are brave enough to read this book from beginning to end.
IF you care to stretch your boundaries and take another look at your congregation whether it be a church or just those you associate with socially.  This just might be a great book to read as a group and discuss the Chapters as you go.  There is a 'discussion guide' with starter questions for each chapter.  If you have a lively group, you will probably come up with plenty of points to discuss on your own. Note: book would have been better served without the political bias barbs. Being a member of a political party (or any group) does not mean blindly following all actions of party/group leaders.  Religion and Politics do NOT make good bed-fellows.
    One thing I think is quite true of each of us… we tend to gather together with those most like our selves.  Others who, mostly, have the same values on the things we think are most important.  Sadly, that is at the same time, what separates us as we judge those outside our group as needing to change and be like us.  Which wouldn't be so bad, except each group thinks they are the ONLY group that is attempting to live the 'Best/Right Way' (including this author??).  Happy Reading ! !
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley
This review is my honest opinion.  Wish my church congregation would read this book.
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If God is love, Don't be a jerk
by John Pavlovitz 
Publish date: Sept. 28, 2021 

In If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk, John Pavlovitz examines the bedrock ideas of our religion: the existence of hell, the utility of prayer, the way we treat LGBTQ people, the value of anger, and other doctrines to help all of us take a good, honest look at how the beliefs we hold can shape our relationships with God and our fellow humans--and to make sure that love has the last, loudest word. 

I am new to the writing of John Pavlovitz. I am now a fan.  This book caused me to think about my way of life and how i treat others. 
Great book! 
5 star
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I was immediately drawn to this John Pavlovitz book by its title – If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk. For much of the last several years, I’ve faced the reality that so many of my fellow brothers and sisters in faith – and certainly me at times – have given Christianity a bad name.

When I mention that I’m a member of a church or a Christian, I receive looks of disgust, disdain, or disappointment. Why? Because the word “evangelical” has become synonymous with “jerk” at best and “monster” at worst in this country and many others around the world.

Even before I got through the introduction of If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk, I knew I’d love it – and knew it would be a productive read for myself and others like me who want to demonstrate our faith in a loving, compassionate way – but also for those who’re less prone to reading this book. (The humor of the opening illustration didn’t hurt for drawing in this rock ‘n roll gal’s heart, either.)

I’ll be honest – I’m still reading the book. I’m taking my time, going page by page in the midst of my new seminary classes as I read theology and doctrine, Church history, and more. Intermingling the reading of this book with my reading for seminary has been a boon to the integration of old and new thoughts from my formerly more legalistic and Calvinistic days.

The book is not a theology book in the traditional sense. It isn’t founded on the fathers of the ages. It isn’t written to be used in classroom settings. Instead, it’s a practical read that has illustrations and poignant stories and moments that help the reader see even more of the value of, well, not being a jerk in the name of Jesus.

So, if you’re looking for a book that will challenge some of your thinking, ask you questions you didn’t realize you needed to ask yourself, or just need to commiserate with someone else who agrees that God is love and not an angry old white dude with a blazing staff of lightning ready to strike down your enemies for you, this book could well be what you’re looking for. It certainly was for me.
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This book is great for progressive Christians who are tired of watching their religion being turned into something it was never intended to be. I don’t think it will move anyone on the “other side” to change their ways, but I appreciated the book and its message.
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I was intrigued by the title of John Pavlovitz’s book, If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk. A book about love sounded innocent enough. Many Christian living books want to make us feel better about ourselves. Not this one, rather this book’s message may leave you feeling worse about yourself. 
Most of don’t want to be “jerks”, we want to be “better humans.” John challenges us to examine our assumptions about God, Jesus, church, and love- especially love for those who look, think, believe, and behave differently from us. In his view, most of us in the evangelical, conservative Christian world act like jerks. 
John spares no group or dogma; he calls out racism, homophobia, misogyny, nationalism, and Trumpism. He names the “greatest sin of the American evangelical church”-parochial self-centered existence. 
John deplores self-righteousness while sounding self-righteous himself at times. He admits he is angry but seems to believe it is a righteous anger on behalf of those who are marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against.
John shares his own rocky faith journey which led him away from traditional mainstream Christianity into a belief system that interprets the Bible more liberally and emphasizes strong commitment to social justice issues.   
Initially I was irked by his attitude but eventually came to recognize his anguish over what he sees as the failings of the Church and individual Christians-lack of genuine love. The book’s tone changes as he concludes by pleading with us to be more tender hearted, empathetic, merciful-in other words more like Jesus.
I wished he had said more of this at the beginning, as some of his earlier chapters were strong enough in their rebuke to turn away the very people who most need to read them. But if readers are willing to stick with him, and hear his heart as well as his head, it might cause a revolution in the Church as well as the nation and the world.
John Pavlovitz’s words may not change your mind but may just move your heart if you are open and willing.
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Of course, the title of John Pavlovitz’s book tells you the story: "If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us a Better Human." You might be tempted to believe that you’ve gotten the gist and skip this book. Don’t. It’s the perfect guide for our times.

The truth is that there is so much toxic faith out there — what was once called “a bad witness” — that, increasingly, young people are turning their backs on religion altogether. White Evangelical leaders are reassuring themselves that, as has been historically true, their own children, after falling away in their early 20s, will return once they marry and have kids. But that is no longer happening for any Protestant denomination, Evangelicals included. Only 45% of Millennial parents (ages 24 to 39) say they take their kids to church. In addition, only 23% of young Millennials say they turn to religion to guide them on right and wrong.

But what if the religious weren’t trying to shame and blame, to “shrink the table” (the subject of Pavlovitz’s classic "A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community")? What if we sided with the oppressed? With the poor? With the ill? You know, like Jesus did? How would that change the Church? And the world? Pavlovitz doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers, but he has enough answers to make me so glad that I read this sequel to "A Bigger Table." Highly recommended.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley and Westminster John Knox Press in exchange for an honest review.
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