Faith Isn't All About Winning: An Interview with Tom Krattenmaker


As a journalist from Portland, Oregon, Tom Krattenmaker sought to tell a story he wasn’t part of. Like most secular progressives, he didn’t run in evangelical circles, yet the story—about the evangelicals who didn’t make the headlines, but imitated Christ—proved irresistible. His USA Today article recounting his experience won a journalism award in 2009 for being one of the top three pieces of religious commentary that year and led him on a larger quest to fully probe the depths of the evangelical movement. The result is a new book entitled, The Evangelicals You Don’t Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians. Here Tom and I talk about what he discovered and how he thinks the future of American Christianity looks like. JM: How do you define the “common good” in your book?

TK: The “common good” is the good that affects everyone regardless of her/his religion, politics, identity or status. One of the most exciting things about the “new evangelicals” is their emphasis on the common good. This is a refreshing contrast to what evangelicals have become known for in progressive circles over the course of 30-40 years of the culture war; namely, being a movement or group viewed as insular, looking to enhance and protect its own power and prerogatives, and often not at the table where interfaith and intercultural exchanges happen. This view was never entirely fair, of course, but there have been enough examples in the public eye to help this catch on and hang on.

Here’s the other thing about the common good: It’s inconvenient in an inspiring way. Unlike utilitarian concepts of the greater good, or philosophies that maximize the good for the largest number of people, promoters of the common good are not okay with the powerless or most vulnerable paying the price for someone else’s good. For example, who will remember that forgotten prisoner or abandoned baby? I’m impressed by the way evangelicals are stepping up for these people, and it bodes well for our society and evangelicals’ good standing in that society.


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