Jeffrey Dahmer’s old life saw him as one of the most infamous serial killers of our time. The question this book poses is: can God forgive even Jeffrey Dahmer? I had to buy it and read it to really learn about the heart of God, in particular His mercy and redemptive love for mankind. I wanted to know how it is that He can behold even the most (to human eyes at least) unpromising of sinners and yet patiently seek their higher good.
The book was fascinating. Yes, there are sections that are difficult for anyone, let alone a Christian to read. Chapters 3 and 4 describe in detail Jeff’s crimes that he committed and they make for heavy going. But persevere, and you uncover precious gems such as this: Jeff was receptive quite early on to God’s grace:
Grandmother Dahmer was very religious and read the Bible daily, and living with her had a positive influence on Jeff at the time. Still, he wrestled with his urges and began to act upon them again. (Dark Journey Deep Grace, p50)
A prisoner can grow more resentful for the treatment received in prison. Many certainly do that. Or a prisoner can develop new criminal skills and figure out how not to get caught the next time. Some also do that. Or, a prisoner can reflect on the crimes and the lifestyle that lead to such a place and make a new decision: “I’ll never do that again, so help me God!” Imagine the thoughts of serial killer and mutilator Jeffrey Dahmer when he ended up in prison. He felt great remorse, which he confessed on several occasions. He had ruined his life beyond repair…Who could he turn to except God? Certainly, no human would hear the cries of his heart and believe the depth of his sorrow. Only God could. Jeff remembered going to church with his parents as a small child…In his adult years, when Jeff lived with his grandmother, and especially as he struggled with his internal urges to kill, he took an interest in his grandmother’s church and her Christian lifestyle. But he never invested enough in her faith to ease his tortured mind or get whatever help he could for his inner Armageddon…But after Jeffrey’s arrest, a veil was lifted. He began to see order and design in the universe. He began to see the case for God and to see Jesus as the only answer for the havoc he had wreaked in his life. He began to have hope for his ultimate fate. Is it possible that God could really love him – Jeffrey Dahmer? Could the salvation that Jesus offers be available to him, too, despite his heinous acts? Did Jesus die for Jeffrey Dahmer too?
The answer this book gives is a joyful and resounding “yes.” Jeff’s conversion was sincere though some – even some Christians – questioned his sincerity. At least one person stated that if Jeffrey Dahmer was in heaven they didn’t want to go there (see p84 in the book). Such comments made me ashamed to be a human being and a Christian. There are two issues here: the first is the old saying, “there but for the grace of God go I.” The second issue is that we are all sinners in God’s eyes, he puts no difference between any of us. All are undeserving yet were awarded mercy and grace by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
It is worth noting that Jeff received no benefits whatsoever after converting to Christianity. His sentence remained the same and he eventually died in prison. He underwent persecution, in fact, which is what is promised to every true follower of Christ. As it is written:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Some examples of the difficulties Jeff experienced post-conversion:
* Every time he tried to testify of his faith in Christ on national television, those segments were cut out of the broadcast
* He had his tiny prison allowance cut to be distributed to victims’ families
* He received unopened pornography in the mail (when every other package sent to him was opened and checked by guards), which nearly resulted in him being defeated in his Christian walk
What was wonderful to read about, however, was how the Spirit of Grace moved in his life. He felt compelled to evangelise his new found faith with others, to support and encourage them, which is a sign of the Spirit of the Lord working in someone’s life. On page 110 Jeff commented that he was glad that a prison attack recently made on him was not fatal. He said: “There is so much I want to do for God here in prison, so many people I want to share the gospel with. I want to talk to my mother about my faith. I can’t imagine God taking those opportunities away from me now. I am so thankful that I survived.”
As final reflections, I would like to close with three scripture passages. The first was read by Jeffrey Dahmer in his statement to the court in 1992 where he likened himself to the worst of all sinners who was yet shown mercy, Paul:
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
(1 Tim. 1:15-16)
Then some reminders that were given to me by the Spirit of Truth after I finished reading this book:
but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 that no flesh should glory in his presence.
(1 Cor 1:27-29)
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.