March 11, 2007

"People cannot see that a story about Mr. Dahmer is a story about all of us."

Dan Barry writes about the minister who baptized Jeffrey Dahmer (TimesSelect link):
“He was seeking redemption,” [said Roy Ratcliff, minister of the Mandrake Road Church of Christ in Madison], recalling how Mr. Dahmer often spoke of being the worst of sinners. “He was seeking forgiveness.”...

Every Wednesday for months afterward, Mr. Ratcliff met with Mr. Dahmer to pray. The convict said he should have been put to death for his crimes, and his minister agreed. He talked about suicide, something the preacher had flirted with many years earlier, after being fired from another church. A shared faith drew the different men together....

After a discreet memorial service at the minister’s church in Madison, after the notorious surname had slipped into the recesses of public consciousness, Mr. Ratcliff continued to be identified as the man who baptized the serial killer. Both in and out of the Church of Christ community, some embraced him for it, while others shunned him.
Well, he also wrote a book about it. As Barry puts it: "'Dark Journey, Deep Grace,' has sold poorly — perhaps, he says, because people cannot see that a story about Mr. Dahmer is a story about all of us." Oh, please! It's one thing to recognize the proper role of a minister baptizing someone who has committed murder. It's quite another to read the book he writes about a famous serial killer. I haven't seen this book, but is it the best book to read if you want to curl up with info about Dahmer or if, alternatively, you want to read a book about Christian redemption? What's with Barry/Ratcliff acting like people are shallow for not wanting to read it?

7 comments:

chuck b. said...

On the other hand, the movie Zodiac was really good! Well, i enjoyed it.

Galvanized said...

All that bothers me is the fact that any minister would be shunned by any Christian for befriending anyone. As Christ said, "I come not to judge," so neither should we, and "Judge not lest ye be judged." His sentence, of course, was a matter of "rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" (law), but a man's salvation is quite another matter. Perhaps he wishes for people to read it to take the goriness out of Dahmer's story and instead remind readers of the possibility for spiritual rebirth despite the most evil past, and every person's quest for redemption.

Robert said...

For some reason, this reminded me of one of several Jack Chick tracts. The gist is, a vile career criminal who has killed many people accepts Jesus the night before execution, and goes straight to Heaven. The dedicated and virtuous lawman who brings the criminal to justice also dies the same night, but has _not_ accepted Jesus, and so, despite a life spent doing 'good' things, goes straight to Hell.

I'm not at all comfortable with anyone who finds this an acceptable theology. I don't have any problem with a clergyman trying to 'save' Dahmer's soul, but some of the subtext is queasy-making.

Galvanized said...

Robert, I totally agree with you that that theology is erroneous. In Philippians, it states that the Christian is to "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling...to will and to act according to His good purpose." I think that a lot of Christians would agree with me that salvation only begins when the person accepts Christ but is worked out on a daily basis in living a repentent and productive life thereafter (hence an end to the argument of "once saved not always saved" after the prayer and baptism because, frankly, it's just not scriptural). The Bible is also clear to state that one does not reach heaven by good works alone but by picking up one's cross and following Christ daily. I hope that Dahmer, like many of us, worked out his salvation. He seems to have repented, but I am not one to judge as I have respect for everyone alongside me doing the same.

Galvanized said...

*Sorry, that's an end to the argument "once saved, always saved."

mikeyes said...

Or, as Jeffrey Dahmer said to Lorena Bobbit, "Are you going to eat that?"

Maybe he just wanted to sell a book.

Kansas Bob said...

An excerpt from my blog post on Luke 18:10-14:

Forgiveness is acquired by humbling ourselves ... often we get it when we don't even know what we are doing ... we are just beating our breast in repentance ... throwing ourselves on the mercy of God. Religious people like the Pharisees often lose sight of this ... lose sight of people like Dahmer who desperately need forgiveness ... and sometimes we shy away from people in prison.

I am thankful for Roy Ratcliff, minister of the Mandrake Road Church of Christ in Madison Wisconsin, who looked on this serial killer and helped him beat his breast and repent. I am glad that he could get past his preconceived ideas about Jeffrey Dahmer and share Jesus with him in friendship. It is what life is all about - sharing Jesus and making new friends.