Tuesday, May 5, 2009

DSM IV Axis II - The Church's Dirty Little Secret Part V Psychopathic/Sociopathic Personalities – The David Berkowitz Story

I feel like I should sew up a few loose ends from that last post before I try to move on to the more typical Axis II disorders that we might run into in a typical church setting (more typical than a psychopathic murderer).

Item 1; Truth, Why is it important?

One question that I alluded to, and picked up in the comments, is the whole idea of why is truth important. Once again, I’m not talking about the “truth” that I use to talk about, meaning religious dogma. When I was an Evangelical, theological truth was our driving force. We had to have all our theological “t”s crossed and our “i”s dotted. We knew exactly how the end times would come and even when. We knew what Revelations meant, which church was the right one and etc.

I’m talking about this point brought up that if, David Berkowitz is preaching Jesus, who cares if his testimony is true or not?

I think it comes back to the principle that if we are serving the true God, the creator of the universe, then we should be brokers of truth . . . because he is truth. This means raw truth at all levels. It means emotional, historical, political, personal and psychological truth . . . truth in every part of how we live.

Do we say that if someone is living a lie, but serving God in the meantime, then we should look the other way? Then it ends up being like Jack Peirce, our Sunday school director when I was a kid. He was a wonderful Christian man, hard church worker, beautiful voice and great choir leader. The fact that he was habitually sexually molesting young boys at my church (including my brother) was over-looked by those good Baptists because of his other attributes.

This is where I think that kind of reasoning gets us. If we ignore the lying TV evangelist under the auspice of “who am I to judge” then the face of God to the world (which doesn’t know him) becomes the face of a clown . . . if not worse . . . the face of a con man and fool. Is this approach of being tolerant of lies within the church, but intolerant of those (for whatever reason, gays, whores, democrats) outside the church doesn’t seem to be working for us. Christianity is on the decline in the West. It is still true that 80% of the young people raised in Evangelical churches, don’t stay involved in church of any kind once they are emancipated from their parents. I doubt if any of Jack’s victims considers themselves Christians today.

Item 2; Is redemption possible for the psychopaths?

Are these, Axis II (especially the socio and psychopaths) people redeemable? That may sound like a strange question and the knee-jerk response would be something like, “in Jesus all things are possible.”

But I will touch on a few possibilities.

A. These people are not redeemable. They were so touched by the Fall that the best they can do is play games with the little minds of the Christians but never accept Christ sincerely. At first glance, this might sound really strange and cruel. However, this is really what the Calvinists have taught for 500 years. Simply stated, that some people were born without any hope of redemption.

B. They are redeemable but must be contained . . . until they get a new body in the new earth. In this example, I would put them in the same category my friend L. who goes to my church. He is a paranoid schizophrenic (not an Axis II problem). I believe in all my heart that L. is a true Christian. But he must be “contained.” It takes a lot of care and a lot of medications to keep L. on track. He can only handle a little responsibility. So we love him . . . but we must contain him . . . until God gives him a new body in glory.

So, the way that this possibility applies to a psychopath murderer is that they would be redeemable but must be contained . . . probability in a prison cell for the rest of their lives . . . until they get their new bodies in glory. But given the chance to run free within a church, they will cause great mischief, and are truly dangerous.

C. (this is the one that most Evangelicals believe about David Berkowitz) These people are not only redeemable, but, in Christ, they are new creatures. The Holy Spirit has erased all the bad stuff and everything is brand spanking new. The born again pedophile can now be trusted with your kids while you are out of town on vacation . . . for a month.

Item 3;The True Fall

The last concept, which I think relates to this topic indirectly, is my premise that the dualist-Evangelicals don’t understand the depth of the Fall of Adam on the world. They talk about depravity of man . . . the rottenness of the world . . . but they really don’t grasp the depth of the evil.

