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’m in. Absolutely. As a Buddhist and an agnostic, I think the Church of Not Being Horrible is a perfect solution for a very messed up world. We should not be horrible because it’s the right thing to do. Not because of fear of going some place after we’re dead or because we have the mob mentality of ignorance. Just be kind.

  2. I would also add that this isn’t a quid pro quo kind of thing. For some reason we feel like kindness is only warranted when it’s reciprocated. I held the door for you, and you thank me. I greet you on the street, you nod your head and smile in return. The minute someone doesn’t follow society’s rules, we become angry. I said good morning to a man walking the other day and he scowled at me. My knee-jerk reaction was to roll my eyes and think nasty thoughts about him for being so rude, but he was probably someone who needed my unconditional kindness the most. That’s where this idea of “not being horrible” is hardest: finding the courage in our hearts to be unconditionally good to the people who aren’t in any place to give it back in kind.

    Thank you for your amazing posts; they are a bright spot in my news feed and are sorely needed.

  3. I wonder if “not being horrible ” is the right standard. I love the Christian message that God wants holy people, and He creates holiness by faith and grace! HE provides the way, especially when I fall short!

    • Does that not absolve one of responsibility for one’s own actions? As if you can be as nasty as you want but HE will love you anyway and provide the way if you just repent before you die and claim you were faithful and are now full of grace. Because that is how a lot of people see it and believe. Gives them an ‘out’ so-to-speak. The point is NOT to fall short, the point is NOT to be horrible, every day, every minute, every second. Very similar to the Quaker (Society of Friends) teachings, they believe God is in you (not outside of you) and you should endeavor at all times to be godly. Which is why the Quakers were so respected as trustworthy business people, were pacifists.

      • The point is we ALL fall short, no matter how good we try to be. And yes, HE still loves us. It’s absolutely not an excuse to treat people bad- that doesn’t make any sense.
        To call yourself a Christian is to be a person who walks with Christ and follows his teachings. His boggest teaching- LOVE. Love yourself, love your neighbor, love the unloveable, love your enemy.

    • There are crimes and there are sins, some horrible things are both. A lot of people convince themselves that the horrible things that they do are sins, to be forgiven by God, while the horrible things that other people do are crimes, to be punished in the here and now.

      Jesus didn’t help the people because they deserved it, and God doesn’t forgive us because we deserve it. Even horrible people are susceptible to the grace of God, but that doesn’t mean we can act horrible.

    • Absolutely correct. This person is saying an idea for a church but they are not talking about a Christian church. But you can be a Christian and not be horrible. Religions are made up of humans and humans fall short of of how they should be because of sin.

  4. And let the church (people trying NOT to be terrible) say Amen-and act like love is possible!)🙏

  5. At last I have found you my brothers and sisters! I have always belonged to the church. But since I don’t belong to churches and I don’t follow any earthbound leader, I’ll just see you around. I may drop in to make sure that I’m not being horrible or if I think that I am, I’ll ask you here OK? So, checking in with love for you all and everyone else. Which by the way won’t stop me from becoming mighty pissed off at times which is what I feel passionate people do and it’s all good as long as I can find my way back to center.

  6. Does this mean we have to not be horrible to the villains destroying our country and its ideals? Because I’m not sure I’m up for that.

    • Yes, I know where you are coming from. I believe that T is mentally ill and incapable of rational behavior. I have harsher thoughts for leaders that recognize this and use it to further their agenda.

  7. My church is not horrible, just mediocre, apathetic, and worried about appeasing everyone. Which frankly I think is worse.

  8. Mr Pavlovich, your thinking is frighteningly shallow or hedonistic. If you have children your curfew, chores, restricted entertainment and homework rules were “horrible” to them.

    If you are married and opposes a man loving and romancing your wife, to that man you are simply “horrible”. To the 72 year old grandmother in England who is having the “ best sex in my life” with her 27 year old grandson you are “horrible” if you oppose her sexual relationship. Or given that you are all about love you probably don’t.

    To the 7 men and women who want to marry each other in a polyamorous “marriage” you are “horrible”. But then you are probably all for that as well.

    The Jesus who you seem to be clueless about not only told the woman caught in the act of adultery “Neither do I condemn you” but completed it by saying “go and sin no more”. Jesus said, “Except you repent you too will perish”

  9. Dr Pavlovitz, your thinking is frighteningly shallow and hedonistic. If you have children your curfew, chores, restricted entertainment and homework rules were “horrible” to them.

