"[Dennis Rader] is not a Christian. never was. He was flying under a false flag all the time, getting his jollies on how bad he was on the inside and yet how he fooled everybody."
Although my natural tendency is to agree with this assessment, there are a few things that make me reluctant.
First is that the judgment that a killer -- even a serial killer -- can't "really" be a Christian is something that I think places limits on the redemption Christ offers. Are we suggesting that someone with a pathological drive to kill is incapable of receiving Christ? That doesn't square with the notion of God's free offer of grace, the belief that no one is so far fallen that he can't come home.
Is the suggestion that a person who kills repeatedly cannot really have the Holy Spirit in them? I have to admit that troubles me to (to put it mildly) but it suggests a gradation of sin that I don't think is biblical. In terms of effect, murder -- particularly something as gruesome as the BTK killer is known for -- is far more destructive socially than a "lesser sin" like adultery -- but isn't sin sin? Paul says that if we break the least part of the Law, we are guilty of breaking it all. Does the fact that I struggle with -- and often fall into -- a sin of a less destructive nature, make me somehow more acceptable to God than a serial killer who is also a professing Christian? Is my sin better than his? Or am I also likewise not really a Christian, flying under a false flag all the time, and getting my jollies about how bad I am on the inside while I fool everybody?
To be honest, I don't want the BTK killer to be a Christian, but I think that's mostly born of a sense of wounded pride. I want to believe that Christians are a better class of people than that, that while we might minister to a serial killer and show Christ's love to him, that no one who is really following Christ will be capable of something as horrifying as what Rader has been accused of.
What I want is irrelevant, though. The truth is that if we believe the gospel, we must regard ourselves as murderers too. Why? First and most obviously, because our sin murdered Christ. Secondly, we have the testimony of Christ himself, that if we hate someone, then in the eyes of God, we already have committed murder.
I don't want the BTK killer to be a Christian. But in some mystical way, I think I need him to be.
I know a teen who for a few years was the poster child for reactive attachment disorder. He had no bond to anyone, and had no conscience. His adoptive family used to wonder how long it would be until he ended up in jail after committing some horrific crime. For this boy, for whatever reason, concepts like "right" and "wrong" didn't apply. Whatever he did, was justified.
Now this boy was a Christian; he had committed himself to following Christ, attended church with his parents and the whole nine yards. He was young enough, and his parents were dedicated enough that they were able to get him the treatment he needed to awaken his conscience and give him some sort of moral compass. The last time I saw him, I was amazed at how well adjusted he had become.
But suppose he hadn't had that breakthrough, and had gone on to commit some horror? I'd agree that he's still accountable for his crimes and should not be let off scot free because of his mental illness -- but I would have to say that I honestly would have no idea what his eternal state would be.
And that's all I'm saying with the BTK killer. We have no idea what is going on in his head, nor do we know what is going on in his soul. And while I would be slow to extend the right hand of fellowship to a serial killer, I'm also reluctant to say he has no part of Christ.