Monday, December 10, 2018

Combatting “Leatherbound Terrorism”

As the author of a book titled Fed Up with Fundamentalism and of a soon-to-be-published book whose last chapter is about grace, I am happy to introduce readers of this blog to Chris Kratzer and his recently-published book Leatherbound Terrorism.
Who is Chris Kratzer?
On his website (see here), Chris Kratzer identifies himself as “a husband, father, pastor, author, and speaker.” He has been a pastor for 23 years, mostly serving “conservative Evangelical churches.”
Kratzer is now the pastor of The Grace Place (in Shelby, N.C.), which is billed as “a contemporary, progressive, affirming church.”
I have not met Chris personally, but I have carefully read his book, which was self-published in September. Its subtitle is Crucified by Conservative Evangelicalism, Resurrected By Jesus.
The book is quite personal. In the first chapter Chris talks about meeting Jesus for the first time when he was seven years old. By reading the book, one comes to know much about the author, from that time until the present.
I have become a Facebook friend with Chris—as have more than 3,200 others. In addition, I am a subscriber to his blog (see here).
What is Leatherbound Terrorism?
Kratzer graduated from seminary and became a Lutheran pastor, but after a few years he was lured into becoming a conservative Evangelical. That shift is described in Chapter Three, “Drinking The Poison.”  
Even though he had a long and deep association with Evangelicalism, Chris came to realize that that form of Christianity is poisonous and that the conservative use of what is claimed as an infallible Bible is nothing other than leatherbound (as used for expensive Bibles) terrorism.
The seventh chapter of Leatherbound Terrorism bears the same title as the book. There he asserts that “declaring the infallibility of the Bible and the exclusive, divine authority of one’s interpretation of it” often leads to “power, control, and privilege” (p. 87).
Reflecting on his acceptance of that stance, Kratzer confesses that he committed “countless acts of leatherbound terrorism, deserving of nothing less than the status of a vicious war criminal” (p. 90). Strong words!
Later he writes, “We [Evangelical] Christians have been drastically wrong . . . about racism, wrong about equality, wrong about violence and war, the list keeps growing” (p. 137). He also admits that he has been wrong in his evaluation of and treatment of LGBT people.
But it is not just the beliefs of Evangelicalism that Chris now thinks are wrong. It is also their common method of operation.
“My heart is saddened and filled with deep compassion,” Chris writes, “for those Christians and pastors who have been sucked into the black hole of a success-driven, corporate, narcissistic, elitist church culture overflowing within much of American Christianity” (p. 161).
The Antidote
The remedy or antidote for all of that toxic, terroristic Christianity he had encountered and embraced, Kratzer found, was the central message of grace.
He writes in the fourth chapter how he was liberated when he “encountered Grace—unconditional, irrevocable, unremovable, pure, undiluted Grace” (p. 55). And that is the main message of the rest of his book—and of his ministry ever since.
If I was “fed up with fundamentalism” when I wrote my book with that title, Kratzer's book clearly reveals that he had become sick to death of fundamentalism, which he calls conservative Evangelicalism.
And if as I have written in Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now  (see the last paragraph of this link), “for Christians—and for all the people of the world—God’s first and last word is grace,” Kratzer’s praise of grace is even stronger.
Grace is truly the last word and the best word for everyone.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


  1. Thanks, Leroy. I have not read Mr. Kratzer's book, yet. So many to read. Your blog did cause me to reflect on our SS class's recent completion of Pagel's, "Revelations: Visions, Prophecies, etc." and the way that ancient document (the book of Revelation), now a part of the Christian canon, was used to terrorize various types of thinking or dissenting or simply unknowing Christians across history. In a word, it seems that what Mr. Kratzer is saying is quite old.

    A more recent iteration of it, in my memory anyway, was back in the 1980s as the SBC took a hard-line "fundamentalist" (as we used to call them) position on matters of doctrine, using political machinations to gain control of key institutional boards across the convention. Mr. Kratzer's journey, an updated version of these older experiences, sounds so familiar. The ancient observation of Qohelet comes to mind: "there's nothing new under the sun."

    Hope you're well.

    1. Thanks for reading and responding to this article, Milton. It was good to hear from you again.

      Well, I haven't read Pagels's book, and she is more "mainstream" and more scholarly than Kratzer. But I am sure he would agree that the book of Revelation has often been used in "leatherbound terrorism."

      I need to read Pagels's book to see what she says, but you may, or may not, remember that last year I posted a blog article titled, "Revelation: The Most Misused Book in the Bible." Here is the link:

  2. I few minutes ago I have some interaction with Chris Kratzer on Facebook Messenger. He wrote,

    "Thanks for taking the time to read my book and for writing about it. So honored!!"

  3. Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago writes,

    "I have read that 'fundamentalist' Christians prefer the term 'conservative evangelical,' the term I also prefer to use out of respect for them. But I do believe that conservative evangelicals preach a perverted form of Christianity. This is not new since there have been many perverted forms of Christianity over the centuries. Most of these perversions come down to the fact that many, perhaps the majority, of people, including Christians, can more easily demonize those who are different than embrace them. Demagogues, whether religious or political, know this. Fear of those who are different is deeply embedded in every one of us, but true Christianity implores us to overcome our fear with love and compassion and to recognize and celebrate the full dignity of every human being. And that is what grace is all about."

    1. Thanks, Eric, for your comments -- and for your good concluding statements about grace.

    2. Well stated, Eric. Thank you. Grace (and its cousin, Goodwill) must dominate as the Christian apologetic - especially within the Church (Love one another). Most have been burned along the line. I have met the mean and militant right-wing side of Christianity. I have been burned, and witnessed more by the mean and militant left-wing side of Christianity - they also lack grace. Both think highly of themselves - but I reject the militant beliefs of both. Thankfully, with the diversity of Christian brands, one can find a place to fit if one wants. The conservative Anglicans, Lutherans, and evangelicals who live out their goodwill come in close close for me.

  4. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky shares these important comments:

    "Chris identifies the central problem of 'conservative evangelicalism'--belief in and use of inerrancy of the Bible to terrorize. I’ve had too many encounters with the terrorism through fifty years of teaching to require convincing. What puzzles me is why some have taken so long to discover this. It merely requires opening the Bible and reading it with care to see that inerrancy is fakery."

    1. Thanks for your comments, Dr. Hinson.

      Yes, it seems to take some people a long time to get things right. I'm happy that Chris Kratzer finally did. Back in 1995, Dr. Barnette wrote about "the heresy of inerrancy" for "Baptists Today"--and I can't remember who it was, but I think I saw a similar article some respected person had written several years earlier than that.

      But that is the problem, and an indication of the terrible polarity we are in now: what some of us see as a heresy is the bedrock of other people's theological structures.

  5. Just after 10:30 this morning, local Thinking Friend Temp Sparkman wrote, "May Kratzer’s tribe increase."

    And then less than an hour later I received this brief email message from Thinking Friend Dick Horn in Texas: "Dear Leroy, all I can say is may his tribe increase."