Saturday, August 13, 2005

Hearts of Darkness: Can BTK be Forgiven?

BTK -- the church elder and serial murderer -- is the subject of this piece ... BTK: Can He Be Forgiven?

Two people who encountered Dennis Rader, the confessed BTK serial killer, see his claim of Christian faith in completely different ways: After Rader's arrest in February, Kristin Casarona, 38, of Topeka, wrote to him "as one person of faith to another." They talked about writing a story about his life, "which would have a Christian message."

Then there's Wichita police Lt. Ken Landwehr, head of the BTK Task Force, who met with reporters in July. His view of Rader?

"He is proud of what he did. He can think he's a Christian all he wants.... He is nothing but a perverted serial killer."

Christian and serial killer?

Most local Christian clergy say that as difficult as it may be for people to accept, Rader can call himself a Christian and can be forgiven if -- and that's an important word -- he repents.

It is a chilling thought that this individual fooled so many people for so long. How well do we really know anyone? As for whether he can be forgiven by God, the answer is yes. In my mind, if he wanted to show that he had really repented he should demand the death penalty. Though from what I understand, his crimes were committed before the state of Kansas instituted the death penalty. No matter, he should say he'd like to be tried in a state where biblical justice could be done to him.

Apart from that I think there is a valuable lesson that Rader can teach Christians. It's the profound danger presented by nursing along our little sins. Certainly, Rader didn't wake up one morning and say, I think I'll bind, torture and kill an innocent family today. It was a process, and it started with his thought life. Instead of dealing with these sins, he nurtured them until they bloomed into action. That is a trap into which anyone can fall. It may not manifest itself in mass murder, by we all have sins whose ultimate expression is death.

As human beings, we all have hearts of darkness. We are all capable, apart from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, of unspeakable cruelty to our fellow humans. We are all in desperate need of not only a Savior, but also of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

John Owen wrote eloquently and accurately about this in his classic The Mortification of Sin. Sayeth Owen:
This is the outcome of harboring your lust -- the hardening of your heart, the searing of your conscience, the blinding of your mind, the dulling of your affections and the decieving of your whole soul.

... and ...
Ask envy what it aims at. Murder and destruction are its natural conclusion.

Likewise, I imagine Owen would say, at what does lust aim? Rape. At what does covetousness aim? Theft. At what does greed aim? Complete idolotry and a turning from God.

Lord, help me to hate sin and be at war with it at all times.