Tag Archives: Tom Krattenmaker

Book Club: Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower Pt. 4

Welcome back, Finding Delight Book Club members! Today is my final post about Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower, and I’m turning it over to you. While it is great to read other people’s thoughts about a book and learn a bit more about an author and dive deeper into a subject with extended reading/listening watching … what I love most about book clubs is that it allows a space for tapping into your own feelings about a book and what it brings up for YOU. Sometimes this can be difficult when reading books by yourself. You read for entertainment and enjoyment, maybe you underline a passage that speaks to you or remark YAS! to a sentence that really rings true. But in a book club? We can dig a little deeper. So, shall we?

confessions of a secular jesus follower tom krattenmaker reflection questions

1. In Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower, Krattenmaker clearly knows his stuff when it comes to the Jesus presented in the New Testament. He recounts many stories and offers a secular spin.

How well do you know Jesus? What stories of him, from Scripture, do you remember? Do you have a favorite?

2. Historically, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples served an invaluable role as a place where emotional and spiritual needs were met and where a sense of purpose was established. With the move away from organized religion, these needs and purpose are often cared for elsewhere.

Where would you say these needs are met and purpose established for you? 

3. Jesus has been held captive by a nationalistic culture of white, middle-class, anglo-centric, mostly male people. Yet, he was born with darker skin, was from the lower class, had a male body but a seemingly female soul and often voiced disdain for religion. He lived between east and west. The only thing he excluded was exclusion itself.

What do you struggle with including in your circle of love and acceptance? How might you work towards being more inclusive?

4. Jesus said, “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” The early Church actually forbid membership to soldiers. And yet countless people of faith have fought and died believing a a “just war policy” that simply was not of Jesus’ thinking.

Is it possible to end violence and war? What might that transformation look like?

5. Marie Kondo is gaining immense popularity right now for her clear the clutter that fails to bring joy philosophy. This book really highlighted for me the similarities between her take and Jesus’, who reminds us that there is enough for everyone to have all they need.  We tend to be hoarders rather than distributors of our wealth.

How might you better meet the needs of others? How might you share your wealth? What do you think it will feel like if you give some stuff away?
*Note: Krattenmaker’s interpretation of the loaves and fishes story would be a wonderful section to revisit before taking on decluttering projects! What do you think?

6. Isolation, depression, and anxiety are at epidemic levels in our country today. Much of this stems from a feeling that no one cares, no one gets me, there is no one. Jesus was all about radical hospitality so that everyone cares, everyone gets me, there is everyone. So, your challenge today is to make contact with people – chat with a cashier, make eye contact and smile at a homeless person, check in with a family member you haven’t spoken to in awhile (actually talk, no texting). And then come back and reflect on how it  felt.

Who benefited most from these encounters? How might you incorporate these little actions into your everyday life?

7. You read the statistics – we are an Incarceration Nation.

What would it look like to offer restorative justice rather than retributive justice (locking everyone up) in our society? Where might this begin?

8. The author asks a very good question, “Were he suddenly inserted into our time and place, were he to behold our structural racism and all the other forms of injustice borne by one group or another, what would Jesus have us do?”

Thoughts? 

9. Let’s talk about non-dual thinking or living with paradox. Many hear this and think of eastern religions. But Jesus was also a non-dual thinker. That means sometimes there is no right or wrong, this or that, my way or no way. Sometimes both are right, my way and your way. It’s about coming to the conversation with an open mind.

Can you think of someone you strongly disagree with? Do you know that person’s whole story? Have you really listened to that person’s reasoning without judgment? Could you have that conversation? If not, why not?

10. Lunatic, Liar or Lord? Time to brainstorm some more L words that might describe Jesus. One I love – LOVE.

Your turn. 

Have you read Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower yet? Pop any answers or thoughts that come up out of the exercises above in the comments. I’d love to continue the conversation. If you haven’t read it yet, but your interest is sparked, you can order it HERE or check it out from your local library. These posts will be here for you at any time — 

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

So, what’s next for our book club? Subscribe HERE to receive the full Finding Delight Reading List or tune in next week for PART 1 of a brand new book. 🙂

❤ Thank you to my mom and sister for their help with this series. Grateful to be part of a family that loves and encourages reading! ❤

If you enjoy my blog content, please consider supporting what I do (and keeping me caffeinated). Thank you! xoxo ☕

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Book Club: Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower Pt. 3

Last week, we learned a bit more about the man behind Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower. (Well, the author, Tom Krattenmaker. Not Jesus. LOL) I shared some of his other work, and a few interviews, which hopefully placed the book in the broader context of why Krattenmaker, again and again, finds himself turning to the figure of Jesus.

