I wasn’t going to write this. Actually, I tried not to. Several times. But enough is enough. There’s an imposter in our midst, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A shill wrapped in the cloak of ecumenical authenticity. Someone like Simon the Sorcerer mentioned in Acts 8.
Self-acclaimed “pastor” John Pavlovitz gets a free ride from thousands who read his cleverly appealing posts, sharing them on Facebook and Twitter to demonstrate some vague notion of progressive compassion. Inconveniently for the Truth, his followers rarely actually question his commentary. Because … politics.
Pavlovitz first gained notoriety after being fired from his church (for, well, not exactly specified reasons) and then posting a commentary on how parents should face the possibility of having gay children. The post went viral. Later, he published a “day-after” diatribe following the 2016 Presidential election immediately making him a darling of the Left who breathlessly proclaimed “at last! A Christian we can agree with!”
In the months since, Pavolitz has found another church to pastor and become something of a Johnny-One-Note, his posts dripping insults, ridicule, hatred (he seems to particularly love the word “hate”), and general disdain for anyone who actually reads and believes Scripture as they written. One of his favorite topics (more on this in a moment): the current President of the United States.
Perhaps at one point in his life Pavolvitz actually believed in the Word of God. Maybe he felt called to proclaim the full Gospel of repentance and salvation. In more recent times, John has traded whatever pedigree he may once have had as a true pastor and minister of the Gospel for the worldly applause of internet fame, cable news celebrity, and book sales.
Pavlovitz passes off his unique brand of Christian-bashing as “enlightened,” hiding blatantly partisan commentary behind the twin shields of faux religiosity and modern social justice bumper stickers. A recent post even attempts to strike an awkwardly fake self-deprecating tone with ham-fisted satire. Rather than humorous, it comes off as, well, desperately seeking.
I generally ignore writers like Pavlovitz and the mirth-filled followers they attract. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and their beliefs, regardless of how they may stray from reality or common decency. But out of sheer morbid curiosity I visited his site recently and saw the post entitled “Trump’s America Would be a Living Hell for Jesus.”
Let the richness of Pavlovitz’s arrogance hover there for a moment. He has apparently tapped into a direct line with the Jesus of the same Bible he rarely, if ever quotes! He’s seemingly found the secret thread into the mind of the Savior of Creation and discovered that this mind would be as focused on hating an elected civil servant of a 21st Century nation state as Pavolvitz himself appears to be.
This type of mindless claptrap could easily be shrugged off, relegating it to the endless chatter of modern online wind-shouting it has become. However, this post crossed a line for me. Mostly because those slavishly following his every pressing of the “send” key might actually believe his baseless assertions.
So, for the record, here are three of his comments from that post, each followed by a dose of reality.
First, he tries aligning the Jesus of the Bible with three popular victim identities in current culture: “A dark-skinned, itinerant, refugee Jesus wouldn’t be allowed in Donald Trump’s America.”
In truth, we have no idea what color Jesus’ skin might have been. Any suggestion would be speculation (yes, even idealized portraits of Jesus as a fair-skinned blue-eyed Caucasian). He was Jewish, born in 1st Century Palestine. Perhaps he looked like current Egyptians. Perhaps he resembled other Northern Africans or Palestinians. Or maybe he was as fair-skinned as Golda Meir, David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Yitzak Shamir, or Shimon Peres (all Jews and all Prime Ministers of Israel). Throwing the “dark-skinned” reference is pure pandering and offers nothing at all in the way of informing us on the identity of Jesus.
“Itineracy” seems to be a badge of impoverished honor for Pavolvitz in attempting to prove his point. As though Jesus’ synagogue and teaching missions were somehow the same as modern day itinerant workers moving from farm to farm harvesting crops for domineering overlords.
