After Dennis L. Rader of suburban Wichita was convicted of being the BTK mass murderer nine years ago, I went to talk with Mike Clark, the pastor of the church where Rader was an active member.
Indeed, he said, it had. He used to avoid biblical passages that talked about Satan, for instance, but his thinking changed to the point that he now believes in a personified devil, he told me. He had looked evil in the eye and it had changed him, he said.
I was remembering all that recently when I read this Wichita Eagle piece about Rader, written by my former Kansas City Star colleague Roy Wenzl.
Roy was reporting on a letter that Rader had sent him. (You see some of that letter in the photo here today. It was taken by Brian Corn of the Eagle.) In it, Rader said he was cooperating with someone who was writing a book about the 10 murders he committed and that he hopes the book will provide some financial help to families of his victims.
Well, you can read about the letter to Roy and Rader's current thinking in prison. (I also strongly recommend "The Devil in Dennis L. Rader" in the "Related articles" below.)
But what I wanted to invite you to think about today is whether your own experience of evil has influenced your thinking about the source of evil. Do you, for instance, believe in a personified devil because in some sense, like Mike Clark, you have looked evil in the eye? Or are evil's sources broader and harder to explain than that for you?
Those are the kinds of theological questions all of us must answer eventually. And in my experience it isn't wise to try to answer them alone. It's best done within a community of people who can help each other ponder such mysteries.
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WHEN THE COURT DOESN'T SPEAK
I was pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to accept any same-sex marriage cases in this term, but not only for the reasons that proponents of marriage equality have expressed. Rather, I thought it was the right decision because public opinion still hasn't fully settled on this matter. Indeed, as this piece notes, some opponents of same-sex marriage are angered and confused by the court's move. When possible, I think the courts should let public opinion come to some consensus (or close to it) on hot-button issues before issuing broad rulings. That didn't happen with the issue of abortion. Partly as a result, the public still is fiercely divided over the matter. I think in another year or two the same-sex marriage issue will have gained enough of a public consensus that the court can simply ratify that opinion rather than impose some view from the bench. Much of this issue is rooted in how people read scripture. For my own view of what the Bible says or doesn't say about homosexuality, look for my essay under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.