All Set Free: How God is Revealed in Jesus and Why That is Really Good News

What is the ending to the human drama? Will all be reconciled to God in the end? Does God demand an altar, a corpse, and blood? Or, rather, is the Christian God set apart from all the other gods throughout history? All Set Free sets out to answer some of the more difficult questions Christians today are faced with. It will challenge the Augustinian understanding of hell and the Calvinist understanding of the atonement; replacing them with a more Christ-centered understanding of both doctrines. This book will also use the work of René Girard in order to reshape how many understand “what it means to be human.” Then and only then should we ask: “Who is God?” Come explore what has become Matthew’s theological pilgrimage to this point. Come discover the God of peace.

Available now on Amazon and Wipf and Stock!


Michael Hardin, Executive Director of Preaching Peace, editor/author of eight books, including The Jesus Driven Life
“In All Set Free, Matthew Distefano articulates what an Evangelical theology might look like when shorn of it’s Janus-faced deity. This is a challenging and provocative study which utilizes the mimetic theory of René Girard to reframe the perspective by which readers read the Bible. This will be the book you could put into the hands of any person seeking the post-Christian Abba of Jesus.”
Ric Machuga, Professor of Philosophy, Butte College; Author of Three Theological Mistakes: How to Correct Enlightenment Assumptions about God, Miracles, and Free Will
All Set Free is a fascinating integration of René Girard’s mimetic theory with a biblical grounded Christian universalism. Every Sunday countless Evangelicals sing ‘Come, Now is the Time to Worship.’ Through a careful exposition of the relevant biblical passages, Distefano demonstrates the good news and literal truth of its chorus: ‘One day every tongue will confess/One day every knee will bow. . .”’
Anthony W. Bartlett, Co-Founder and Contributing Theologian at Theology and Peace; Author of Virtually Christian: How Christ Changes Human Meaning and Makes Creation New
All Set Free is a splendid contribution to an ever-growing theological conversation springing from the work of René Girard, one that is liberating the Christian tradition from its deadly optics of violence in favor of something much more in character with Jesus’s forgiving and loving Abba. Distefano makes the case for the reconciliation of all humanity with God, in a fluent, engaging style, rising often to eloquence, presenting multiple arguments to bring out the inconsistency in textual interpretations demanding eternal retributive punishment. Most of all, he gives us a positive message of a nonviolent God whose deep attraction promises to make the rote prayer of ‘your kingdom come…on earth’ become thrilling human reality. A vital book for twenty-first-century Christianity.”
Gregory A. Clark, Professor of Philosophy, North Park University
”In All Set Free, Matthew Distefano offers his readers many gifts. For those asking new and intellectually challenging questions about God, he provides a map of the terrain, including areas which other maps cordon off with ‘here there be monsters.’ For those whose religious communities have ostracized them for their questions, he offers vulnerability and companionship. This is not a lawyer’s brief, defending a position at all costs. Neither is it an exposé, claiming to unmask deficient theologies. Rather, it displays the gift of joy that comes with discovering the God of peace.”
J. Denny Weaver, Professor Emeritus of Religion, Bluffton University
All Set Free begins with the assumption that the character of God is revealed in the nonviolent story of Jesus. The result is a merciful and loving God, who would not kill many thousands of people (as is often assumed from the traditional reading of the Old Testament) and who would not condemn millions of people to fiery torture after death for unending billions of years. Instead the book argues for a ‘universal reconciliation’ in which punishment is not rejected but serves a purifying function so that eventually all are reconciled to God. All Set Free is thus a welcome addition to the growing body of literature that challenges the inherited ideas of a violent God and a God for whom forgiveness and salvation depend on a propitiating death of Jesus. The assumption that drives the book obviously requires rethinking a number of inherited doctrines and also developing a new understanding of biblical interpretation. This book pursues these questions through a lens focused by René Girard. For those who want a Girardian analysis, this is a very interesting book, which concludes with a heart-felt invitation to live peacefully by living in and imitating the peace-loving God who is revealed in Jesus.”
Tom Truby, Member of Theology & Peace; United Methodist pastor in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
”So many of us are finding our way out of the penal atonement theory with all its prohibitions and implicit violence. In All Set Free, Matthew Distefano stands in this tradition and does it convincingly and with conviction. I hope many, sensing something wrong with Christianity, will read this book and be encouraged on their own journey toward a God who actually brings Good News.”
Andre Rabe, Founder of Always Loved Ministries and Author of Desire Found Me
”In All Set Free, Matthew Distefano presents a way of reading the scriptures that will be new to many. And therein lies its value. We do not gain new insight by simply affirming what we already believe, we expand our thinking by exposing ourselves to ideas that might contradict our current believes. Using René Girard’s anthropological insights, Distefano creates a context in which to read the scriptures that exposes the god of violence as human projection, and unveils the Father of Jesus Christ as the inversion to this human projection. A very timely book indeed.”
Bradley Jersak, Author of A More Christlike God
”In All Set Free, Matthew Distefano contributes an accessible yet accurate synthesis of how post-Evangelicals might integrate the discoveries of mimetic theory into an increasingly clear vision of the non-retributive God. The author heeds Michael Hardin’s call to hear Jesus say, ‘Be not afraid,’ to its conclusions in ultimate reconciliation. Distefano shows how such a move brings personal healing to those battered by the unChristlike gods. A helpful synthesis.”

