John Pavlovitz is a former Christian pastor who seems to still be trying to figure out what he believes, and there’s no shame in that. He’s close to my age, and his side of the story is that in 2013 a megachurch fired him because he “didn’t fit in.”
(I wonder what their side of the story is.)
Since then he seems to have moved precipitously to the progressive side of the Christian ledger – the one that seems more concerned about Christians being “judgmental hypocrites” and wants them to be accepting of the gay lifestyle and so forth.
I’ll leave it to God to deal with Pavlovitz’s evolving doctrine, but I think I have standing to rebut a recent piece he wrote that’s getting a lot of traction on social media, titled: White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You.
This is basically about the willingness of white evangelicals, at least as Pavlovitz sees it, to look the other way at the moral failings of Donald Trump after having done the opposite where Barack Obama is concerned.
Now that would be a fair criticism if it was true. But is it? Pavlovitz may be quite the crusader against judgmentalism and hypocrisy, but he needs to work a little bit on slander and generalizing. Consider this broadside concerning white evangelical treatment of Obama:
And through it all, White Evangelicals—you never once suggested that God placed him where he was,
you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family,
you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities,
you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance,
you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy,
your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership,
your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him,
you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.
You violently opposed him at every single turn—without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.
Wow. Not a single white evangelical prayed publicly for Obama, ever. He never spoke at a Christian university? (What does Pavlovitz think Notre Dame and Georgetown are? And did Obama ask to speak at any others and get turned down?) Not a single white Christian ever gave Obama the benefit of the doubt? He asked all of us about every single instance? It’s the job of pastors in the pulpit to “offer solidarity” with Obama? (What does that even mean?) He was never shown the love of Jesus “in any quantifiable measure”?
No, white evangelicals “violently opposed him at every single turn.”
That about covers it. I had no idea we were that perfect in our application of our opposition to Obama.
None of this is true, of course. I remember many spirited discussions about the need to pray for President Obama simply because of the position he held, without agreement with him being a necessary condition. I remember giving Obama credit for everything from the firing of GM’s Rick Wagoner to a surprisingly good speech on terrorism in the aftermath of San Bernardino. I criticized him a lot more than I credited him, because I disagree with him a lot more than I agree. And I was never tougher on him than I was over the fate of Kayla Mueller.
But what Pavlovitz seems to miss here is that criticism of any public officeholder can be offered respectfully and fairly – entirely consistent with the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ – as long as it’s substantive, factual and not intended as a personal attack. White evangelicals tend to be conservative on everything from economic to social issues, so we tend to disagree with Obama a lot and we say so.
I heard many white evangelicals credit Obama for the strength of his marriage and family. Bathing the White House in gay rainbow lights, on the other hand, came off as a complete insult to everyone who believes what the Bible says on the subject. (Then again, it doesn’t sound like Pavlovitz believes what the Bible clearly says on the subject, so maybe he doesn’t see what the problem is.)
The major problem with Pavlovitz’s broadside, of course, is that this is exactly what it is: A broadside. It’s filled with massive exaggerations, oversimplifications and in a few cases outright untruths.
Yet I suspect Pavlovitz thinks it’s all true, either because he had a bad experience with some evangelicals and he’s now mad at all of us, or because he’s so thrown in with the left-wing callout culture that he just assumes all these class-action slanders are fair.
By the way, I noticed something on Pavlovitz’s “about” page. He says he’s a 20-year ministry veteran “trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus.”
Oh dear. If he’s a 20-year ministry veteran he should know that all Scripture is God-breathed, and he should be living out all of it. The red-letter words of Jesus, of course, but not only those. This sounds like the basis for one of those currently popular progressive tropes in which they claim “Jesus never said anything about” whatever issue they’re trying to deny the biblical truth of. It can be all over the epistles of Paul, but if it’s not in the red-letter words of Jesus, they think they can ignore it.
Maybe John Pavlovitz needs to bone up on how the Bible works for starters. It would tell him, among other things, not to launch into unfounded attacks on millions of people. Those who label themselves Christians, but spend a lot more time attacking other Christians than they do proclaiming Christ, are telling you a lot about themselves.
I’m starting to think I know why he got fired from that job.