The dualists, by definition, see every important thing as spiritual (and fluid). The physical is inconsequential. This is why they can see David, a man who stalked and viciously murdered six people, as easily fixable. His problem is purely spiritual. Actually, he had the worst kind of the spiritual fall . . . . DEMONS! That’s as bad as it gets for a dualist. But demons can be cast out and presto, the damage is gone.

But as a monist, believing that all of creation is very important and created by a good God—but fallen—I see the worst of the fall in the physical. Demons and witches (which Evangelicals love to talk about) are so insignificant (maybe immaterial would be a better term . . . pun intended) when compared to effects of the Fall within the physical realm. Demons scare the crap out of Evangelicals . . . yet the really dangerous things aren’t even on their maps.

For example, me personally, I would rather spend the night in a house with the girl from The Exorcist than with the guy from the Bates Hotel. The girl might scream, her head spin around, vomit on my carpet and masturbate with a crucifix . . . but the guy, might slip into my room while I’m sleeping, dissect me and eat me while I’m watching.

The former is the worst of the fall, the most evil of evil, in the eyes of the Evangelical who sees through dualistic eyes. The later is not supernatural in any way . . . but he’s a psychopath. Psychopaths, sociopaths, people with borderline or narcissistic personalities scare the shit out of me.

But that’s only touching the tip of the horrors of the fall in the physical realm. I will describe a few more of the horrors . . . worse than demons, Ouija Boards, animal sacrifices . . . which concern the dualist.

These are all real consequences of the fall in the physical world:

A loving mother of four little girls, at age 30, discovers a large lump in her breast. Those little girls, who adore their mother, watch her slowly become sicker and sicker, wasting away and dying. Then they stand alone, confused, on the grave side . . . mommy gone forever (as far as this earth is concerned). That’s horror, real horror.

A sixteen year old boy, full of life and hope, looses control of his car, strikes a tree and his head is caved in, leaving him as a baby, who never speaks or opens his eyes for the next thirty years. In the eyes of his parents, this is horror.

You are a 12 year old girl living in your village in Sudan where your family works 16 hours a day to scrape out enough food to survive on. One day a group of rebels come tearing into your village donning machetes. They chase down you father, in the cornfield. You watch as they cut off his arms, then his legs as he screams for mercy . . . then his head. Then they grab your mother. They hold her down while ten men rape her, then they gouge out her eyes and chop off her head. They slaughter you little brother right before your eyes. Then they grab you. One man after another rapes you . . . to the point you are left for dead. Eventually, after days, you have the strength to start walking and looking for help. After another two days on the dusty road, you find an army convoy and you feel safe. They give you some bread, some water to help you regain your strength . . . so they can start the raping all over again. Solider after solider, after solider rapes you until you are thrown in the weeds as trash . . . now HIV positive trash. From the eyes of this little girl . . . this is hat the fall looks like. She would trade that experience for a rendezvous with the Exorcist girl in a millisecond
The young woman finds her prince charming. They have a huge church wedding. All her little girl dreams are unfolding, just like a Cinderella story. Then, slowly and insidiously, her prince starts to beat the hell out of her. This is the fall in this woman’s eyes. All the dreams transfigured into an awful nightmare.


craig v said...

Thanks for some thought provoking posts. There's so much I'd like to engage here, but I think it would be a bit rude for me to write comments lengthier than your posts. I'll restrict myself to two points.

In terms of why Christians minimize an evil like the life and personality of a serial killer, I'm not sure the problem is dualism. I'm a congenital amputee. I have a good friend who has cerebral palsy. Once, when both of us were waiting at a bus stop, a brother, whom neither of us knew, tried to heal my friend. He made no attempt to heal me. I thought this was odd since certainly one with the faith to heal cerebral palsy would have faith to grow limbs (neither is more or less difficult for God). Then I realized the reason. Though my friend is clearly disabled he looked like he could be healed because at least all the parts were there. I think something similar to this is at play in your examples. A serial killer looks normal so it's not hard to imagine one actually becoming normal somehow.

