National Geographic has a very interesting documentary, The Science of Evil where they look at evil from many points of view. It was a very thought-provoking documentary, and I think I will put together a series of posts on the documentary. My first post will deal with Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious serial killer. From Wikipedia, Dahmer
was an American serial killer and sex offender, who committed the rape, murder and dismemberment of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with many of his later murders also involving necrophilia, cannibalism and the permanent preservation of body parts—typically all or part of the skeletal structure.
To call him evil is an understatement. From the movie,
In 1994, Reverend Roy Ratcliff paid a visit to a maximum security prison in Portage, Wisconsin to discuss the Bible with a man serving 16 consecutive life terms, a man many considered to be evil incarnate.
Ratcliff, “I first met Jeffrey Dahmer on April 20, 1994. That day stands out vividly in my mind.”
Ratcliff’s mission that day was to determine if he’d help Dahmer, the killer and mutilator of at least 17 innocent victims, find forgiveness in the eyes of God.
Ratcliff, “As I drove to the prison my hands shook. Several questions rose in my head. What kind of man is this?”
It was about 11:30 pm on July 22, 1991 when two officers were lead to Dahmer’s apartment by a man who had fled in terror.
Ratcliff, “A total of what they found was beyond their worst imaginings. A human head in the refrigerator, three more heads and a decapitated body in a small freezer. A closet with two human skulls, a large pot containing hands and male genitals. A 57-gallon industrial drum held three human bodies decomposing in acid. Overall, 11 victims: skulls, skeletons, and body parts were found in the apartment.”
As a minister in the Church of Christ, it is Ratcliff’s belief that through baptism by full-body immersion: one’s sins can be washed clean and eternal life in heaven granted. In essence, he believes that if a person accepts Jesus and repents, evil acts can be forgiven.
Ratcliff, “There’s a part of me that wanted to cry out, “No!” And yet at the same time there’s a part of me that says, ‘But I serve God and God can reach this person too.’ There’s a part of me I suppose that wondered whether he deserved it? Or is this just something to make him feel better? To ease the suffering he feels for the crimes he’s committed. “
Could Ratcliff do it? Could he baptize a man many considered to be a monster?
Ratcliff, “I parked my car and headed for the door.”
Are Dahmer’s sins too great for redemption? Can Ratcliff’s god ever forgive Dahmer’s litany of sins?
Ratcliff, “The guard told me to wait. After about seven or eight minutes, there he was. Jeffrey Dahmer. Evil does not come with horns attached. Although he had done terrible things, he was just a normal looking person. Finally he said, ‘I really want to be baptized.’ He was familiar with Bible passages about the subject. He understood the purpose and the place of baptism. He very much wanted to address the sin in his life, and he believed in Jesus Christ. He said, ‘I was afraid you’d come and tell me that I couldn’t be baptized because my sins were too evil.’ “
As Ratcliff talked with Dahmer, he began to feel something that surprised him.
Ratcliff, “As we began to talk with each other, look into each other’s eyes and talk heart-to-heart, I began to find things in him that I could admire: His love for the truth, his desire for trying to find out what God’s all about and desire to become more like God.
From his initial meeting with imprisoned serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Reverend Roy Ratcliff has concluded that Dahmer is a worthy candidate for baptism and God’s forgiveness.”
Ratcliff, “The whole point of baptism is dying to one’s old life of sin. All sins are evil before God. I don’t know of any sins too evil for Christ’s blood to wash away.”
The day of the baptism was May 10, 1994. A solar eclipse shrouded the prison in an eerie pall. For Ratcliff, it was as if God himself was watching.
Ratcliff, “I arrived there and was taken through the various procedures to meet Jeff. And I met him in the chaplain’s office. And I took his confession of faith. We’re escorted down the hallway from the chaplain’s office to the medical wing where they have this little whirlpool that the prisoners use when they hurt their back, a little stainless steel tub. And then the door opens up and Jeff’s already in the little tub. And he’s in the fetal position and all that’s left of him that’s sticking out of the water is his head. And he’s looking up at me and I step up to him and put my hand on his head and say, ‘I now baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of your sins.’ And I just pushed his head down.”
Ratcliff, “And when he came back up I said, ‘Welcome to the family of God.’ And he said, ‘Well thank you.’ It was a very quiet ceremony, very silent ceremony, very beautiful, though. No angels singing, nothing like that going on, but it was just something that was just kind of holy in its silence, just a beautiful thing to remember. I believe that the baptism of Jeffrey Dahmer is the triumph of good over evil, in his case especially.”
As Ratcliff left the prison, he had no idea how his lone act of faith, of forgiveness, would impact his life.
Ratcliff, “To some degree I still live under the shadow of Jeff’s evil journey. It was very dark that day. That darkness has sort of followed me in my experiences with Jeffrey Dahmer as well, too.”
By the time news of Dahmer’s controversial baptism had spread, Ratcliff realized that he had misread his own congregation.
Ratcliff, “Did I ever think, did I ever get a sense that people thought of me as a collaborator with evil? No one ever said anything like that to me, to my face, in fact. And this perhaps speaks to the hypocrisy of people. “
Ratcliff claims half of his congregation left in objection to the Dahmer baptism.
Ratcliff, “One of my favorite passages from the Bible is about evil. Rather than try to explain it, you rise up to bring aid and comfort to the person who’s hurting.”
Ratcliff, “The regrets I have is that people have not responded as I thought they would. My regret is perhaps misreading people and not seeing what was going on in their hearts. But no regrets in terms of what I did or what I was trying to do.
Six months after his baptism, Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered by a fellow inmate.
Ratcliff, “I believe that Jeff is in heaven. If it takes faith in Jesus to go to heaven, Jeff had that. “
My mind is blown. What do you think of this?