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Book Review: If God is Love, Don't Be a Jerk

Written by John Pavlovitz | Reviewed by Jo Wiersema

John Pavlovitz’s book If God is Love, Don’t be a Jerk: Finding a Faith that Makes us Better Humans, offers an alternative to combative, evangelical Christian theology. Written from a more progressive viewpoint, Pavlovitz, argues for the love and compassion of Jesus to permeate in not only the church, but throughout all our Christian actions. Pavlovitz argues the voice of Christians has been impacted negatively by the American view of Christianity that is largely far-right, nationalist, and evangelical.

Pavlovitz paints some very large brush strokes about the Evangelical church that pushes a “Biblical view” of Christianity and does so in a way that I, personally, don’t believe leads with love. As much as Pavlovitz pushes back against the broad stereotyping of liberal Christianity, he is willing to stereotype conservative Christianity. This book is great for individuals who are looking for progressive and LGBTQ+ affirming literature to support their perspective. Though written as an opposing view for the conservative theology, I wouldn’t recommend sending this as a Christmas present to your least favorite, Trump voting Uncle.

Pavlovitz argues, appropriately so, that we cannot change other people, be we can focus on ourselves. It’s much easier for us to look at others and critique their flaws, their religion, and their acting out of Christ’s love (or not so love). What we can control is how we show love. Instead of combating fire with fire, we can share our testimonies to honor God. God works in every one of us through our experiences with the Holy Spirit, and those experiences are not something to be dismissed as God has a plan.

Pavlovitz challenges every one of us to find space to move, where we can share God’s love and act in passionate ways to our neighbor and our community. I recommend this book to the everyday person who is struggling to explain their faith in a modern America where “Christianity” has a very negative connotation. This book is a valuable reflection for the liberal Christian who wants to engage in thoughtful dialogue with their neighbor and reaffirm their faith as something beyond the Americanized meaning of Christianity.

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