A second thought is that I would caution against being too hard on those who are duped in these cases (be they Christians or not). As you point out, psychopaths and sociopaths are really good at appearing charming and normal. In general, life goes much better when we trust one another. Sadly, any kind of con is dependent upon this trust. It doesn't follow from that that the trust is wrong or even naive. That ambiguity or lack of grounds for certainty is the very reason the manipulation works.

Anna A said...


Too many people in the evangelical branch of Christianity set themselves up to be duped. They take people's word that they have met God and are changed people.

I also wonder if part of the challenge is caused by lack of recognition of temporal punishment. Most of the time, I have heard that sins are forgiven instantly and all results from them are erased. (so I have seen exactly what our host has seen )

I'm seeing that right now. My lab tech is young and her parents are encouraging her to live with her cousin (male) when he gets out of prison. (drug offenses). The man claims to have found God and is a new person.

Perhaps, but let him live and work outside for at least a year, then I will believe it.

craig v. said...


I'm not sure this is a failing specific to Evangelicals. It seems to me there is something basically human about believing that people can change. This is a good thing. "Love believes all things". The problem is that an evil person can distort and abuse that love.

I, of course, don't disagree with the wise counsel you give to your lab tech.

Rodney said...

Thanks for another good post. I think truth is critical. I recently had a conversation with a friend who told my she had just been blessed to listen to a wonderful evangelist speaking on the power of the Holy Spirit. That power was demonstrated in a story he told about a man being raised from the dead while he was preaching in Africa. She was completely convinced it was true. I asked her why she wasn't more skeptical, and she said, "he told the story with such humility, it must be true." In the end, her point was whether or not the story was true, thousands of people have accepted Christ because of it, so God is using it for good. That bothers me terribly.

Hope T. said...

I would really like to hear your take on the Fall. You mention it many times in this series and elsewhere so I know that that is a vital piece of what you are conveying, maybe the most vital piece. I have been around evangelical Christians for decades so I guess I should understand what you mean by the Fall of Adam (and thus the rest of the human race). I do know what the church says but I don't "get it". If you could describe what you mean, that would be so helpful. Thank you.

MJ said...

Hope T, well you asked for it:

The Fall. Wow. I’m sure someone else could (and has) described it more eloquently that I will. I will say that much of the story doesn’t make sense to me and it is high on my list when I get to sit down with God, to find out why it had to work out this way.

Simply, God created the universe, and everything in it, in perfection. Then, either God allowed (or planned, depending on your perspective) that when people, created in his image and above all other created things, violated he perfect plan, evil was allowed to enter perfection . . . not turning it all into crap . . . but filling the Universe with anomalies.

Therefore, we are now separated from God. God is in a fog to us. When an Evangelical tells me that they have coffee and Cornflakes with God every morning, and he is a real to them as their own family members, then I know they are lying. Even after you become a Christian, God remains veiled . . . different than Adam and Eve, who did relate to God as if he were there in person.

Because of this fall from perfection, everything about us is separated from its intent. We are separated one from another . . . thus crime, wars, dysfunctional families and all of us are lonely. We are separated from ourselves . . . meaning our own psyche. The results is that none of us are in perfect mental health. Some of us (as discussing in these postings) are significantly mentally ill. Some of that separation is biological (brain structure) and some is in behavior or function.

All living creatures, including man and woman, are separated from our perfect biology. There are gene mutations that we all bear. Some of them are as simple as a nasal septum that isn’t straight, and some of them are cells programmed to become cancer by a certain age.

We are also separated from our minds (meaning intellect). While (like I said noting in creation is crap) our reason is good, and very helpful in finding truth, it too has anomalies. We can never have perfect truth because of them. But we should still try to know as much truth as we can.

We are also separated from the earth. A hike is still wonderful . . . but the pollution and harm that we’ve done is very read and significant in God’s eyes.

With that said, I will add that I believe that Christianity is the only system of thought were you have the “right” to shake your fist in anger at cancer, at war, death, at injustice, mental illness . . . without shaking your fist at God. In pantheistic thought . . . good and evil come from the same god force. .