Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reaping Behind Bars

Although it takes concerted effort, it is still possible to find some silver linings in the daily maelstrom of news headlines. They’re hard to find because—remember—everything is inverted down here is this world that is a “shadow of the things to come” [Col. 2:17]; in eternity, all will be clearly seen for what it really is.

But here’s one I just caught on the national broadcast news. On August 10, less than two weeks away, it will have been 33 years since David Berkowitz, dubbed the ‘Son of Sam’ killer, was apprehended. He is serving six life sentences, the equivalent of 365 years, for killing six people and wounding several others, while terrorizing the metropolitan New York City area from July 1976 until August 1977 when he was arrested.

A brief part of the news report included a familiar head shot of Berkowitz staring blankly into the camera with an eerie half smile on his face. The image morphed into what Berkowitz looks like today…a bald, heavy-lidded inmate whose eyes no longer look glazed over by schizophrenia. In the intervening years, apparently, he has undergone a transformation.

“Berkowitz has been ‘born again’,” intoned the reporter, in what sounded very much like a sneer.

This story, of course, falls under the category of ‘jailhouse conversions’ or ‘getting religion in the big house.’ It’s understandable that many are skeptical.

But, every now and then, these accounts turn out to be true, and this is one of those times. As I have noted before, incarceration is the best thing that can happen to some people. Right, Chuck Colson?

The Berkowitz story is more obvious than most: key features of some taunting letters that he wrote before he was apprehended, and of his court testimony, are ongoing references to a satanic cult to which he claimed to belong.

And what’s to doubt? If human behavior springs from one of only two sources of motivation, God or Satan, it’s a slam-dunk he was not serving the Lord in 1976-7. He was deceived and under the power of the evil one. He committed heinous crimes and is justifiably removed from living in freedom for the rest of his mortal life. But after that, ah, after that comes the true denouement.

Since 1987 when “ Berkowitz became a born again Christian in prison” [] he has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. He lives with the assurance of that transaction now. On the other side of the vestibule of eternity, he will experience the joy and riches of having his spiritual sentence commuted….that of being born a fallen being under the sentence of spiritual death, a condition we all share.

Again, from Widipedia:

In 1987, Berkowitz became a born again Christian in prison. According to his personal testimony, his moment of conversion occurred after reading Psalm 34:6 from a Gideon's Pocket Testament Bible given to him by a fellow inmate.[38] In the same testimony, he stated that his obsession with and heavy involvement in the occult played a major role in the Son of Sam murders. []

And where’s the fruit of this profession of faith?

Well, so far, he has passed on two different parole hearings because he feels he should not be freed.

In March 2002, Berkowitz sent a letter to New York Governor George Pataki asking that his parole hearing be canceled, stating: "In all honesty, I believe that I deserve to be in prison for the rest of my life. I have, with God's help, long ago come to terms with my situation and I have accepted my punishment." [39] In June 2004, he was denied a second parole hearing after he stated that he did not want one. The parole board saw that he had a good record in the prison programs, but decided that the brutality of his crimes called for him to stay imprisoned. In July 2006, the board once again denied parole on similar grounds, with Berkowitz not in attendance at the hearing. He is very involved in prison ministry and regularly counsels troubled inmates.”

Who knows what eternal destiny Berkowitz would be facing had he not been apprehended by Jesus? Facing justice on earth and mercy in the heavenlies is the best thing that ever happened to him.