From the Blood of Abel: Humanity’s Root Causes of Violence and the Bible’s Theological-Anthropological Solution.

While millions of believers around the world are finding their understanding of Christianity to be outdated and untenable, Matthew Distefano has managed to paint the Gospel in such a way that even an atheist could appreciate its beauty. Rather than a message of rapture, or rewards and reprisals, Distefano presents the good news of what God has done in history to stem the tide of our own violence and evil—inviting us into a whole new way of living and being in this world. By integrating René Girard’s “mimetic theory” and Ernest Becker’s “death anxiety,” Distefano is able to diagnose the root causes of human violence and then offer the life-giving solution in the person of Jesus. Both the struggling evangelical and unbeliever alike can take refuge here, finding in this Gospel the thing their soul—and the disintegrating world around them—is thirsting for.

Available for purchase on Amazon and Quoir!


Brad Jersak, Editor at CWR Magazine, Faculty at Westminster Theological Centre, and author of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel
In this marvelous follow-up to All Set Free, Matthew Distefano synthesizes Girard’s ‘mimetic theory’ and Becker’s ‘death anxiety’ to diagnose the causes of human violence right to the roots. He then faithfully applies the Christ-solution as our effectual, life-giving remedy. It is especially striking that the author moves easily from theology and theory into real-life scenarios and testimonies. He recounts the excruciating reality of violence and exclusion–but does so to spotlight the power of the beautiful gospel.
Caleb Miller, author of The Divine Reversal: Recovering the Vision of Jesus Christ as the Last Adam and Saving God: Freeing Abba from the Captivity of Religion
Humanity has a problem, and that problem has a name. The only problem is that we’ve been largely unable to name this unseeable issue that seems to plague us from the moment we first throw a punch at our siblings for taking away our favorite toy. In many ways, the modern surge toward understanding our personal anthropology, and specifically that which is in relation to our own spirituality as well, has been not unlike a pressure-cooker, whistling and gaining volume until someone finally blows the lid off and releases the pressure. What comes out has such force its best to step back and watch from a distance. What is this problem? War, but more to the point, it is in our propensity toward war as a default response to social dissonance. Whether that is a war against metaphorical icons like terror or drugs, or war against other humans, we wage it whenever given the chance. In From the Blood of Abel, Matthew Distefano shows this in force, while making the necessary, important connection between the deity we worship, the theology we espouse, and the wars we wage in the temporal—all while remaining faithful to those serious students of Girardian philosophy and theology. Whether or not we will ever be free of the cancer that is human violence remains to be seen, but the more we have voices like Matthew’s, flooding the scene with this truth, the greater hope I have for that end.
Brandan Robertson, author of Nomad: A Spirituality for Travelling Light
Matthew Distefano’s From the Blood of Abel is the book that our country and our world needs right now. In a day where Christians are known for our violent rhetoric, persecution complex, and scapegoating of all those who don’t fit within our theological paradigm, Distefano powerfully speaks the truth of the Gospel of peace in an accessible and deeply moving way that will shatter the false images of God so many of us have been taught to believe in. In place of the false images, Distefano unveils that the face of God is revealed in Christ, a face that has the power to truly redeem our world. This book is a must read!
Doug Stuart, regular contributor for The Libertarian Christian Institute
Despite two centuries of exponential growth in human flourishing, our propensity for violence is still a fundamental theological issue. In From the Blood of Abel, Matthew Distefano does what few writers can do: he uses tools from multiple disciplines to unearth the origins of human conflict, yet still presents a hopeful path forward. Through biblical analysis and the insights of intellectual giants René Girard and Ernest Becker, Distefano shows how the answer to the human condition is the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the True Human. His argument is captivating and deserves the attention of all who care about resolving human conflict. Even those unconvinced by some of Distefano’s conclusions will profit from his penetrating analysis of what ails the world and the God who heals it.
Suzanne Ross, cofounder of The Raven ReView and author of The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things
If you have stayed away from the Bible because it’s filled with violence and superstitious myths or because the God of the Bible seems violent, wrathful and prone to punishment, you may have overlooked a singular resource for peace. Matthew Distefano offers a persuasive case for reading Scripture as revealing two intertwined realities: humanity’s violence and God’s nonviolence. Making good use of the mimetic insight of René Girard, Distefano guides his readers gently but confidently to a new understanding of the unity between the Old and New Testaments, between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the God revealed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Distefano believes that the Bible contains God’s plan for achieving peace in the here and now. When you have finished From the Blood of Abel, you will find yourself believing, too.
Dan Wilkinson, editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians blog on Patheos
Matthew Distefano’s From the Blood of Abel is a provocative examination of the problem of human violence through the lenses of mimetic theory and Christian theology. Distefano marshals theology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and history to lead readers through humanity’s horrifically violent past and present, and challenges us to look more closely at the ultimate hope for peace that Christianity provides. Distilling insights from René Girard, Ernest Becker, and Michael Hardin, Distefano offers a vibrant and astute assessment of humanity’s seemingly implacable violent tendencies and skillfully shows how the Bible effectively—and often surprisingly—addresses our most fundamental problem.
Wendy Francisco, author and animator of the book and viral video, GoD and DoG
Matthew Distefano’s book, From the Blood of Abel, places bible stories in their historical context and in the light of modern anthropological insight, revealing an astonishing and refreshing depth of meaning. The book digs to the roots of who we are, and offers a view of Christianity that addresses our tendency to be separatists, sometimes to the point of violence. Much of the “Christianity” we imagine postpones heaven to the postmortem, and rips humanity apart in the meantime. But Matthew reminds us that the kingdom of God is within us, and that Jesus doesn’t heal this world through war, ethnic or religious cleansing, or the devaluation of the “other”; but through forgiveness, reconciliation, and love.
Stephen R. Crosby, D. Min., founder of Stephanos Ministries and author of How New is the New Covenant? and thirteen other titles
When reaching the final quarter of faith’s pilgrimage in life, it’s a natural instinct to look back to see if anyone is coming after one’s self with the same spiritual heart beat. When I metaphorically look back, I rejoice to see a new generation of young theological thinkers (in their twenties and thirties) who have already grappled with issues that some of us did not come to grips with until our fifties or sixties  . . . if ever! I truly feel a fatherly “cheer” arise in my heart for them. Matthew Distefano is of that number.

Matthew’s book, From the Blood of Abel is an excellent book to recommend to seekers who have begun to question traditional Evangelical teachings on alleged God-sanctioned violence, a sacrificial hermeneutic, doctrines of hell and eternal punishment, and much more. Matthew has processed weightier works on these topics and synthesized their salient points into a volume that is reachable to the majority who may have neither time nor inclination to read academic-level treatments on those subjects. In doing so, Matthew has done the body of Christ a great service. I wish I had read a book like From the Blood of Abel when I was twenty-one. If I had, my life would have charted a much different and much more Christ-conformed path, much earlier.

Chris Kratzer, pastor and blogger at chriskratzer.com
“Matthew Distefano’s From the Blood of Abel is a literary construction of power, precision and depth perfectly positioned for such a time as this. Navigating through layers and angles of human history, psychology, and spirituality, Matthew tactfully backs the reader and all humanity into the corner—dissecting, diagnosing and disarming our intoxication with violence. One cannot help but to be changed and perhaps even a bit haunted by the revelation of this monumental writing.”
James Alison, Catholic Priest, theologian, and author
Matthew Distefano offers us a robust and intriguing approach to the Gospel. Having had his Christianity restructured both by Girard’s insights into violence, and by Becker’s understanding of death, he makes available a much stronger and richer sense of what Jesus was about in undoing those things than so many approaches which pile quote upon quote, leaving readers at the mercy of their own violence. Those questioning received notions of hell, of wrath, and of an exclusive God will find solid food here.
Michael Hardin, executive director at Preaching Peace and author of The Jesus Driven Life
The Bible itself tells us to ‘rightly divide the word of truth.’ For 2,000 years, Christians have divided the testaments, but following Rene Girard, Distefano argues that there are two streams within the Scriptures, one of religion and the other of God’s revelation. From the Blood of Abel is a marvelous introduction to Girardian thought for any struggling Evangelical who is seeking the really good news of Christ Jesus.
Thomas Talbott, author of The Inescapable Love of God
In a book filled with exegetical and theological insights, Matthew Distefano adds his personal voice to the chorus of those who reject altogether the use of violence, insofar as it includes an intention to harm someone, in the pursuit of justice. He rejects, for example, the idea that retributive punishment, whether temporary or everlasting, could ever satisfy to the full divine justice, as Jesus in particular (and the Bible as a whole) has revealed it to us. In the event of wrongdoing, he thus contends, nothing short of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation has the power to restore a just order. Not everyone who accepts such a view will take it to imply, as he does, “an ethic of universal pacifism,” particularly when it comes to protecting innocent third parties from violent attacks. But all Christians can profitably ponder his arguments, and no one should doubt that an intention to harm someone is always incompatible with loving that particular neighbor even as one loves oneself.
Having a careful ear and an open heart is vital to understanding the big ideas of the Universe. Two friends, Distefano and Machuga, put this on display here, vulnerably exploring some of humanity’s most robust topics: what it means to be human, what it means to be saved, what is means to be lost, and what the meaning of life is. And while the authors agree on many things, including the ultimate fate of humanity, they do not necessarily agree on all the details of how we get there. But instead of ‘agreeing to disagree,’ they model for their readers what conversations of this variety should look like — agreement with a little pushback, and even some poking fun at one another from time to time.

So, as Distefano advises, “Take your time and enjoy these discussions. They are transparent and hopeful, refreshingly liberating, and are imbued with complete awe toward the goodness of the Creator and her creation.”

Available for purchase from Amazon or Wipf and Stock!


Julie Ferwerda, author of Raising Hell
“True to the mystic tradition, Distefano and Machuga set out to authentically explore the dynamic, transformational inner journey of faith. Using a personal, engaging style of correspondence, together they tackle many of the distorted-over-time conservative Christian teachings and doctrines that have finally and thankfully began to unravel, offering more reasonable and palatable interpretations of the universally human spiritual path.”
Charles Watson Sr., author of Hell In a Nutshell
“A Journey With Two Mystics was just as I expected it to be; an intellectually honest and humble interchange between two close friends. Although they do not see eye to eye on every theological and philosophical point, they respect and cherish the opinion of the other. They have obviously been freed to test all things so that they may hold onto what is both good and true. This book is the result of a peace that truly surpasses all understanding.”
Adam Ericksen, Education Director at The Raven ReView and blogger at Teaching Nonviolent Atonement on Patheos
“From Buddhism to Christianity to René Girard to Alan Watts to Gandalf—this book is full of profound wisdom. Matthew and Michael are excellent guides to the truth found in these traditions. As Matthew states, ‘No matter what truth we discover about the cosmos . . . every truth will point in the same direction—toward a supremely benevolent God.’ So, sit in your favorite chair, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and join these mystics as they dive into the love of the divine.”
Michael Hardin, Executive Director at Preaching Peace and author of The Jesus Driven Life
“Correspondence between friends is always illuminating. Here, Distefano and Machuga tackle issues close to the heart: what it means to be human, why religion does not work, and why a careful ear for listening to each other is essential to both friendship and knowledge. This is a truly fascinating read of two younger adults navigating their way into post-modernity.”
Rev. David R. Froemming, ELCA pastor and author of Salvation Story
“Distefano and Machuga—two friends sharing a common quest for peace in our world invite us to an intriguing exchange of letters. René Girard meets Alan Watts—west meets east. Here the insecure human ego and individualism of our culture opens to self in other as their conversation joins the God of grace and salvation in Jesus Christ to the cosmic oneness of reconciliation and peace.”
Anthony W. Bartlett, author of Virtually Christian and Pascale’s Wager
“This book is about the collapse of a Christian worldview, the one that says the thing Jesus saves from is an eternal hell of torment. The anxieties and contradictions of this kind of theology are too awful to sustain, and A Journey With Two Mystics lays them all out with autobiographical clarity in a gentle epistolary exchange between two friends, Michael and Matthew. Gentle but charged with consequence, one which might aptly be named Either Nike or Krisis! Michael finds relief from violent religion in a form of Buddhism where the point of life is the joyous peaceful now: there is no ulterior goal to human activity (e.g. heaven), so he quotes approvingly the brand’s iconic tagline, “Just do it!” Matthew sees Jesus as opening up the divine space of a new nonviolent humanity. The New Testament word krisis is translated judgment with all the fearful connotations of an eternal destiny in heaven or hell. But Matthew sees it as God’s compassionate transformation of existence which, nevertheless, can still be reversed by the actual horrors of catastrophic human violence. Is there a real difference between the two friends? Even they seem unsure, but the reader is invited to discover an answer for herself in this extraordinarily rich and resonant conversation.”
Eric Alexander, founder of Jesism
“In this new age of Christian enlightenment, Matthew and Michael offer a powerful and fresh conversation that goes to the core of life’s true meaning. In addition to being uniquely written and refreshingly real, the dialogue offers savory insights that are critical to integrate into the Jesus tradition of our day, such as mindfulness, Universalism, and the naked now. These two mystics will have you continually wanting to flip to the next page.”
Chris Kratzer, pastor and blogger at chriskratzer.com
“Theology is like sex: it’s deeply personal, soul revealing, and no one wants to be told they are doing it wrong. In A Journey With Two Mystics, we are given a rare window into the depths of mind and heart of two great theologians who courageously and eloquently wrestle with the most important questions concerning God, ourselves, and life. The vulnerability, fearless exploration, and mutual respect offered in this literary work of theological art is a monumental gift to those who think, dialogue, and pursue a greater understanding about all things God.”
Daniel Skillman, husband, father, counselor, writer, teacher, speaker, sinner, saint, singer, survivor, follower of Jesus
“Reading through A Journey With Two Mystics is a delightful and entertaining opportunity to eavesdrop (by invitation, of course) on a conversation between two lifelong friends, in which they discuss some of the things that matter most: theology, humanity, culture, literature, and even heaven and hell. You may not always agree with Matthew and Michael. In fact, they don’t always agree with each other. But that’s not the point. The point is sitting around the bonfire with your best friend on a Thursday night, learning to follow Jesus together, one step at a time, on a journey that never ends.”
John E. Phelan, Jr., Senior Professor of Theological Studies, North Park Theological Seminary
“We are living through a post-Christian moment. The older, violent versions of American fundamentalism and evangelicalism are no longer compelling for many who grew up under their tutelage. The mainline churches long ago lost most of their young adults and are struggling to find their footing in the Good News. A new group of faith explorers from both traditions is emerging. They are not necessarily giving up on their Christian faith, but reframing it and renewing it. In this book you are invited to listen in on a thrilling conversation between two of these pilgrims, one a follower of René Girard and the other a fan of Alan Watts. Perhaps you will overhear your own story. Perhaps you too will find your faith renewed.”
Eric Reitan, Oklahoma State University
“Reading this book is like getting an accessible crash course in a range of interconnected ideas about the human predicament and the promise of salvation. But not the kind of course you’d get in a classroom. It’s more like the voyeuristic pleasure of listening in on two friends, animated by philosophical and theological ideas, passionately sharing their thoughts by a bonfire. In fact, that’s exactly how this book was born.”

Contrary to what some may say, this book, rather than being the product of a demonic lie, is an open and honest set of answers to the questions wrestled with by countless Christians the world over. And while nothing in Heretic! is completely unique—that is, much of the theology contained herein goes as far back as Christianity itself—Distefano creatively puts his unique perspective and humor onto the pages with care. Refreshing and liberating, this is a must read for any who dare question their inherited doctrines.

Available now on Amazon!


Professor of Word Vomit

We are no match for this professor of word vomit, who, in all reality, is getting ninety percent of his info from Wikipedia or a bitter Rabbi who has no reason to revere Scripture as holy.

Knows Nothing

Matthew knows nothing about Christianity.

Demonic Lie

This is a demonic lie. It directly goes against the very words of Jesus and it is a Gospel of the spineless who are not willing to face the hard truth. It’s an affront to Jesus’ work on the cross. It is deceptive, a completely perverted understanding of the Gospel. And people who spread these lies are one with the devil.

False Teacher

I know it’s hard, but actually reading the Bible can really illuminate what God actually thinks on topics [sic]. Distefano is either a severely ignorant believer or a false teacher. Either way, he needs to stop discussing the Bible until he has read more of it beyond what Google tells him.

Disgusting Lies

A perfect cocktail of disgusting lies (front cover).

If you’re looking for a cheery, always-uplifting devotional, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Not that Devoted As F*ck won’t uplift and renew your spirit at times, it’s merely that the goal of this book is not to make you feel good. Instead, it is an irreverent look at today’s version of Christianity that is meant to shake you to your core. Sometimes cheeky, other times profound, but mostly in your face, Distefano has constructed the perfect devotional for the spiritual misfit who doesn’t quite fit the cookie-cutter mold.

Available now on Amazon!

Amazon Reviews

Paul J. Wheeler

This book is both hilarious and thought-provoking. As you can probably tell from the title, this book is definitely not for anyone easily offended. But if you want a “devotional” that is out of the ordinary, it is highly recommended!

Big T

Got the book today, sat down with my wife and read the quick devotional, and had one of the best talks about God we’ve had in a long time. I love it and look forward to reading it daily.

Karen E. Leidy

One minute, the author expounds on seeing God through the love in his daughters eyes. The next, he is excoriating the religious for their hypocrisy with scathing language.

Matthew J. Distefano doesn’t expect you to like him. In fact, he offers this missive knowing full well that some readers will want to use it as fuel to burn his unyielding heretic heart at the stake.

And yet, Matt generously shares authorship with the reader, providing space for both dissension and verbal high-fives.

Devoted As F*ck is a journal that will either inspire or piss you off. Or, maybe both, on occasion.

I especially love the cover art design, and cannot wait to carry it into my next bible study.

Karl J. Forehand

Matthew’s work always surprises me, not because I underestimate him but just because he keeps upping the ante.

Like most of his work, this devotional is a little provocative and not just in the title. I love it because it is challenging. Most of us don’t really want someone to tell us what we want to hear–we really want to be challenged.

I’m glad I got to see a preview of this and I’m looking forward to interacting with it throughout the year!

The Bonfire Sessions: Spring is a thought-provoking booklet that discusses: deconstruction and how it impacted the authors’ friendship, suffering and how it fits into the human narrative, doubt and how it is not the opposite of faith, evangelicalism and living an authentic life, and how Buddhism and Christianity can co-exist.

With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large dose of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the first in a collection of four booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, soul, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship.

Available now on Quoir and Amazon!

The Bonfire Sessions: Summer is a thought-provoking booklet that discusses: the tragic Camp Fire that burned down the town of Paradise and Mike’s house along with it, how to live in the present moment, racism and white privilege in America, and how free will is often misunderstood in the West.

With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large dose of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the second in a collection of four booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, soul, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship.

Available now on Amazon!

The Bonfire Sessions: Autumn is a thought-provoking booklet that discusses: the current climate crisis and racial tensions in the United States, how power can and often does corrupt those in leadership positions, why tragedy and loss are often a catalyst for appreciation, and why, in spite of all the suffering in the world, both authors have at least some hope for the future, even if it is just a fool’s hope.

With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large dose of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the third in a collection of four booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, soul, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship. 

Available now on Amazon!



The Bonfire Sessions: Winter is a thought-provoking booklet that discusses: what happens to friends and family when you deconstruct your faith, whether or not conversations such as these are actually important, the divisiveness of American politics, and how Michael is handling his cancer diagnosis. 

With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large does of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the fourth in a collection of four booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, sould, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship. 

Available now on Amazon!



What happens when two philosophically-minded friends sit down around a firepit to chat about life’s biggest topics? Within these pages, you’ll find out. In The Bonfire Sessions: A Year of Shadow and Flame, authors and podcasters Matthew J. Distefano and Michael Machuga give their readers a glimpse into their very real lives, modeling for others what they believe conversation should look like.

With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large dose of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the entire Year One collection of booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, soul, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship.

Available now on Amazon!



Karl Forehand, author of Apparent Faith and The Tea Shop

Matthew and Michael cover a wide variety of topics in this book. Their language is adult like the beverages they consume as they talk. The topics cover such things as suffering and their individual faith journeys. Because they are not trying to necessarily convince each other of anything, it is just a beautiful transparent journey between two great people.”

Mark Karris, licensed therapist and author of Religious Refugees: Deconstructing Toward Spiritual and Emotional Healing

In the midst of fake news, scripted reality TV shows, and deep fakes, Matthew J. Distefano and Michael Machuga’s The Bonfire Sessions is as authentic and real as it gets. I appreciate their down to earth conversations that are beautifully raw and filled with plenty of wisdom about life, God, theology, mental health, tragedy, and everything in between. This is a great book to pick up to learn, grow, and get a rare glimpse into what true friendship and intimacy looks like.”

Seth Showalter, MHA, LCSW, Clinical Trainer and host of the Mental Podcast

Vulnerable. Refreshing. Relatable. Three words that describe Matthew and Michael’s newest book. While vulnerable throughout, this book carries with it a balance in perspective which leads the reader to come to their own conclusions. This book is funny in parts while daring to ask hard questions in others. It boldly demonstrates nuance interspersed with humor and vulnerability.”

Michelle Collins, heretic, gym rat, and all-around badass

There is a proverb that says conversation is food for the soul! I personally believe conversation is the answer to much of the world’s issues. While the theme of this book revolves around a bonfire, drinking whiskey, and working through diverse and difficult subject matter, it does so in a way that also answers many of humanity’s issues. Grab a glass, take a seat, and treat yourself to a great conversation. Your soul will thank you!”

Keith Giles, author of the “Jesus Un” series and cohost of the Heretic Happy Hour podcast

Trust me when I tell you that this book is unlike anything else you have read before. The conversations between Matthew and Michael recorded here range from deeply profound to hilariously irreverent, with a few dick jokes sprinkled along the path. But you’ll find yourself wishing you could pull up a chair and warm yourself next to this bonfire where bullshit is eternally condemned and simple truth refined until it becomes the purest gold. Worth every penny.”

Jason Elam, columnist for Patheos and host of The Messy Spirituality Podcast

Reading The Bonfire Sessions: A Year of Shadow and Flame is like sitting down with two of your most brilliant friends who invite you into their most unguarded conversations about God, faith, and the human experience. Don’t miss this opportunity to walk with two mystics on the road away from certainty as they journey toward a more love-centered life.”

