Please forgive this out of the blue letter. We have never met and it is unlikely you have heard of me. (If you want to know about me and what I think on all sorts of issues, check out my website.) I hadn’t heard of you until a week ago when a Facebook friend shared something you had written on his Facebook page. It prompted me to share this post on my Facebook page, since you had raised some important points, and also to respond by blogging: “When Did Compassion Become Partisan Politics?” Interestingly, two of my Facebook friends, with who I often have robust but respectful political disagreements, found what you wrote to be helpful. The truth is each of us, because of our circumstances etc., has our own particular perspective on life and none of us can claim that ours encompasses the only way to see things. It seems to me all of us could and should be loving our neighbour and standing for things like truth, justice, righteousness, meekness etc. and Christians due to their calling, whatever their brand, should be leading the way. Sometimes we will disagree and we need to learn to do so graciously.
Excuse me for including this mene you recently added to your Facebook page, but it did resonate and is pertinent to this letter. Ironically, some of those who you see as the bullies and the bullied, I see as the bullied and the bullies. For me, seeing people attacked for holding traditional, conservative Christian views makes me angry in the same way (I suspect) when you see those holding progressive, liberal views attacked. Even so, whoever bullies is wrong to do so and it is right the likes of us stand with those who are bullied. It was interesting when I read some of your recent writings which you referenced in your Facebook page (something I also do) I felt it appropriate to comment, and tried to do so relevantly and respectfully. Sadly, there were some responses that might be construed as bullying, e.g. “back in the basket now”. Obviously, when we see such comments this shuts down debate (responding too often merely enflames matters) which is sad because having courteous dialogue can be helpful. It illustrates while we can’t always control what people post, we do need be mindful if we are to take bullying seriously and encourage honest and respectful dissent. Over stating our cases, being viscous to our detractors, and not adopting the “true, necessary and kind” principle can raise barriers.
I don’t say these things so much as to score points but rather to point out that not only am I like you an “18-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus” (in my case it has been many more years than that though not always of the highest quality of service), but I too feel compelled to write on similar topics to you for similar reasons as you do, even if we see some things a lot differently. Again I am not here to have a go at you. Checking out the Web there are others who do this with relish but it has also become clear reading comments on your Facebook page, there are many who value what you write and, as I have come to see, you do so prolifically, as do I. I describe myself as a “gospel preaching, community activist”, recognizing the need to balance saying with doing (which is why ministry wise I am deeply committed to helping the homeless), but I am also keen to check out others who might be of a similar ilk. I have found quite a few, particularly in America, who are in that category, and who blog. I include your good self. I have found too they offer a wide range of views, sometimes conflicting. But I am also a great believer in the finding common ground principle, which is why I write here.
I have read enough of what you have written to concur that some of your “social justice” concerns (for want of a better term) are mine too but also there are other matters in which it appears we disagree profoundly. For example, another of my recent blog posts was titled: “King Cyrus and President Trump”. In it I argued that despite his many shortcomings President Trump may be a modern day King Cyrus (ref. Isaiah 45) who God has raised up for such a time as this. I suspect from reading what you have written, we will disagree strongly on that point and likely many other points too e.g. the direction we want America to go (although, not being American, I don’t fully qualify to pontificate, except for the old adage: when America sneezes Britain catches a cold). Yet I hope there are many things we will agree on (maybe even join forces) e.g. God is neither Democrat nor Republican; the poor and dis-empowered need to be served, whatever their age, sex, sexuality, race, religion, (dis)ability, status in society etc., and God needs to be honoured and obeyed. And as another of your menes says: “keep loving people“.
I should add as one who tries to base his views on what the Bible says (and this trumps everything else), I often reach quite different understandings to you, even though I recognise there are times we can disagree on things that are not essential. I don’t wish to pick an argument but rather to point out: while our areas of disagreement are significant, there are areas of common ground if we try to take Jesus’ teachings seriously, and there are huge areas of need in this world, where we can and need to make a difference.
Peace and may God bless you
One thought on “Open Letter to John Pavlovitz”
This is by way of an update. I find I keep seeing your posts on my facebook timeline and it is nice to know I am still a facebook friend despite occasionally adding comments disagreeing much to the annoyance of some of your other friends. Sometimes I agree though eg the need to persist in showing compassion but often I disagree eg your distain for Trump. One thing does bug me, not on the Trump matter that a lot of my friends agree with you on but on your theology which is often decidedly dodgy I am sad to say. As a shepherd you should be teaching truth and not error. We need light as well as life. While I agree some display life even though they lack light but also when people truly live in the light they should also be displaying life like doing the great command of loving our neighbor. I recognise this is what you to do and on that matter I wish you well.