Mountainfilm: John Pavlovitz At Symposium, Coffee Talk & Reading Frenzy

The line-up for the 41st annual gathering of the tribe in Telluride over Memorial Weekend features guest director Cheryl Strayed, plus Sir Chris Bonington, Hilaree Nelson, Erin Parisi and top Obama aide Ben Rhodes.

Passes/tickets to the 41st annual Mountainfilm are selling out fast.

John Pavlovitz is a Wake Forest resident, minister at North Raleigh Community Church, and father of two. He is also the writer and activist behind “Stuff that Needs to be Said” and, with nearly 25 million followers, he is also the voice of the religious left.

Pavlovitz is a featured speaker at the Moving Mountains Symposium on Equity. (More on that program here .) He will be speaking over the weekend at a coffee talk and participating in the Reading Frenzy too. Learn more about his life and work by scrolling down to listen to Pavlovitz’s podcast.

John Pavlovitz will be speaking at Mountainfilm as the voice of the Religious Left.

Need an antidote to the existential angst you are experiencing about our world today?

Try a dose of John Pavlovitz.

A headline in late March in the the Chicago Tribune read: “Anti-Trump pastor John Pavlovitz doesn’t want thoughts and prayers; he wants hope and action.”

Indy week explained “How Raleigh’s John Pavlovitz Went from Fired Megachurch Pastor to Rising Star of the Religious Left,” adding: “Little by little, John Pavlovitz is becoming a familiar name among progressives, particularly progressive Christians. And he has Donald Trump to thank for it…”

Add to that list of followers and fans the Mountainfilm tribe, when John Pavlovitz speaks at the Moving Mountains Symposium on Friday, May 24, the kick-off of a weekend that celebrates indomitable spirit just like his.

The Religious News Service exclaimed in late March: “John Pavolovitz, digital pastor of the resistance, pitches a bigger Christian tent.”

Pavlovitz does that in a variety of ways: through talks at venues around the country like Mountainfilm; through pastoral care visits via Skype; and through his blog, “Stuff That Needs To Be Said.”

The blog has reached a diverse audience of millions of people across the world who share Pavlovitz’s outspoken distaste for a number of the current administration’s policies. In it, he goes toe to toe with national vitriol about immigrants, guns, and many other hot button issues. Pavlovitz regularly denounces the political tropism for cracking down on immigrants and a retreat from climate change challenges while regularly arguing that Jesus set the example for creating a more inclusive, open and just society and that Christians must expand the table and make room for others.

A former, conforming megachurch pastor, Pavlovitz now preaches an off piste Christian message dedicated to radical hospitality, mutual respect, and diversity of doctrine. His teachings have earned him the nicknames “The Pastor of the Resistance” and “The Atheists’ Favorite Pastor.”

Pavlovitz’s goal is to help those who feel hopeless recognize ways in which we can change things for the better. His growing popularity is not surprising given his core message is one so many of us are yearning to hear: hope is still possible, and kindness, inclusion, and compassion are the way forward.

“Hope isn’t found in a celebrity, religious leader, or politician,” says Pavlovitz. “It’s found in the mirror.”

Pavlovitz fervently believes that people can make change with a little guidance.

“We all have a small world that we can save. Compassion, or giving a damn, is one of the most powerful weapons we have in difficult times.”

Pavlovitz has always featured Christianity-specific posts in his blog, like “Why You May Want to Try Church Again” or “With the Time You Have Left Here.” But most of his writings focus on current events: gun control, kneeling NFL players, sexual harassment and assault, Roy Moore, etc.

Among his more popular posts there’s the one on “The Heresy of Christian Nationalism” that begins, “God doesn’t bless America. That’s not how this works…”

How about the one titled “White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You,” in which he writes: “You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness. You’ve lost the plot. And most of all you’ve lost your soul.”

In a world in which God – and by “God” we mean the conventional Christian varietal – has been weaponized by Religious Right extremists, and The Other – almost everyone who falls outside the Evangelical world including people of color, gays, the poor, addicts and atheists – has been victimized, Pavlovitz is out there preaching the gospel of equity loosely defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial.”

