The Church of Not Being Horrible

I’m tired.

I’m tired of professed Christians preaching a Jesus that they seem to have no interest at all in emulating; of religious people being a loud, loveless noise in the world while claiming to speak for a God who is supposedly love.

I know the world is tired of such people.

I’m fairly certain that God is too.

I’m starting a new church—the Church of Not Being Horrible.

Our mission statement is simply this: Don’t be horrible to people.

Don’t treat them as less worthy of love, respect, dignity, joy, and opportunity than you are.
Don’t create caricatures out of them based on their skin color, their religion, their sexual orientation, the amount of money they have, the circumstances they find themselves in.
Don’t seek to take away things from them that you already enjoy in abundance: civil rights, clean water, education, marriage, access to healthcare.
Don’t tell someone’s story for them about why they are poor, depressed, addicted, victimized, alone. Let them tell their story and believe they know it better than you do.
Don’t imagine that your experience of the world is everyone’s experience of the world; that the ease, comfort, support, affection you have received are universal.
Don’t be preoccupied with how someone experiences God, how they define family, who they love. Cultivate your faith, family, and marriage alone.

The central question at any given moment in the church is: Am I being horrible right now? If one concludes that they are, they endeavor to not do so. If they are unsure, they allow other people to help them see their horrible blind spots of privilege, prejudice, and ignorance—and then they respond.

In other words, our sacred calling is to be decent, to be kind, to be compassionate, to be whatever it is that we believe this place is lacking: to be the kind of people the world needs—and it definitely needs less horrible these days. 

The Church of Not Being Horrible will gather every week to celebrate the inherent goodness of people. We’ll share stories of the ways we succeeded in being less than horrible to our families, coworkers, and strangers, and we’ll challenge ourselves to be even less horrible in the coming week. We’ll do this faithfully, repeatedly, and passionately, and hopefully we’ll begin to watch the world around us gradually become less angry, less bitter, less painful—less horrible.

I’m not sure such religion will catch on, as being horrible seems to be trending these days among religious people but I think it’s worth a shot. I think it might alter the homes, marriages, and communities we’re living in, if not the planet we’re standing on. It might renovate our very hearts, themselves so prone to being horrible. It might help us become the best version of ourselves that we are able to be.

If you’re interested in joining the church, you don’t need to pray a magic prayer. You don’t have to attend a membership class or recite any creeds or take a test or promise to give financially. There are no theological or bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

There is no conversion, there is only commencement. You simply begin right where you are, in this very moment—seeking to be less horrible to the people you live with, work with, come across in the street, interact with online, see from a distance. That’s it. 

It may seem like a low bar to set, but it’s actually a beautiful and somewhat novel aspiration lately for a church: making the world less cruel, less violent, less insulting—less horrible.

If you feel like that might be a religion worthy of your days: let’s have some church, friends.



586 thoughts on “The Church of Not Being Horrible

  1. I love this. As I often hear from my pastor…the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We will be judged not on the bad things we have done but rather the good we have failed to do. (I think I am in trouble 😉)

  2. Pretty sure this already exists as The Church of Wil Wheaton. The sum total text of sermons and homilies: Don’t be a dick.

  3. Is there a hymnal for the Church of Not Being Horrible? Or do we just use overheads and slides? Asking for a friend.

  4. As a Unitarian Universalist, I have found that what you propose is more difficult than it sounds. We try very hard to be tolerant, no, accepting, of everyone of good will, but we end up being unkind to each other without knowing it. It does need that constant work you mentioned.

    I left the Southern Baptist Church in 1978, the church in which I was ordained in 1968. At the time I was organist at Northwest Baptist in Miami, Florida, the church of Anita Bryant’s hateful campaign against LGBTI (later to learn of her son and her husband both being gay). I left because of that hate and the SBC attitude toward female’s serving God in ministry. I then worked in the United Methodist Church until 2005 as organist or organist/choirmaster, never transferring my ordination because as a gay man, I could not serve in a ministerial position. In 2005 I again transferred into a church to serve as Pastor of Worship Arts and Pastor of Outreach, a church in the International Council of Community Churches. I was fully accepted and was my lifemate who had always been active in my ministries. In 2008 I became Interim Pastor of another Community Church where Barry and I worked together in full ministry in the church and our city until December 31, 2009. 10 months later Barry received ultimate healing from a 13-week battle with stage 4 esophageal cancer and went home to God. In April 2012 I returned to the Community Church where I had served as Pastor Worship Arts and Outreach to serve for 2 years as Senior Pastor until my retirement from full-time active pastorate. Today I remain active in ministry, but only in truly affirming churches who truly open their hearts and doors to all of God’s children, all of humanity.

  6. Mr. Pavlovitz,

    I admire your compassion for people and your calling out the American church for its nationalism. However, when you say that you are starting a new church, I think you must mean a new religion. The Church already has a mission statement, and while not being horrible to people is a natural outflow of it, there are times when we will certainly seem horrible for following Jesus. Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 of being a pleasing aroma to those who believe the message of Christ, but the “smell of death” to those who do not believe. Jesus Himself drew a firm line between those who believed in Him and those who didn’t, in a way that would certainly seem horrible to many people today. In talking with Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36). What the world needs is not a “church” full of people being nice, but the Church full of people being obedient to Jesus’ commands.

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