In actuality, many synagogues in 1st Century Galilee (the home of the most religious and well-educated Jews in the world at the time of Jesus), were not large enough to support a full-time rabbi and so traveling, teaching, “itinerant” rabbis were common. These rabbis typically supported themselves with a trade (such as, say, carpentry), and while they were prohibited by the Talmud from charging fees for services, they were free to accept gifts. If John would like a brief lesson on this topic, I recommend this.
And as for refugee? Tugs at the heart strings, doesn’t it? Sadly, it’s simply false scriptural interpretation.
The only time Jesus even closely fit this description was as an infant when his parents fled to Egypt to avoid religious extermination because Herod believed Jesus threatened his right to the throne of David. Once they returned to Israel after the death of Herod, Jesus was a known member of the Jewish community, his family openly traveling to Jerusalem every year to worship.
It would be enlightening for Pavlovitz to cite examples of any refugees being turned away from the United States (even under proposed changes to current immigration law) when faced with the certain threat of death of their children because of religious affiliation. Take your time, John. We’ll grab some popcorn.
Next is this gem: “He’d be denied healthcare, detained at the airport, separated from his family, trolled relentlessly on Twitter by his followers, accosted by torch-bearing marchers, vilified by pulpit-pounding preachers, and branded a terrorist by the President himself in incendiary fake videos and fear-baiting Tweets.”
Where to start. Jesus never asked for a single shekel of government support, including healthcare. His “family” was mankind, as he himself declared in Mark 3:32-34. He was, in fact, “trolled relentlessly” by the Twitter equivalent of the day – the Scribes and Pharisees. He was ultimately branded a terrorist by the Temple itself and rather than parodied in fake videos was arrested, brutalized, and executed.
Then this: “A subversive, homeless rabbi who lived with the street people and publicly condemned and challenged every move by the political power-holders perverting religion to line their pockets.”
Subversive? Yes, to the Pharisaical and Saduceean regimes that had corrupted the true faith of the Covenant – not of Rome. Jesus had no commentary whatsoever about the governments of men other than his single response regarding paying Imperial taxes to Caesar. Perhaps Jesus was the original author of our highly-cherished “separation of Church and State” doctrine.
Here’s the truth, the “stuff that really needs to be said.” Whatever happened in John Pavolvitz’s past to create the caricature of the blogger we read today, his current claim to a progressive interpretation of God’s Word is, bluntly, misguided at best. He neither accurately interprets nor discerningly communicates the scripture he falsely proclaims. He’s simply a clever online wordsmith tapping into a despondent secular audience behind the label of “20-year ministry veteran.”
John’s followers “like” and “share” his posts because they, just as he, are focused on imputing Jesus’ message onto secular institutions and culture rather than what Jesus actually says. For John, the Word of God and the truth of the Kingdom is not sufficient – the mind of man is ascendant. John’s interpretation of social justice, tolerance, and morality are inventions of modern secular society. Perhaps compassionate for cable news, but untethered to God’s word. The Kingdom of God stands apart from governments of men.
A final comment John, if you’re reading this. Please know I have no personal animus toward you. Being in the business of digital marketing technology, I enjoy a good online success story. And no doubt you probably believe your mission is to speak to the “woke” folks among us. So you do you, brother.
That said, your definition of Jesus’ message is, in my view, self-serving and has little to do with the real faith of authentic Christianity and grace-filled salvation. I guess I just have this involuntary reflex against what I see as hypocrisy and blatant consumerism.
Believe what you may, but while I do respect the office of the Presidency and support many of the policies of its current incumbent, I’m not stupid, uneducated, bigoted, “ist-is,” phobic in any way, or uninformed. I don’t stand on soap boxes touting my personal moral virtue to sell books but I’ll match my private efforts to “live out the red-letters of Jesus” with you anywhere, anytime.
You can find me at www.miafede.com or @rdgreen on Twitter.
Oh, and I counted ten links to your website in this post. Do I get a referral bonus? I already bought your book so we’re set there (oh wait – that’s eleven).