“Equity” is a concept that twins with equality, diversity, decency and goodness, justice, honesty, and integrity. These tried, but true notions seem to have gone AWOL in our divided nation – and world.

“Equity” is also the subject of the 41st annual Mountainfilm, where, again, John Pavlovitz is a featured speaker.

Pavlovitz and his latest book, “Hope and Other Superpowers,” will also be part of Between the Covers’ Reading Frenzy at Mountainfilm. And he will participate in a Coffee Talk.

“…In these pages, John offers a path away from the vitriol and toward com­passion, and a plan to transform our burdens into dreams and our outrage into activism. Drawing from lessons of beloved fictional superheroes, John shows us how to identify our origin story, build protective suits of armor, guard against our personal kryptonite, and vanquish our villains. He also identifies ten specific ‘superpowers’ that we can enlist to make our lives and our world better. Along the way, he shares inspiring anecdotes and profiles about ordinary people who saw a gap in the world in empathy or kindness or gratitude and decided to fill it.

“Hope and Other Superpowers is an invitation to anyone hoping to be the kind of person the world so desperately needs—the kind who can save it. In other words: it’s an invitation to you,” raved Goodreads.

Pavlovitz first came onto the national stage in 2014 with a post he wrote in the form of a letter to his kiddos titled “If I Had Gay Children.” In it, he underlined his heartfelt support regardless of their sexual orientation. Millions read his words, then CNN called. Pavlovitz now had a national audience.

Then, in 2016, Katy Perry stepped in to shine her light on Pavlovitz’s pulpit, cementing his pop culture stature. Overnight he became a beacon for those of faith with mongo doubts.

“Stuff That Needs To Be Said” experienced a surge in readership on November 9, 2016, after Trump’s election. Lots of dazed and confused people searched Google that day and Perry shared Pavlovitz’ post, “This Is Why We Grieve Today,” on Twitter. The essay explained to a hypothetical clueless reader why Trump’s election felt so profoundly painful to many Americans and the message resonated:

“I think you think this is about politics.

“I think you believe this is all just sour grapes; the crocodile tears of the losing locker room with the scoreboard going against us at the buzzer.

“I can only tell you that you’re wrong. This is not about losing an election. This isn’t about not winning a contest. This is about two very different ways of seeing the world.

“Hillary spoke about a diverse America; one where religion or skin color or sexual orientation or place of birth aren’t liabilities or deficiencies or moral defects. Her campaign was one of inclusion and connection and interdependency. It was about building bridges and breaking ceilings. It was about going high.

“Trump imagined a very selective America; one that is largely white and straight and Christian, and the voting verified this. Donald Trump has never made any assertions otherwise. He ran a campaign of fear and exclusion and isolation—and that’s the vision of the world those who voted for him have endorsed.

“They have aligned with the wall-builder and the professed p*ssy-grabber, and they have co-signed his body of work, regardless of the reasons they give for their vote:

“Every horrible thing Donald Trump ever said about women or Muslims or people of color has now been validated.

“Every profanity-laced press conference and every call to bully protestors and every ignorant diatribe has been endorsed.

“Every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation Mike Pence has championed has been signed-off on.

“A huge portion of our country has declared these things acceptable, noble, American.

“This is the disconnect and the source of our grief today. It isn’t a political defeat that we’re lamenting, it’s a defeat for Humanity…”

Hallelujah brother and Amen.

John Pavlovitz, more:

Born in Syracuse to a middle-class Italian family, John Pavlovitz grew up Catholic. He described himself as having mainstream suburban childhood, raised with a sense of “in groups” and “out groups”—those who were blessed by the Almighty, and those who were not.

Pavlovitz today is a Wake Forest resident, minister at North Raleigh Community Church, and father of two. He is also the writer and activist behind “Stuff that Needs to be Said,” a blog that calls out hypocrisy in plain language, with the president and his ardent followers in the Religious Right earning particular scorn. Over the past year, 23 million people viewed the blog, and he has over 60,000 Twitter followers. Pavlovitz’s words have been featured in Slate, Cosmopolitan, and Quartz.

Now a 22-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry and a clear leader of the Religious Left, Pavlovitz is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities.

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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