Chapters 15 & 16

Chapter 15: “Love Your Damn Neighbor”

Pavlovitz begins this chapter talking about the “privilege bundle”; being male, financially comfortable, White, cisgender, and Christian in our current society giving him a privileged position in our society. He points out that those who benefit from a privileged position benefit from inequity and therefore have a vested interest in defending the system that allows this privilege.  He speaks of the “really bad God story” which comes from our “local neighborhood”- the background we grew up in.   However, he emphasizes the importance of recognizing privilege, because such recognition leads to greater awareness of the challenges that those less privileged face. Becoming insular, both in our “neighborhoods” and in “social media tribalism” encourages a lower tolerance for disagreement. He gives the example of white evangelism, which is built on seeing God as a cisgender heterosexual White American Republican man.   The answer to isolation is proximity to those outside familiar circles: “Being exposed to different stories expands our understanding of God and the world”, enabling us to see everyone as a “thumbnail of the Divine” no matter how annoying they are and how we disagree with them. He emphasizes that “the way you treat people is the only meaningful expression of your belief system,” because it is a far greater challenge to love an obnoxious neighbor. “Toxic tribalism” is easier than looking in the mirror and knowing that it takes effort to change. “Seeing humanity in the hardest people to love means we love them as Jesus does.” He gives an example of a biracial speaker who invites the disruptive Proud Boys in her audience to give her a hug and everyone, including the other Proud Boys, applauds.  We need to find ways to get past our own “stories” to get close enough others to see the humanity in them, even if they are people we want to despise.   

Chapter 16: “The Church of Not Being Horrible

 Pavlovitz speaks about the early church, “an imperfect interdependent community that protected its most vulnerable.”  This church he describes is totally different from many/most churches today, which Jesus would roundly condemn as the opposite of what he planted the seed for during his lifetime, “World Dominion wasn’t the plan. World renovation was.” He speaks of a church of not being horrible – diverse, loud, forgiving, transformative, and open to anyone who needs to belong. He dream of a community which welcomes anyone (including those who are atheist!) who wants help in not being horrible. He also points out just how difficult both creating and belonging to a church where not being horrible is the goal.

%d bloggers like this: