When I worked at World Vision, a colleague of mine used to say, “We have the Jesus everybody loves.” This is the compassionate Jesus who reconciles and heals, and surprisingly he is someone our culture still knows quite well. “Despite decades of culture-war battles over Christianity in politics, [Jesus] remains remarkably unscathed in the public imagination,” writes USA Today columnist Tom Krattenmaker in his new book, Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower.
Krattenmaker, whose previous book is The Evangelicals You Don’t Know, writes, “One can sense a respect for Jesus, even a fascination with him, despite the decline of institutionalized Christianity.” As a self-professed secular liberal who doesn’t believe in God or the miraculous, he still believes Jesus is the answer to many of today’s problems, from sex to mass incarceration, violence to meaninglessness.
That’s what makes his book interesting in a moment of Christian decline. What is attractive about Jesus to someone who doesn’t really believe in him? And further, What might convince this new kind of Jesus follower to confess saving faith in Christ?
Krattenmaker begins with the pointlessness of modern life without faith. He describes a “quiet crisis” among nonbelievers. While many religious people expect the loss of God to lead to a lack of morals and widespread degeneracy, the non-religious experience, Krattenmaker says, is more banal. “To use a term from the philosopher Charles Taylor,” he writes, “it’s in the ‘flatness’ that we experience as people who perceive and experience no supernatural charge in our world and surroundings. ...1