Jeffrey Dahmer. If you don’t already know who he is, DON’T look him up…you won’t sleep tonight if you do. He might well be the most despicable human being I have ever heard of. The methods he used to kill people are so graphic that I don’t even want to detail them here. It’s beyond the stuff that horror movies are made of.
But you know what’s weird? His dad still loved him. (Note: love does not equal approval! In fact, those we truly love are the ones we are honest with, even amidst disapproval.) In an interview with Stone Phillips from the 1990’s, Dahmer’s father sits right next to him throughout the interview, and even tells Phillips that he still loves his son despite knowing everything he did. I’m not sure it would be right to say that Jeffrey Dahmer’s father was in his Fan Club, but he certainly still cherished his son as only a parent can.
And then there’s the Ted Talk with the first person to get an interview with Dylan Klebold’s parents…Klebold being one of the “Columbine Killers” from the mass school shooting in Columbine, Colorado on Hitler’s birthday in 1999. The speaker asked them what they’d say to him if he were here today. His dad expressed anger, but sort of like the how-dare-you-wreck-the-car anger, not how-dare-you-kill-20-innocent-people anger.
But Klebold’s mom said something remarkable: I’d ask him to forgive ME for not knowing how badly he was hurting. AND I’d tell him I forgive him even though no one else would. She just wanted her son back, under any conditions. (Paraphrased from my memory)
Then there’s Ted Bundy’s mother who told her son “You’ll always be my precious son” on the day he was executed for committing around 30 murders (ladies, please don’t go read about Ted Bundy either!).
And then we have the Green River Killer…he confessed to almost 100 murders, and at his trial, the victims were allowed to have a few minutes to confront him in court. He seems to take sick pleasure in their hatred of him, because, I suspect, a serial killer’s number one goal is to have control – complete control – over others. So, the families’ hatred of Gary Ridgway was just what he wanted.
Then there was this Santa-Claus-looking father of one of the victims who had the audacity to tell the monster that he forgave him. Ridgway breaks down crying. Think about that. Nearly 100 separate times, this man looked someone in the eye and killed them. Then one man tells him he forgives him, and for less than a minute, this monster becomes human…broken…wanting to be loved and forgiven just like the rest of us.
I promise I’m not as obsessed with serial killers as I probably seem, though I don’t think I’d be alone in finding them intriguing (and then wondering what that means about me, but for the record, I don’t even kill most of the spiders in my home. I take them outside or foster them until they can be adopted into good homes). But what I am somewhat obsessed by is the radical versions of Love and Mercy that come out of these terrible stories. I don’t really know what to make of it other than how profoundly it expresses the ultimate oxymoronic nature of human life: On the one hand, there’s the unexplained chaos that leads the news and makes every generation proclaim that The End must be near. But right alongside the chaos, there are moments and acts of truly Unconditional Love and Grace – the sort that extends the hand of Compassion to even the serial killers of the world.
It’s become a bit of a cliche (thanks, Rob Bell) to say that “love wins.” But these sorts of stories do seem to indicate that Love does win. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary throughout human history…despite all of the serial killers and Hitlers and bin Ladens…despite the stories of senseless tragedies that befall good people, something inside of us keeps believing in the power of Love. For some reason, we keep reading and writing and watching the same story over and over – the one where terrible things happen but the Good Guy wins in the end.
(Tim goes to sleep, gets up, rehashes this post, and still finds himself stumped as to how to conclude on the “right” note. He knows that somewhere in internet land, he’s now being investigated by the FBI as a possible suspect in all sorts of unsolved murders. Please visit Tim in a yet-to-be-determined Federal Prison where he will still be trying to figure out how to end this post.)
Links to the aforementioned references:
Klebold’s parents (at the end)
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