Today, I’d like to widen the horizons of that context even further and offer some extended reading. Perhaps these pieces will bolster the book’s argument for where to find inspiration and input in your own life, perhaps not. Either way, I hope they are illuminating.

I must admit, Krattenmaker’s NOTES section made the process of discovering “further reading” super easy. Most of what follows was pulled from those pages; I selected the ones I felt best broadened the scope of each chapter and linked them for you here…

First, listen to this —
On Being with Krista Tippett – The Equation of Change

For more on contemporary American Religion —
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell

For a deeper dive into exploring the modern world in theological terms —
The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium by Walter Wink

I’d love to know, what do you think about the interpretation of modesty in this article? 
Yoga Pants and What the Bible Really Says about Modesty
and here’s another opinion piece the book makes reference to in Chapter 3 —
The Caligulan Thrill

To enter into a conversation with Jesus —
Let Me Ask You a Question: Conversations with Jesus by Matthew Croasmun

For more on questioning the meaning of life —
What Makes Life With Living? Take a Moment to Ask 

* QUICK INTERMISSION *
So much to read and take in, amirite? How about a little break in the action for some tunes! Click  HERE for my Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower playlist on Spotify. 🙂

For a greater understanding of the “urban age” discussed in Chapter 6–
America’s Urban Future

Some further reading on who we lock up —
The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty

The invisible and forgotten —
The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration

For more on religion and politics —
God’s Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics by Stephen Carter
and an interview with Jonathan Haidt —
Defusing Political Conflicts

How to approach the resurrection as a nonbeliever —
Easter for Atheists

Some more secular inspiration —
All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly

Ok, that should keep us all busy for a bit. Happy reading!
And, one more time,…here’s the link to the Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower SPOTIFY PLAYLIST. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for Part 4! xoxo

Book Club: Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower Pt. 2

Let’s learn a bit more about the author of our first book club book, shall we? Tom Krattenmaker is a columnist for USA Today and the Director of Communications at Yale Divinity School.

His work primarily explores the discord, problems, and potential that arises from the intersection of religion and culture. Tom considers himself a secular progressive, and Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower stemmed from his idea that crucial moral guidance and insight can be gleaned from the Jesus found on the pages of the New Testament.

Previous books include Onward Christian Athletes (2009), a critique of Christianity in sports, and The Evangelicals You Don’t Know (2013), about the “new evangelicals” in our post-Christian America.

Not only an author and journalist, Krattenmaker is also a speaker — at the American Humanist Association conference on multiple occasions, as well as countless other events and many universities. He’s won awards from organizations like the American Academy of Religion, Religion Newswriters Association, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, and the Muslim Educational Trust.

He currently calls New Haven, Connecticut home and you can follow him on Twitter HERE.

“On the mountains I’ve climbed, figuratively speaking, I’ve discovered, and then rediscovered again and again, the anchor that means the most to me, the anchor I find most worthy of my trust. It’s the ethic and the inspiration and, indeed, the way of an ancient figure with whom we are acquainted, but whose relevance to our lives and society might not be so readily apparent, and whose availability to us, if we are secular might come as a complete surprise.”

***

More with Tom Krattenmaker

Posts and articles —

Real men get help when it’s needed–as it so often is Recent blog post
Christmas is a Time to Celebrate Jesus’s Moral Insights USA Today column
White progressives shouldn’t be smug about racism … USA Today column
Don’t Domesticate MLK Commentary in Religion News Service

Interviews —

Can You Be Secular and Still Love Jesus? An interview in Psychology Today
Reading is FUNdamental An interview on The Brain Candy Podcast
Do Religion and Pro Sports Mix? Faith Matters series on NPR

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Got any thoughts? Leave ’em below! And if you want exclusive book club content (incl. the full reading list and FREE printables) sent straight to your inbox — SIGN UP HERE. Part 3, coming soon!

Book Club: Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower Pt. 1

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.

For the full book list CLICK HERE. I’d love to have you along for the ride!

“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.”

Synopsis

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.

Krattenmaker asks–
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.”

Initial Thoughts

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.

And don’t forget — if you want the full reading list CLICK HERE. You’ll basically become a card-carrying member of the Finding Delight Book Club! ❤