John Pavlovitz is a pastor, writer, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. He’s spent nearly three decades teaching, studying, dissecting, deconstructing, and reconstructing the Christian faith. Committed to equality, diversity, and justice, John aims to teach a single, elemental truth: Faith in a supernatural being should make you a better human being. His blog, Stuff That Needs to Be Said, recently surpassed one hundred million views, and his previous books include A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, and Low.

ABOUT THE BOOK

JOHN PAVLOVITZ INVITES YOU TO UNBOX GOD, REEXAMINE YOUR FAITH, AND LOVE YOUR DAMN NEIGHBOR

For many people, their former religious doctrines have begun to feel like an old pair of tight pants—you can hop, shimmy, and try to cram yourself in, but you can’t deny that they no longer fit. Healthy spirituality shouldn’t be kept in a space too small or narrow. It’s natural for it to grow and evolve along with us. That journey can be initially terrifying but ultimately liberating.

In If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk, John Pavlovitz invites us to look at organized Christianity with fresh eyes and to ask whether or not many modern expressions of it are actually loving. Pushing readers to be agents of empathy, he asks us to imagine a world in which all people of faith, morality, and conscience aspire to a mantra of compassion and interdependence. John  encourages the creation of wide open, fearless communities, where there are no “religious experts,” simply good neighbors. Belief systems should be reflected in how we treat one another. The most important question of any dogma shouldn’t be “Is it true?” but rather “Is it helpful?”

Join the “Church of Not Being Horrible” and find a world where spiritual community provides a sense of belonging. Take a new look at the existence of hell, the utility of prayer, the treatment of LGBTQ+ communities, and the value of anger. Reshape your relationship with God and your neighbors and remind yourself that love has the last and loudest word. Because above all else, faith shouldn’t make you jerk.

TALKING POINTS

  • Why it’s time for Christians to bring back the golden rule, and how love the sinner, hate the sin is one of the single most unloving expressions there has ever been.
  • How diverse communities inspire the healthy growth of ideas and the sense of being found because religion that isn’t compassionate and inclusive is a waste of time and of no interest to nonreligious people.
  • Hell is incompatible with a loving God—the Church doesn’t have time for doubt or difference, and it’s time Christians evolve from “ol’ time religion” and using fear to promote compliance.
  • How COVID-19 exposed the toxic theology beneath proclaimed “loving” beliefs.
  • 3 ways God transcends traditional gender definitions, homophobia and misogyny.
  • American Evangelicalism is built on the faulty premise that God is a white, cisgender, heterosexual man, born in America, raised Christian, and who votes Republican.
  • Pro-life means for humanityConservative Christianity’s fixation on abortion and lack of a consistent pro-life ethic is driving people from the Church.
  • Christian Nationalism is antithetical to the expansive message of Jesus. It is impossible to be both For God So Loved the World and America First.
  • “Bible believing” Christians are intellectually dishonest and need to admit the vastness and complexity of the Scriptures and their selective interpretation of them.

TIMELY TIE-INS

  • September is Self-Improvement Month
  • September is National Courtesy Month
  • September 5 is International Day of Charity
  • September 13 is Positive Thinking Day
  • September 20 is Respect Day
  • September 21 is International Peace Day
  • September 28 is National Good Neighbor Day
  • October is Clergy Appreciation Month
  • October is Global Diversity Awareness Month
  • October 17 is Conflict Resolution Day
  • October 19 is Evaluate Your Life Day
  • October 23 is Make a Difference Day
  • November is Transgender Awareness Month
  • November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance

ADVANCE PRAISE

“John asserts that he is a ‘longtime Christian by aspiration (if not always in practice),’ and his book demonstrates how his choices—his practice—have matched that aspiration repeatedly, even when he’s sad, angry, or disillusioned. John’s compassion, humanity, humility, and humor are present throughout. His candor is authentic, and his inspiration accessible and also challenging, in the very best sense. This is a book for anyone on a journey of faith or a journey of service, whether or not those two, as they do for John, intertwine—or for anyone who loves a terrific read.” — Chelsea Clinton, author and advocate

“Complete with a discussion guide, this is a sobering yet inspiring discourse for open-minded, thoughtful readers.” — Library Journal, starred review

“With conviction and clarity, If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk advocates a life based on empathy and acceptance in the powerful, earnest voice of “an honest and stumbling disciple trying to find the truest truth and live it.” It’s hard to imagine a more urgent and vital message for today’s spiritual seekers.” — Foreword Reviews

“With clarity and candor, John reminds us of the compassion at the heart of what it means to be a spiritual human being and offers a loving expression of faith that is so necessary right now. If God Is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk calls us to create a more just and equitable world—one that affirms the beauty in all humanity—and leaves us feeling that it is all within our hands.” — Yvette Nicole Brown, actress, writer, and activist

“John Pavlovitz is the real thing. His compassion, empathy, wisdom, and guts will remind you of what Jesus actually preached. This self-described ‘theological mutt’ is a pastor, a prophet, a poet, and a prince. John has given us a book of great insight and wit. It will remind you of what Christianity is supposed to be about. I can’t wait to give it as a gift.” — John Fugelsang, comedian, writer, and political commentator

“John gives us a road map to take the best parts of our religious beliefs and find a space for reconciliation, compassion, and kindness—not just for others but for ourselves. John’s bold, unwavering voice encourages us to find our common ground and, together, to rise up against bigotry and hatred.”  — Amy Siskind, activist and author

“John Pavlovitz is an artisan of words. He’s a poet and a provocateur. Like the prophet Jeremiah, he’s got a fire ‘shut up in his bones’ that has to come out. That fire is love. But the love he writes about is not the sentimental love of storybooks and fairy tales and greeting cards. It is the harsh and dreadful love that Dostoyevsky spoke of—the love that caused Jesus to flip tables in the temple, the love that got the prophets killed, the love that led the freedom fighters to jail and the martyrs to be burned at the stake. The love John writes about is the love that keeps us up at night because there are folks still out on the streets while we have an extra room in our homes. It is the love that cuts with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, because before we can get better, we have to cut out the cancer that made us sick. Enjoy this book, and let it mess with you.” — Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and cofounder of Red Letter Christians