Genesis of Violence Book Cover

The biblical book of Genesis is a violent masterpiece. Deception. Treachery. Murder. But it is also a book of redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

In The Genesis of Violence, author Matthew J. Distefano and artist Zak Parsons collaborate on a one-of-a-kind creative project that details and highlights the main themes of the book of Genesis. From the fall of humankind, to the murder of one brother at the hands of another, this work of art explores it all.


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Rev. Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don't Like Christianity

“In an era when organized religion, especially Western religion, is being rejected by many, Distefano and Parsons present a needed reminder of the original merit and beauty of the biblical creation myths. The centering of human and Divine love and reconciliation instead of wrath and estrangement is welcome and needed. This reminds Christians that human love and forgiveness can come about outside of the popular substitutionary atonement story. A needed dose of humility and reminder of God’s consistent love and the capacity for humans to embrace it and each other.”

Nora Sophia is a survivor, an author and a teacher, and her passion is to heal humanity with harmony

“Matthew Distefano and Zak Parson’s The Genesis of Violence is a refreshing and illuminating work. Though brief, it leaves you with a belly full of thought and evocation of emotion. Through the simple yet complex illustrations, it captures the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains. Through its pronouncement of a story that we tend to see as rote, we are refreshed with the facts that we in humanity all face an inevitable invitation: that we should all practice more kindly and considerate thought toward each other. This beautiful work will awaken and remind us all to use our best gifts and offerings to help our fellow travelers on the journey and to make the path brighter and easier. It will foster a closer kinship, more empathy and a deeper understanding for each of us who want to live an extraordinary life and die knowing we did our very best to leave humanity greater.”

Keith Giles, author of the 7-part Jesus Un book series

The Genesis of Violence is perhaps the most unexpected book anyone would ever anticipate from the mind of Matthew Distefano. It’s not irreverent. It’s not snarky. There are no F-bombs to drop. In truth, The Genesis of Violence is actually a very beautiful, profound and, dare I say, “Christian” book, gorgeously illustrated by Zak D. Parsons, that reframes the Genesis narrative into a visual storybook for adults that even your mom would love.”

Paul Young, author of The Shack

“A deeply touching work of art with crafted words and images that reach into the places that matter and from the heart calling to the mind to both confess and repent. I loved this simply profound work and hope it to be the first of more!”

James Alison, Catholic Priest, Theologian, and Autho

“A wonderfully imaginative retelling of the central themes of Genesis for all ages. The mixture of a judiciously pared-down text and extraordinarily evocative and appropriate artwork brings out with great clarity the ways in which imitation and violence structure some of our greatest ancient stories. They reveal how much those stories, told in this way, have to offer us.”

Kevin Miller, author and filmmaker

“Through a combination of evocative images and text, this book challenges readers to reimagine the violence in Genesis as a product of humankind’s misguided search for God rather than God’s unrelenting judgments against humanity.”

Bradley Jersak, Dean of Theology & Culture, St. Stephen's University

“Distefano and Parsons have given us a compelling message through both words and illustrations that have beautifully captured the reality of the human condition and the way of grace through the glorious story of Joseph and mind of Rene Girard.”

Don't Be A Dick Book Cover

“Don’t be a dick.” In today’s world, these four words can be the key to making our existence a kinder, more loving place. Within the pages of this book lives 69 practical ways of helping out your fellow human being. Between advice on how to not be a dick to your family and friends, to how to not be a dick to people online, this little hurricane of a page turner covers it all. By the end of it, you’ll be returning your shopping carts, cleaning your sweat off the gym equipment, and getting consent prior to any sexual encounter like a boss. Read Don’t Be a Dick, put the advice into practice, and I guarantee you’ll see your life and the lives of those around you improve.* (*Results not guaranteed.)

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Dr. Rev. Katy Valentine, ordained minister, New Testament scholar, and metaphysical engineer

The book had me at ‘return your shopping carts.’ Holy hells bells, YES. Are you worried that you have a wee bit of dickishness in you? Then grab your copy of Don’t Be a Dick and make sure you excise all the unwanted things that could make you a dick from your life. Besides being a delightful and funny read, you might actually pick up a few valuable lessons on what it means to be a great person without being a dick.”

Maria Francesca French, post-Christian thinker and writer

Matthew has written the book that we all never knew we needed! This quick-witted and clever little read is equally mad as it is brilliant, and it is the book I wish someone handed to me and made me read when I was in my 20s, moving out of Evangelicalism and figuring out how to be a human in the world. This admittedly self-help book is a practical guide to humanity in the 21st century West and is a must read for anyone who recognizes the complexities of the times in which we live in, yet wants it told to them like it is—plain, simple, and without all the highfalutin mumbo jumbo. The wit kept me laughing, the wisdom kept me reading. Well done and bravo!”

