Conversation As a Way to Move Forward


I have been re-reading James Davison Hunter’s book, To Change the World the last few days. It was a great read the first time through and his thoughts on culture, politics, power and the Christian faith are tremendously insightful whether you agree with them or not. All this to say that while certainly live in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture there’s no sense in which, as much as we pine for the “good old days” (whatever that was), that we can go back and recover a culture that is completely Judeo-Christian in its outlook and practice. Certainly, Hunter agrees that while there are strong religious remnants in our country that are hard to completely shake, his big question is how can Christianity remain a vibrant redemptive force in the flourishing of our society as we move forward.

That brings me to Tom Krattenmaker. I actually was introduced to Tom through his insightful USA Today column in the sports section! What amazed me initially was Tom wrote on the subject of religion and professional sports for a nationally syndicated newspaper. So I’ve had this appreciation for Tom’s thoughts which led to me to email Tom four years ago regarding our church’s emphasis on redemptive work in the community, the nation and around the world. In fact, I emailed him an article that was written up in the Orange County newspaper about our group’s trip to Israel to minister to both Jews and Palestinian children at a camp outside of Tel Aviv designed to foster reconciliation. The children learned how easy it is to “demonize” the other side without getting to know them. Tom’s response was “What you and your students are doing is fantastic!”

Now here’s the twist. It would have been easy to simply put Tom in the mental box of “Oh, he’s a Christian writing for USA Today”. Actually Tom thinks of himself as one in the progressive or secularist camp. Yet, he writes honestly (and mostly favorably) about evangelical Christians in the field of sports and in general culture. I find his demeanor not only professional, but warm, and certainly honest. Here is an article that he recently wrote for the Huffington Post that highlights a soon to be released book about his recent interactions with a conservative Christian organization.

In my years of ministry, I’ve met my share of those who don’t share my Christian faith and yet they are completely open to conversation without rhetoric or polemics. Those conversations were represent something  important if we are to move forward into the future. If I were to add to anything that Hunter wrote in his book about moving forward it would be this: we should not just applaud people like Tom Krattenmaker, we should sit down with them over a cup of coffee or a beer (you can tell that I’m not a Baptist), get to know them, hear their thoughts and converse with them. We might find that in the end, we agree to disagree. But conversing in a charitable way is a way to move forward. I’ve never met Tom face to face but I sure enjoy him and encourage all of you to read his book when it’s released!

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