Tom Krattenmaker breaks the stereotype of evangelicals that depicts strong and persuasive Christians as holier-than-thou and interested only in issues that promote conservatism.
In The Evangelicals You Don’t Know, he gives pictures of current evangelical people, who are frequently more oriented to the golden rule and Jesus’ teachings to help the poor than they are to proclaiming how others should live.
Evangelicals are defined, Mr. Krattenmaker writes, by the beliefs that the Bible is divine truth and wisdom, they are personally devoted to and dependent on Jesus, Jesus is the son of God who died for people’s sins, heaven and hell are real, and Christianity is the true religion. Evangelicals also tell others about Jesus so they may also be followers. His book illustrates that these beliefs don’t have a particular political orientation.
Krattenmaker shows that the new evangelists’ morals and ethics are realistic by promoting doing good by one another and not getting lost in platitudes and judgment. They work for social justice by fighting sexual slavery, standing with the poor, advocating for reforms in favor of “illegal immigrants,” insisting that “pro-life” is for all human life and not just the unborn, and they stand against discrimination.
Mr. Krattenmaker, a columnist for USA Today who is not an evangelical himself, profiles people and places where work of these new evangelicals is having a positive effect. He explains why his hometown of Portland, Ore., is called “Jesus’ favorite city” by city leaders.
He depicts a confession booth some evangelists developed for a secular festival at Reed College, also in Portland, in which it’s not the person entering the booth but the Christian attending it who confesses and apologizes for wrongs done in the name of the Church.
Mr. Krattenmaker highlights changes to Focus on the Family when “divisive firebrand and onetime GOP kingmaker James Dobson” was succeeded as president by evangelical Jim Daly.
And he covers many other good deeds by evangelists, uncharacteristic of the activities of the previous generation.
The book comes up short in a couple of ways. One, it’s kind of an at-this-point-in-time depiction, showing the author’s research, so Krattenmaker’s account has a limited shelf life in his showing of evangelical Christians today. Also the book is too oriented toward Portland. The author knows the people and projects in the city, but he might have found a few more voices elsewhere to increase the national scope of his report.