Saving Jeffrey Dahmer
The world knew Jeffrey Dahmer as a hardened killer. But one pastor knew him as a forgiven sinner.
BY: Roy Ratcliff with Lindy Adams
After performing the requested baptism in 1994, Ratcliff began traveling to the prison for weekly one-hour meetings with Dahmer. In a new book, Ratcliff discusses his experiences--and whether Dahmer's conversion was genuine.
One of the most common questions put to me about Jeff has to do with the sincerity of his faith. And I usually hear this from Christians. They ask if Jeff was truly sincere in his desire for baptism and in his Christian life. My answer is always the same: Yes, I am convinced he was sincere.
This question bothers me. Why question the sincerity of another person’s faith? Baptism represents a change in lifestyle. A person is expected to change after being baptized. When people don’t change, we begin to wonder. Why were they baptized? Did they did not fully comprehend what was involved?
I can understand those kinds of questions.
But Jeff’s circumstance was different. The people asking me didn’t know about his post-baptismal life. They were basing their question on what he did before he was baptized, not after. That bothers me.
Jeff was judged not by his faith, but by his crimes. The questioner always seemed to hope I’d answer: “No, he wasn’t sincere.” The questioner seemed to be looking for a way to reject Jeffrey as a brother in Christ instead of seeing him as a sinner who has come to God. The subtext of such questions was simple. They didn’t want to think of Jeff as a brother. Such ungraciousness is contrary to the Christian spirit.
Was Jeff saved? Were his sins taken away? Is he a Christian believer? Did he repent of his sins? Or was the blood of Christ shed on the cross somehow too weak, too thin, too anemic to cover his sins? Did Jeff mean it when he said, “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done. God help me, I’ll never do that again”?
Why was it inconceivable that Jeffrey Dahmer could come to faith?
I became convinced of Jeff’s sincerity by one happening. On a certain visit we came to the end of our study time together. The prison guard had given us the signal, but right then, before I stood to leave, Jeff bared his soul.
“I feel very, very bad about the crimes I’ve committed. In fact, I think I should have been put to death by the state for what I did.”
“I agree with you,” I said. “You should have been put to death by the state for the crimes you committed.”
He replied, “If that is true, am I sinning against God by continuing to live?”
“Boy, you sure picked a time to bring this up,” I answered. “We can’t go into all this now, but I can see where you are going.” I asked him to read the first half of Romans 13 (13:1-7) before my next visit. “That passage relates to your question,” I said.
“I will. Take care – I’ll see you next time,” he said as I left.
On the drive home all this ran through my mind. Jeff was thinking of suicide. Would he take matters into his own hands and kill himself? Did he feel so bad about himself that he no longer wanted to live?