    If you are married and oppose a man loving and romancing your wife, to that man you are simply “horrible”. To the 72 year old grandmother in England who is having the “ best sex in my life” with her 27 year old grandson you are “horrible” if you oppose her sexual relationship. Or given that you are all about love you probably don’t.

    To the 7 men and women who want to marry each other in a polyamorous “marriage” you are “horrible”. But then you are probably all for that as well.

    The Jesus who you seem to be clueless about not only told the woman caught in the act of adultery “Neither do I condemn you” but completed it by saying “go and sin no more”. Jesus said, “Except you repent you too will perish”

    • Philip, way to totally miss the point and be the exact kind of person he and everyone else is tired of. I didn’t see anything about not having boundaries or rules. What you’ve created is a straw man argument, with a side of histrionics. Just don’t be an ass, an astoundingly low bar you’ve managed to dig a hole under so as to pass beneath it.

  10. I love your proposal for getting back to the basics of “church.” It’s a current take on the universal thread that runs through so many religious and moral frameworks for living: kindness and empathy; peace and love; acknowledging our connectedness and recognizing the power of small actions. https://www.goldenruleproject.org/formulations/

  11. Love this!! I am a Pastor. And I am thinking of transferring my membership to “The Church of Not Being Horrible”. I will confess that as I read your article I did so through tears. I wept. I wept for all of us. Who am I to judge another (for any reason at all) having never walked in their shoes? I am heartsick that are so many “mean” Christians. A true disciple of Christ is humble and kind, showing mercy and grace. They know that the same God who desperately hates sin, dearly loves sinners. Enough to die. Those who are lovers of God…welcome the least and embrace the broken. They risk being wounded and are willing to sit alongside the worst of sinners. They are willing to wash dirty stinky feet. They are willing to put away their stones…of condemnation.

    I so honor and respect you for being a teller of the uncomfortable truth!!

  12. Your church is the negative of Jesus’ ethics: Don’t be horible, or be less horrible. Jesus’ Golden Rule is the positive of an even older saying, “That which you would not have men do unto you, do not do unto them.”
    It makes a LOT of difference to do love, rather than to refrain from evil. It separates saints from hermits.
    It is quite judgemental of you to judge the entire Church of God for the well-publisized failings of some of us. How arrogant to step away from the work of the Holy Spirit and judge it a failure and set up your own tongue-in-cheek replacement. For laughs, apparently.
    This is precisely the sin against the Holy Spirit that Jesus called the one unforgiveable sin — mocking God.
    I pray for your repentence and forgiveness to come quickly enough to restrain this sin, for it is itself “horrible.”

  13. Uh huh, you’re describing Unitarian-Universalism. The church where Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, secular humanists, atheists, agnostics, and everybody else are all welcome. A church where nobody shoves doctrine down your throat. Where everybody can worship according to their own beliefs. A church for intelligent, principled liberals.

  14. I love it. But brainwashed religious people would never go for this. They’re blind to the thousands of years of history of religious atrocities. It’s inherent to most religions to judge and persecute those who oppose their beliefs. You will most certainly burn in Hell if you think outside of their box. And they will fight wars to the death to defend their rightous ways. A good example of this will be in the replies to this comment. They will be mean and angry. Whereas, I believe in love and tolerance for diversity. Sacrilege!

  15. Perhaps Jesus and his disciples was the first gay movement? Think about it. Then don’t pass judgement on others who believe something different. Step out of the box and do your own thinking. Don’t perpetuate religious suppression and physical and verbal brutality on others who question the Bible.

  16. I figured out when I was 17 that a rule I could follow for the rest of my life was this: Don’t do or say anything that will make any given situation worse than it already is. It’s served me well for half a century, and doesn’t require anything of me other than mindful, common decency and compassion.

  17. There are definite truths here. However, we must be careful that in asking others not to judge and to seek to understand before reacting, we are not in turn judging Christians. Everyone has a story. Everyone needs to be responded to with love. In the same way that Christians will never be able to make changes for the better with harsh judgement, neither will we be able to change their feelings if we are harsh and unkind. Only love can change a heart, change a mind, change a life. Only love wins. And that means everyone in every situation.

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