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John Pavlovitz to Visit Anderson Sunday, Monday

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

Anderson is in for a treat this weekend, when author/pastor/activist/blogger John Pavlovitz, with more than 278,000 followers on Facebook, will bring to town a much-needed message that transcends all religious traditions - the call to kindness.

Pavlovitz, will be in at Grace Episcopal Church in Anderson Sunday at 3 p.m. to talk about “The Hero in All of Us” and “Building a Bigger Table,” and again Monday at 6:30 p.m at Mr. Rivers Breakfast Joint for a workshop on compassionate activism. 

The former pastor from Wake Forest, N.C., is a prophet, crying in a crazy American incestuous political and religious wilderness, with a message rooted in the biblical list(s) known as “fruit of the spirit.” (Don’t get me started on the singular/plural thing. The Greek word is singular, so let’s just go with that for now.)

The fruit list(s) appear a couple of times in the New Testament, but they promote the idea that any manifestations of a life of faith will inlcude: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” 

These are the core elements of message of Pavlovitz, and are also at the heart of his blog, “Stuff That Needs to be Said,” which most recently posted: 

“Apparently, I’ve been radicalized and I wasn’t aware. Certain people call me the “radical Left” all the time. I never considered myself radical before. I just thought I was normal, ordinary, usual. I thought equity was important to everyone. I imagined America was filled with people who took that Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness stuff seriously—for all people. I thought the Golden Rule was actually mainstream.”

His message is inclusive, inviting everyone - he means it literally - to join in the his quest for compassion, directly challenging almost every aspect of the current White House administration and those who support it. (Especially evangelicals who have become apologists for the president).  

In his first book, “A Bigger Table,” Pavlovitz casts his vision for equality, diversity and justice in and out of religious community. His second book, “Hope and Other Superpowers,” (“a life-affirming, love-defending, butt-kicking manifesto”) is an honest look at how to grab onto hope and find self actualization in the middle of a messy world. 

In his latest work, “Low: An Honest Advent Devotional,” out in plenty of time for the season, are echoes of G.K. Chesterson: 

“Glory to God in the Lowest

The spout of the stars in spate-

Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest

And the lightning fears to be late:

As men dive for sunken gem

Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,

The fallen star has found it

In the cavern of Bethlehem.” 

Pavlovitz expounds on such thought with encouragements to find Jesus in the “low places,” in suffering, grief, the grind of every day life, where we can experience the promise of “God with us.” 

In reports from other recents events, Pavlovitz has suggested four non-negotiables as he seeks to enlarge the table, a metaphor for welcoming people, whether it's to a church, social or political setting:

  • Radical hospitality, which he described as “the Italian mother’s welcome where you will be showered with food and affection until you can take it no more.”
  •  Total authenticity, not “reading the room to notice how people are dressed and what they’re talking about” to make the calculation, “if I share this, will it push me to the periphery of the community?” Using that approach, “we become highly censored versions of ourselves. What if we could really come as we are? What if there are no deal-breakers?”
  • True diversity, because despite what churches say about themselves, “most churches are less diverse than places we work or shop at.” Churches, he said, should also be theologically diverse, “which will take work from you. We have to be students of other people, because their stories will change us.”
  • Agenda-free relationships. “What would it be like if people weren’t trying to fix or save or renovate you?” he asked. “I just want to know your story for the beauty of it.”

The Anderson Forum for Progressive Theology (previously known as the Anderson School of Theology for Laypersons) was created in 1960 by a group of men and women, laity and clergy, who wanted a wider and deeper lens for exploring theological and philosophical thought as well as social and cultural issues. 

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