Hello, fellow bookworms! Today marks the launch of my new Finding Delight Book Club. I’ll be reading 12 books and sharing about them with you here. I plan to post 4 times for each book — 1) about the book, 2) about the author, 3) extended reading/listening/watching, and 4) final thoughts and reflections. I’m kicking off the club with an exploration of Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower: Finding Answers in Jesus for Those Who Don’t Believe by Tom Krattenmaker.
“It is not my aim to reclaim the Christian religion … Nor is it my objective in this book to join the scholars who pursue the historical Jesus–the historically and journalistically accurate Jesus–as important as that quest might be. I am interested, rather, in what we might describe as “face-value Jesus,” the Jesus who says and does things on the pages of the New Testament. I am not worried for now about the factual accuracy of those accounts or the religious assertions that arise from them. His stories and instruction are valuable and ‘true,’ I contend, whether they are journalistically accurate or not.”
When you think about Jesus, what image comes to you mind? A man with piercing blue eyes and flowy hair last seen on the cover of your old Sunday school workbook? A painful expression from a cross at the front of a dim sanctuary? Or perhaps the name alone invokes feelings about religious doctrine or political stances in direct opposition to your own.
Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today columnist, separates Jesus from our preconceived notions and explains how his teachings are exactly what we need to bring reason and sense to the current state of affairs in America — even a SECULAR America.
What gives life meaning?
What does it mean to live a good life?
Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower is Krattenmaker’s answer to these long-pondered queries. Surprisingly, as a self-declared secular and non-believer, he turns to Jesus. Fully. Not just as an instructor or someone to be imitated, but as a personal North Star, as it were, directing and guiding all life’s components and quandaries.
To encourage us to adopt a similar conclusion, the book paints a realistic picture of the status quo while detailing the ways turning to Jesus’s teachings can provide a much-needed salve for so many of America’s woes. And no stone is left unturned — politics, racism, sexual exploitation, mass incarceration. Krattenmaker has studied religion for years and, as a journalist, covers the intersection of religion and public life in America. It is through this lens of religious understanding, that he expresses how nonreligious folk can follow Jesus. He walks readers through key teachings, parables, and sermons and extrapolates meaning and guidance that can be applied to a modern life.
This book helps readers discover, or perhaps rediscover, Jesus. A man who, Krattenmaker believes, can help us lead a good and meaningful life. An inspiring read no matter what you believe.
“If Jesus had a “shit list,” you wouldn’t find people on it. You’d find attitudes and actions. Not wrong people but wrong ideas, behaviors, and ways of being in the world. He could see the humanity even in the dreaded tax collectors, who were enforcing the severe policies that kept many of Jesus’s people in poverty. He could see the humanity even in the soldiers who were carrying out his execution.”
Can these two truths coexist within one person?
1. Jesus is the answer.
2. I’m not looking for God.
They seem contradictory, right?
I love that this book shows me, as someone who has walked away from organized religion, the ways in which they are not. Krattenmaker does a wonderful job exploring Jesus’s teachings — explaining metaphors (for those of us apprehensive with *pulls thing out of thin air* miracles) and cultural context. This allows for a more holistic application of bible story to current conundrum. A leap that can be hard to make when the subject and setting of these stories feel so far removed from our own.
Wherever I’ve been on my own faith/spiritual journey, I’ve always conceded that Jesus was and is a pretty important dude. Afterall, he was able to split time in two. No small feat! But despite regular church attendance and religion classes throughout my formative years, I still wouldn’t say I have an intimate knowledge of his teachings.
Curiosity about the historical Jesus had me pick up this book last year. Which I would definitely recommend as a way of placing “the man” in time and space. Curiosity about what he taught, however, has me poring over Confessions of a Secular Jesus.
In recent years, I’ve seen some good done in Christ’s name, but a lot more bad. Maybe you feel the same way? For me, in 2019, this is what is hard to grapple with when approaching a book like this one. I found myself proceeding with caution towards the idea that Jesus can be a moral guide for all folks — whether they worship him or not.
Yet, Krattenmaker’s interpretations of the Jesus philosophy is winning me over. His philosophy…
that love is the way,
that responding to war with peace is a powerful counter-strike,
that finding the humanity in all persons is possible and beautiful,
that forgiveness can be subversive.
Perhaps these are the answers we can find in Jesus if we take the time to look.
Read this if you’re interested in: Philosophy, Self-Improvement, Religion + Politics, Literature
Read this if you loved: A Secular Age by Charles Taylor, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan, What’s Beyond Mindfulness by Stephen Fulder, What the Qur’an Meant by Gary Wills
Other books by Tom Krattenmaker: The Evangelicals You Don’t Know and Onward Christian Athletes
Keep a lookout for Part 2! It’ll be hitting this site next week.