Today’s post is my review of “Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower” by Tom Krattenmaker.
This book held a lot of promise, but didn’t quite deliver and it came off as a bit too preachy. Yes, you read that right, an atheist came off as too preachy about Jesus and, yes, a Christian is saying this. He pushes, rather than leads, people to use Jesus’ life as a model. I really like the underlying idea because Jesus said and did many things we should be emulating today, but Mr. Krattenmaker did not show us as much as he told us what he means by living according to Jesus’ example.
This may give the impression that I didn’t like the book. I think this book is pretty good, but could have been so much better. Still, it is a good book. There is much to ponder in its pages. He talks about many subjects, including, racism, poverty, and sex. After introducing each topic, he goes on to explain how a follower of Jesus might act. I wish there were more examples of people doing this. One of things that Mr. Krattenmaker does not do is to chastise Christians for their failing to ask like Jesus. I would not have been so generous, if it were my book.
He talks about how men treat women as objects and how we, as a society, do not truly hold men accountable for how they treat women. In response to this, he shows how Jesus treated women. Jesus was one of the few to acknowledge the women around him. Mr. Krattenmaker writes, “the stories make it clear that women were part of the Jesus community and were the people he called friends”. He points to the story in Luke 7 about the ‘bad woman down the street’. This poor woman comes up to Jesus at a party with the elite and washes Jesus’ feet herself. She is a fallen woman and simply being present at this party is offensive to most of the guests, but not to Jesus. Instead, Jesus accepts her as she is, something that Christians could learn to do.
As Mr. Krattenmaker writes in chapter 5, “Saved from What?”, “Jesus shows you that you cannot so haughtily condemn and walk away from those around you who suffer”. Jesus often tells people what they don’t want to hear and if we were to follow Jesus’ example, we may speak truth to power. Mr. Krattenmaker almost makes it sound like those with wealth and power would be called by Jesus to help those less fortunate than themselves.
My favorite chapter is number ten, “Found in Translation”. This is the payoff and what I think the whole book should have been. He writes, “Me? I am keen for the time being to take a break from learning and debating about Jesus and who he was, cosmologically speaking, and am more interested in focusing on what he said and did and what we can learn from it, whatever our location on the theological spectrum”. He does have academic writing down, though one may wish he were a bit more relaxed and casual in his writing. I have read journal articles of both physics and philosophy, so I can understand what he is saying, but this would have benefited from being more conversational. However, that quote is one of my favorite from the book. What does it matter who or what Jesus is? What matters is the example he set and how we might follow that example. And that, dear readers, is the point of this book.
And finally, to make the FCC happy, I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.