Tom Tarrants Tells His Story of Radical Transformation


How a bomb-making white supremacist, once called "the most dangerous man in Mississippi," met Jesus in prison and emerged a committed advocate for Christian discipleship, peace, and racial justice.

As a high school student in the 1960s, Tom Tarrants was seduced by extremist ideology and radicalized during the social upheaval of the era. Before long, he became involved in the reign of terror spread by Mississippi's dreaded White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, described by the FBI as the most violent rightwing terrorist organization in America. Shot multiple times and arrested by police after an attempt to bomb the home of a Jewish leader in Meridian, MS, Tom was sentenced to thirty years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. After recovering from near-fatal wounds, Tarrants and two other inmates escaped. An FBI SWAT team tracked them down, killing one of the convicts, and Tom spent the next three years alone in a 6'x9' cell. Tom began a search for truth that led him to the Bible and a reading of the gospels, resulting in his conversion to Christianity and liberation from racial hate and violence.

After serving eight years of a thirty-five-year sentence, Tom attended college, moved to Washington, DC, and became co-pastor of a racially mixed church. He went on to earn a doctorate and became the president of the C.S. Lewis Institute, where he devoted himself to helping others become wholehearted followers of Jesus. A dramatic story of radical transformation, this book demonstrates that hope is not lost even in the most tumultuous of times, such as our own.



Thomas A. Tarrants is President Emeritus of the C.S. Lewis Institute. After serving twelve years as president and nine years as vice President, he retired from his position as Vice President for Ministry and Director, Washington Area Fellows Program, with CSLI in June 2019.  Tom holds a Master of Divinity Degree, as well as a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Christian Spirituality. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Church Alliance and a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. Going forward, Tom will be spending his time writing, mentoring, consulting and traveling. His life story is told in Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“As a kid in Mississippi in the late 1960’s, I remember the men of our church discussing the Klan’s bombing campaign against the Jews. The men did not disapprove. Later, I would use this fascinating chapter of civil rights history as the backdrop for my novel, The Chamber. Now, one of the bombers, Thomas Tarrants tells the real story in this remarkable memoir. It is riveting, inspiring, at times hard to believe but utterly true, and it gives some measure of hope in these rancorous times.”

John Grisham

New York Times bestselling author

“This gripping and inspiring story is as timely as today’s headlines. My friend Tom Tarrants is a trophy of God’s grace—and testament to how God not only changes our eternity but can transform our hearts and minds for today. So put on your seatbelt and prepare to enter into one of the most extraordinary true stories you’ll ever encounter!”

Lee Strobel

bestselling author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Grace

“A riveting narrative. This is the path from burning crosses to the cross of Christ himself, from raging hate to amazing grace. How I love that story. You will too.”

Russell Moore

president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

“The dramatic story of Tom Tarrants’s conversion from terrorist to advocate for peace is simply astonishing. It is also essential reading for these times. If you want to understand how the evil of extremist thought works—and how the gospel of God’s grace can overcome it—read this book.”

Mark Batterson

New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker and lead pastor of National Community Church

“A rivetingly told tale. Will America ever be free of its 'original sin' of racism? Tarrants goes on record against himself, shining the light on the dark workings of his own radicalization as a domestic terrorist. But in showing how grace and forgiveness broke into his own life to give him a second chance, he points the way for all who strive to rid America of this terrible scourge and the hatred that it breeds.”

Os Guinness

author of Last Call for Liberty


“At a time when the blight of hatred, racial division, and tribalistic contempt spreads and seeps into our politics, communities, and churches, Tom Tarrant’s extraordinary, often horrifying, and miraculous story offers both insight and instruction. He shows the ways in which hate warps the mind and corrupts the heart, as well as the allure of scapegoating and rigid ideology and the human carnage left in their wake. But this is ultimately a story of amazing grace—how one blinded by hate learned to see, to love, and to reconcile. And it offers hope, showing the possibilities for the flowering of such grace, even on the cultural battlefields of our own riven land.”

Cherie Harder

president of the Trinity Forum, Washington, DC


“The amazing story of how God delivered my friend Tom Tarrants from racism and hatred and gave him a heart of love and friendship for people of all colors and backgrounds. This book gives hope for what God can do.”

Dr. John Perkins

president emeritus of the John Perkins Foundation and cofounder emeritus of the Christian Community Development Association

“Reveals how easily a political ideology can grow into a radical, extreme, life-taking worldview, all the while masquerading as some supposed form of a ‘Christian’ faith. A powerful story!”

Eric C. Redmond

associate professor of Bible at the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago

“From racism to reconciliation. From Klan-inspired hatred to passionate love with understanding. Tom Tarrants’s story and reflections show that there is hope for our times, even in the midst of rancor and division. This is a must-read for the church in America!”

Dennis P. Hollinger, PhD

president and Colman M. Mockler distinguished professor of Christian Ethics, Gordon-Conwell Seminary

“When I met Tom Tarrants at Parchman prison so many years ago, I sensed him as a pleasant, well-mannered, and intelligent man. I wondered why he was there. I did not have any sense of how our lives would intersect. Only later did I learn the depths to which the demons of racism had driven him. This riveting story of a journey from darkness into light is about the total renovation that God’s grace can bring about—of mind, heart, and soul. What impresses me as much as Tom’s initial journey into faith is his renouncing the temptations of celebrity status and desire to live as a humble disciple of Jesus, quietly guiding others on the same path. This is a needed story for our time.”

Leighton Ford

president of Leighton Ford Ministries