Laci Bean, Certified Trauma Recovery Coach

Don’t Be a Dick is a wonderful mix of brutal honesty and hilarious comedy. I went from cheering on Matthew’s points to feeling convicted to do better, and then to rolling over with laughter and back again. Definitely a must read!”

Desimber Rose, author and spoken-word artist

Complete with golden rules you never knew you needed on just about every topic, from tipping to toilet paper, this book covers it all. Somewhere between comedy and conviction, you’ll find the absolutely candid words of wisdom by Matthew J. Distefano in Don’t Be a Dick. Distefano’s cadence and style of delivery make heavy topics such as outdated gender roles, toxic religious culture, and dysfunctional parenting easy to digest. In a time where most of what we see on TV and social media is scripted, embellished, and exaggerated, this book offers a real, refreshing opportunity for self-reflection. If you’re committed to being a dick, then this book will offend you, but for the rest of us who know we’ve got to put in a little more work to become the best version of ourselves, I offer the words of Distefano, “Trust me, together we can handle this.”

Keith Giles, author of the “Jesus-Un” series and cohost of the Heretic Happy Hour podcast

This is the book that most people will buy for someone else to read without realizing they need it even more themselves. Matt pulls no punches here, and spares no punchlines either. After reading this you’ll be a better human being and you’ll have fun along the way. Don’t be a dick. Buy this book today.”

Derrick Day, author of Deconstructing Religion and cohost of the Heretic Happy Hour podcast

When is good to be a dick? When you’re an actual penis! Others, just don’t be a dick! In his latest book, Matthew J. Distefano takes on the role of a modern-day Emily Post, articulating the kind of etiquette that will save your ass. One of the great problems of the Information Age is that we can say things without fear of getting hit in the mouth. However, we can be banned from social media, fired from our jobs, expelled from school, and otherwise become a pariah in society. Matt, himself, is no shrinking violet—he is a champion for the downtrodden and a voice of reason in theology. He also keenly understands how to be vocal without making a complete ass of himself. In Don’t Be a Dick, he shows you how to be meek without being weak, how to simultaneously not be a dick while not being a “limp dick.” If you want to know how to navigate this modern world without being confused with a phallus—while remaining uncompromised in your principles—this book is for you. Matter of fact, this should be required reading in every high school in America!”

The Bonfire Sessions Second Spring

The Bonfire Sessions: Second Spring is a thought-provoking booklet that discusses: human sexuality and all its complexities, Buddhism and the meaningless of life, how philosophy and ethics should be more emphasized in schools, what peace looks like in the midst of a chaotic world, and much more. With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large dose of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the first in a collection of four booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, soul, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship.

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Learning to Float

Learning to Float is a life preserver when you find yourself adrift in the midst of your faith journey. When waves of doubt and anxiety threaten to rise above your head, or when you simply find yourself weary of swimming in the midst of unending waters, this book is your buoy. It’s the gentle arms of friends holding you up so that you can breathe, even as currents of questions continue to sweep you up and move you along. It’s the comforting whisper in your ear when you need it the most: “It’s okay; I’ve got you. You’re not alone.”

Matthew J. Distefano knows his theology and philosophy, but far more importantly, he is 100-percent authentic. And as he mediates his story through conversation with Michelle Collins-whose wisdom, compassion, and friendship guide him as he articulates his deconstruction process-readers are bound to see parallels to their own journeys and struggles.

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The Bonfire Sessions: Second Summer is a thought-provoking booklet that: discusses our very real mortality, laments the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer, and climate change, and gets real about the emotions that come with living in a world full of suffering, anxiety, and dread.

With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large dose of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the first in a collection of four booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, soul, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship.

Available now on Amazon!

The Bonfire Sessions: Second Autumn is a thought-provoking booklet that: explores some of the differences between liberals and conservatives, how keeping friends as you get older becomes more and more challenging, why a sanitary life is a dead and boring life, and how J.R.R. Tolkien has shaped both of us in such major ways.

With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large dose of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the first in a collection of four booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, soul, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship.

Available now on Amazon!

The Bonfire Sessions: Second Winter is a thought-provoking booklet that: explores the reasons people fall for conspiracy theories and bad-faith politics, why self love is more fulfilling than traditional “worship,” and how “The Bonfire Sessions” is not really a collection of books and a podcast, but a way of life that is almost tainted by content.

With rawness and vulnerability, as well as a large dose of salty language, this set of conversations delivers quite a punch. Sometimes funny, sometimes profound, but always honest, the two hosts of The Bonfire Sessions podcast come together to deliver the first in a collection of four booklets that will be sure to challenge your heart, soul, and mind. So, pour your favorite drink and fill your long-stemmed pipe, and get ready for some high-quality fellowship.

Available now on Amazon!

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