The following is an excerpt of Leatherbound Terrorism, Chris Kratzer‘s incisive and confessional memoir-manifesto about life in Christ after evangelicalism. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.
If you are like me, when I was challenged in my biblical understandings, you aren’t convinced. At least, not yet, and perhaps you never will be. You’re passionate about your beliefs—that’s highly admirable.
When you quote the Scriptures, your desires are most assuredly noble and good-hearted. No one can deny your commitment, resolve, and tenacity towards your faith, the Bible, and a desire to make a difference. To be sure, that was my intention.
Yet, tragically, what I didn’t realize was how I was coming across in my use of the Scriptures and some of the messages I was sending in doing so—intended or not. Maybe that’s not an important nuance to you, and at times it wasn’t important to me, but there are countless people who are desperately trying to call our attention to the repugnant taste our reckless use of the Bible is leaving upon the receptors of their souls–if only we would listen to their plea.
In fact, looking back, I can’t believe the terrorism I sowed into people’s lives through the use of the Bible: day-after- day, week-after-week, person-after-person. And now that I’m no longer a faithful member of the conservative Evangelical team, I can’t tell you how many times people have now knocked on my door with their vicious condemnation, disgust, disappointment, and desire to convert me back—each time quoting the Bible at me to do so.
When this first started happening, I literally wanted to vomit at how terrible it felt to be on the receiving end, knowing I had tormented the lives of countless people in the very same way. I couldn’t believe the monster I had become, and what so many had experienced from my weaponizing of the Scriptures. It was then that I truly knew what it felt like to be the victim and, in so doing, came up with the only term that fully described the person I had become and the death I had caused—leatherbound terrorist.
Do you know what it feels like to have the Bible quoted at you? Have you ever experienced the devastation of being condemned, marginalized, used, and hated in such a way that you are led to believe that God is author and communicator of it? Do you have the courage to step outside of the conservative Evangelical Empire and feel the full weight of its evil clamping down upon your soul? Do you have the guts to stomach the bullets and field the shrapnel of what is nothing less than leatherbound terrorism?
This is what it feels like: tenfold—pain, isolation, condemnation, belittling, shame, exploitation, and abuse, to name a few. For nothing mutilates the soul like the highlighted Bible of a conservative Evangelical Christian waiting for someone to devour.
In fact, when you quote the Bible at me, it feels like you care more about winning an argument than winning my heart. Sometimes, it seems like you’re inspired most by the prospect of somehow putting me in my place—pacing for the opportunity to engage in debate. With every verse you position to convict, condemn, and admonish, apparently you understand the Bible to be “useful in teaching and correcting” the way a tightly wound parent might deem a paddle to be useful in painfully punishing their child—any love you may intend to communicate is severely lost in translation. In fact, as much as I may desire to conclude otherwise, with every proof text and citing of scriptural support, it feels like the Bible has become, for you, less of a mirror in which to examine yourself, and more of a missile to launch at others.
Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d actually start believing you might truly want to know me, understand me, and even love me.
When you quote the Bible at me, it makes me wonder if you really know what you believe. I mean no disrespect, but at times, the way the Scriptures roll off your tongue so automatically and instantly, it feels a bit pre-packaged and cut and pasted—like you haven’t taken the journey of authentic believing. The memorization of verses takes only the efforts of our brain and can be a deceptive spiritual veil to an empty life. Meditation requires the soul searching of the heart and personally encountering Jesus. My sense is that people who truly know Him, genuinely wrestle with their faith, and are treading deeply into the Bible, spend far less time in need of quoting it to others and using it to justify their every belief. For the mind of Christ within them has taken the lead, and what they believe is far less a product of simply the Bible saying so, but much more that Jesus has said so in their Spirit.
Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more inclined to consider that you’re actually speaking from that which Jesus has authentically revealed to you and what He might truly desire to say.
When you quote the Bible at me, I get the sense that you believe you know all the answers. Sometimes, it’s even hard to get a word in edgewise. It feels like no matter what I say, somehow, I’m always off the mark or completely wrong all together. For every thought I have, you seem to have a Bible verse cocked, loaded, and ready to counter it. All of which leaves me wondering, if you have all the answers already, why do you position yourself as desiring conversation? Perhaps, you’re hoping to change my mind, or simply enjoy hearing the sound of your own. Either way, the more you appear to have all the answers, the more I become convinced you probably don’t.
Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d hear the sounds of your listening and learning instead of the chalkboard-screeching nails of presumptuousness.
When you quote the Bible at me, it smells of religion, not revelation. No, God never changes, but what He reveals of Himself and how He reveals Himself certainly does. Yet, with nearly every verse you quote, it feels like you are desperately trying to protect and prosper the religious spirit and your long-held beliefs, instead of exuding a humility and openness to encounter fresh revelation. In fact, if I’m honest, it comes across at times as if you’re afraid of what God might reveal. It’s as if the Bible has become for you, less of a catalyst to encountering Jesus, and more of a replacement for Him. All of which leaves me wondering, if God desired to grow you beyond your current scriptural understandings and interpretations, would He even be able to do so?
Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more inclined to believe you possess the capacity for divine discernment and the journey needed for wisdom.
When you quote the Bible at me, I feel like a project. At times, the way you use the Scriptures, it seems like your ultimate goal is my conversion, conformity, and compliance to your beliefs and biblical interpretations. If I have a change of mind or repent of my erring ways in response to your scriptural interventions, a rousing moment of high-fives with your fellow Christians is surely just around the corner. You “caught’ me, “won” me, or “discipled” me into your fold, and now I’m yet another “catch” to be mounted on your spiritual mantel. I mean no disrespect in saying so, but it feels like the way you use the Bible is more like a cattle prod than a stable, and I, more of a project than a person.
Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more willing to open the gates and consider that you have a genuine care for me and my best interests.
When you quote the Bible at me, I wonder what you’re trying to hide. Maybe it’s just me, but I have found that those who are constantly quoting the Bible with proof texts, debates, and scriptural arguments are often the ones concealing deep levels of spiritual immaturity, doubts, duplicity, and even carnality. In fact, Satan is described as knowing the Scriptures quite well, all while completely missing the heart of Jesus—obviously. The more you quote the Bible at me, the more I begin to consider, maybe this is all just a big show of biblical smoke and mirrors concealing a cowardly wizard hiding behind a leather-bound, name-engraved curtain.
Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d feel a lot more comfortable in extending trust, respect, and credibility.
When you quote the Bible at me, it feels like you’re just another one of “them.” You know, those Pharisee types that Jesus loved, but aggressively challenged at every turn, were using their understanding of the Scriptures for the condemnation of others and the justifying and puffing up of themselves. In one place, Jesus spoke of spitting repugnant people like this out of His mouth, and, quite honestly, I don’t blame Him. Sometimes, the way you quote the Bible at me, it makes me want to vomit, too—if only a simple, right-cheek sneak would do. For it all comes across so pretentiously, my entire being can’t help but want to expel it.
See, when Jesus referenced the Bible, He did so, primarily, to reframe it and reinterpret it through the lens of Grace, love, and Himself.
I’m no spiritual giant, but I have a hunch we would do well to follow His example.
Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I would respect you all the more, have a greater desire to give serious consideration to your claims and creeds, and be far more apt to conclude that Jesus is truly working in and through you.
In fact, take notice that the corner of America where there is often the most rampant manifestations of spiritual condemnation, bigotry, and hate, isn’t called the Jesus-belt or the Love-belt, but rather—the Bible-belt.
For more read Chris Kratzer’s Leatherbound Terrorism in full, and check out his interview with Stuart Delony on Snarky Faith Radio!