I’m sorry, Mr. Kratzer, but I just don’t follow
About a week ago I came across Chris Kratzer’s article, “I’m Sorry Conservative Christianity, But I Just Can’t Do It Anymore.” Mr. Krazter seeks to be a pastor, but is better known as a former conservative Christian who uses his blog to explain his pro-gay, pro-grace stance. If his writing is any indication, he expects me to react with blustering incense, but to be honest, I have a good chuckle every time I glance through. I recommend reading the article, particularly in a melodramatic voice with accompanying hand gestures.
I’m sure Mr. Kratzer means well, but his histrionic prose evokes images of a teenager indignantly lecturing his parents on his perfectly good reasons to stay out after curfew. Having been a teenager not so long ago, I know that these reasons seem immensely important and grave at the time, and I was certainly annoyed with my parents for chuckling. Fortunately, my parents were good enough to address my concerns as well, so I will show Mr. Kratzer the same courtesy. However, I am not going to waste time addressing his many meandering points; let us instead cut to the heart of the matter.
Central to Mr. Kratzer’s argument is what, exactly, he means by “conservative Christianity.” At first glance, it seems that he means the cultural peculiarities of American Evangelicalism – the plethora of scripture-themed T-shirts, the potlucks, the emphasis on a cookie-cutter path to conversion, and the occasional anti-intellectualism. If Mr. Kratzer thinks various problems with American Evangelicalism should be addressed, then we are in agreement, although I don’t find them nearly as grave or pervasive as he does. But if that is what he meant, I doubt anyone would have heard of him. It quickly becomes clear that he means nothing so orthodox.
Instead, Mr. Kratzer, piece by piece, makes it clear that he has parted ways entirely with Christian doctrine, to the extent that I wonder why he is a Christian in the first place. For instance, he starts out by saying that he “can’t see people as being inherently evil and lost.” Since the entire point of Christianity is seeking and saving the lost, one must wonder why he bothers with something so unnecessary. It is, in any case, hardly surprising that the gospel is, “for [him], no gospel at all” – if we are not guilty, being told that there is pardon available does seem rather useless good news.
Why, then, is Mr. Kratzer a Christian? The answer seems to be a vague over-emphasis on the words “grace” and “freedom,” which apparently remove the idea of sin altogether. It does not seem to occur to Mr. Kratzer that grace can only be accepted after guilt has been acknowledged, that condemning the behavior and loving the person are compatible, that in fact the loving parent is exactly the one who disciplines (aka punishes) his child, and that failure to set boundaries is not love, but neglect. Punishment is not “bipolar” and judgement of behavior is not “conditional love.” I would speak more on this, but I have addressed it elsewhere; it is an argument based in emotion, not logic.
Clearly, Mr. Kratzer wishes to emphasize his liberality in sexual issues, but one must wonder how far he will go, if child molestation is also to be excused because “none of us are better, only different.” If he lived in Somalia, would he be so quick to affirm that everyone is loving at heart? If a serial killer moved next door to him, would he be so quick to reject “condemning, and fear-driven coercing”? But we need not go so far afield. Mr. Kratzer has no problem condemning Christians for our condemnation of behavior, and the phrase “I just can’t do it anymore” can hardly be read without an implicit “I’m just too good a person” following. The entire piece, to be blunt, smacks of condescension and self-righteousness.
What, exactly, is Mr. Kratzer advocating for? It is clear that the “conservative Christianity” he is rejecting is, in fact, not merely the cultural quirks of American Evangelicalism, but Christian orthodoxy, though I suppose “conservative” carries much more cultural and political capital than “orthodox.” But he does not depart from this in order to advocate for a radical new view in which grace already covers everything, because he clearly thinks some of us need to change our ways. So what, exactly, is the point of this new view?
It is actually fairly obvious, and I have already alluded to it. Mr. Kratzer’s exhortation to be brave brings a smile to my face when I notice that all his deviations from orthodox Christianity just happen to stem from issues of gender and sexuality, where orthodoxy and popular thought are most directly in conflict. Thus, I am not surprised to find that he sees the Bible not as a guide, but as a tool he can use to satisfy whatever he feels must be the correct way to live, repeating the word “grace” as a justification for overturning all semblance of Christian doctrine in favor of the cultural winds of the day.
In short, Mr. Kratzer prefers a tame Christianity, and while he is obviously well-versed in the phraseology of the gospel, he has gutted it of any real meaning. His skill lies in using shadows of Christian doctrine to justify his liberal sentiments, the way some filmmakers adapt books and only keep the title, and in convincing himself and others that in doing this, they have found the higher way. I’m sorry, Mr. Kratzer, but I just can’t follow your argument.