Member Reviews

If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk is a thought provoking nonfiction book by John Pavlovitz. I have followed Mr. Pavlovitz on Facebook for a while, and love his writing about faith -- that sparked my interested in this book. This is a beautifully written book that inspires kindness and living faith in a thoughtful manner. I recommend it highly for anyone interested in living a kinder, more conscious faith life. (This book would also be great for a book group or Bible study group.)

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This book is such a godsend. It is truly well written. The author puts into words what I have been unable to force myself to articulate about how some evangelical churches do not espouse love.

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This is an amazing book that challenges the way so many Christians have behaved during the pandemic. I highly recommend it whatever side of this fence you are on as it will challenge you and at times encourage you not to give up.

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This book was really hard to keep my momentum. It’s a serious topic but the book was too informal for me. It’s form and approach is very useful for a very specific audience of readers who are teetering on leaving the evangelical church or at least reforming it. For me, I’ve done a lot of theological reading and this thesis about not being a jerk and some of the problems with the evangelical church we’re very elementary and repetitive. After about 2-3 chapters I felt like I got the gist and it was difficult to keep picking this book up. There are many better books on reinventing or evolving your faith out there and I unfortunately wouldn’t recommend this one to someone starting that journey.

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I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Christianity today. I'm reading it slowly and pondering as I go. This book will make you think if you give it a chance. I follow John Pavlovitz'' blog and always find him thought provoking.

Thank you to Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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I received an electronic ARC from Westminster John Knox Press through NetGalley.
Pavlovitz challenges readers to think about their faithwalk and to continue to grow and determine what they believe. His premise about making us better human beings holds as he offers examples and insight on how to live out the Christian faith.
I don't agree with all his points, but that also makes his point to take ownership of our own spiritual journey and push ourselves to grow. I wish there had been more depth to some of his chapters but this book flows like his social media postings and offers quick bites for readers to dig deeper into on their own.

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This is a very difficult book to review for a lifelong evangelical Christian like me, who has also been a political conservative up until the last five years or so. Over these recent years my eyes have been opened to the perception that we evangelical Christians have given far too often of being mean-spirited and uncaring. The author does a great job of pointing out so many different areas where we have a chance to show the love of God to those who don't know him but instead we oftentimes drive these people further away by our treatment of them. To me, the number one takeaway of the book by far is being conscious of how we treat others and being intentional of treating everyone as if they were created in the image of God, which of course is what we believe as evangelical Christians. For this alone, the book is worth the read.

One of the challenges of reading the book comes from the total disdain the author often expresses for basically anyone who disagrees with him. A little "pot calling the kettle black", as it were, considering how much emphasis he places on our treatment of others. He also often tends to resort to crudeness when it actually serves no purpose and detracts from the value of the book. Of course crudeness, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder so perhaps it is a fault with me rather than him.

The biggest challenge for me, as one who has a high view of Scripture (rightly interpreted, of course) is the cavalier way he often treats Scripture. Although he professes to love the Bible and refers to himself as a student of the Bible, he expends much time and effort seemingly poking fun, not only at Scriptures with which he has an issue, but oftentimes at God himself. In forming his theological viewpoint, what comes across in the book is that this viewpoint is based solely on his opinions and he simply discards any Scripture that doesn't support that opinion. This too is very interesting since he derides and belittles those who are more theologically conservative than he is, making fun of their use of "proof texts", although he in effect seems to do the same thing, although somewhat in reverse.

Overall the book was a big help to me as I continue to try to sort out the proper approach to Scripture, mainly in terms of treating everyone the way God would have me treat them, while at the same time remaining true to His revealed Word. Unfortunately for many open minded evangelical Christians, it would be very difficult to garner the "wheat" from the book due to the necessity of sorting through so much "chaff". It is quite probable that he never intended to write the book in such a way as to be of assistance to evangelical Christians, considering them (us) to be a lost cause. However, I can attest to the fact that there are many of us out here who realize there is something drastically wrong with the current state of the American evangelical church and are looking for answers, many of which can be found in this book, but I can't see very many of those people being willing to wade through the overall tenor of the book to try to glean the nuggets contained therein.

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There is so much I loved about this book even though parts of it were hard to read and other parts made me put down the book for days to ponder over what was said. This book is wonderful and deep and says so many things that have needed said for a lot of years.
While I agree with so much of the book, I had a few beefs with it. One of my biggest is that towards the end he said he doesn't have it all figured out (good for him) and that we all think our views are right (true). In the very next chapter he bashes a person for not being a good Christian...wait what?! I agree with what he said but what if he and I are the ones in the wrong (even though I don't think we are)?
A few times he also bashes the Republican party. I don't feel like all Republicans feel one way and all Democrats feel another. While I think the leaders of both groups keep getting more divided there is still a good amount of people a lot more middle of the road and to say ALL Republicans feel that way, really irked me.
My last issue with the book was it brought up Covid A LOT and I'm so over reading about, talking about, anything Covid.
Overall great book that I'm thrilled I read.
Thank you Netgally for giving me the opportunity to read this book for my honest opinion.

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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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