There is within the heart of every man, woman and child a longing for justice. Oh, this longing is not necessarily a result of any conscience understanding of the image of God in whom we are all made. Nor is it a reflection of a yearning to abide by His moral law. Without regeneration, such a yearning simply does not exist (Romans 3:10-12). Still, even amongst psychopaths, there is a sense of right and wrong, a sense of justice and injustice, a sense of good and evil. Severely warped though it may be, as R.C. Sproul once stated, “Even Hitler loved his mother. ” And even the worst in our society begin life with a desire for freedom and justice and acceptance. And so it is with the case of Charles Milles Manson, the 83 year old cult leader and mastermind of murder who died yesterday of natural causes in a hospital in Bakersfield, California. Both in his person and in the reaction to his life, we see a longing for justice, an understanding of good and evil, and strong beliefs about what should happen where evil exists.
The New York Post Headlines stated “Charles Manson is rotting in hell.” The Drudge Report’s main headline of the hour was simply “HELL’S BURNING.” Still others stayed more true to society’s desired mores which deny God and such a thing as Hell by noting “Manson…was no devil but a human being, as his death makes clear. I don’t say that to soften or absolve him. But I don’t believe in demons; people are frightening enough.” The same thought continues “Indeed, to accept Manson as a person, to see him through the filter of his humanity, is to acknowledge what we resist: that he was perhaps not so utterly different from the rest of us.” (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-ulin-manson-death-20171120-story.html) And indeed he wasn’t.
Charles Manson was born in 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio to an unwed teen mother named Kathleen Maddox. Maddox had run away from her home in Ashland, Kentucky and lived the life of a criminal herself. “No name Maddox” took on his step-father’s name of Manson, and likely never knew his biological father whose name was reportedly Colonel Walker Scott a Boyd County , Kentucky resident who died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 44 in 1954.
Stories about Manson’s childhood are questionable, since he gave varying accounts through the years. But, we do know that his mother spent time in and out of jail and he was shuffled between relatives and boys homes in his formative years. When his mother was released from prison, he noted her physical embrace was the sole happy memory that he had during his childhood. Nevertheless, even she would ultimately reject him and so he turned to a life of crime and incarceration.
By the time he was 13 years old, he had committed various burglaries and armed robberies. He himself was humiliated and brutalized, including sexual assault by relatives and others during his teen years – even being forced by an uncle to wear a dress to school in first grade because he had cried in class. He would spend time in and out of correctional facilities, and was deemed aggressively anti-social by a caseworker. Though he began as illiterate (with an IQ of 109 – 121), he did not lack intelligence and did have a certain cunning – being able to model good behavior and picking up enough education that he earned a parole from the Federal Reformatory at the age of 20.
He married at the age of 21, and indicated that he was happy. Yet, his refusal to leave a life of crime ultimately cost him his marriage and a relationship with his son who later changed his name but was never able to get away from the legacy of his biological father and committed suicide as an adult. Manson had at least two other sons but little is known about them. It seems few wanted anything to do with him. And so, he made the prison system his home. There, he had a certain stability and rank. Yes, it was prison, but by the time he was 33, he had spent half his life there or in other correctional institutions so the familiarity of prison life was not a deterrent to him.
In 1961, it was noted by a reviewer that Manson had a “”tremendous drive to call attention to himself.” Coupled with his now sociopathic sense of morality and the application of lessons learned from Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” this drive for attention resulted in the toxic brew that became the murderous “Manson Family”. He had convinced his followers that he was the Christ and they were reincarnations of the original Christians who were destined to show black people how to start a race war that would end in the apocalypse. Masterminding the killing of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and others provided for him a life-sentence and forever stamped his name into infamy as one of the most evil men in history. Even though it put him into isolation in prison for his own safety and lost him his “rank” in prison (killing pregnant women was seen as akin to pedophilia and looked down upon by the prison population) it gained him the attention he wanted and created in itself a cultish fascination surrounding him even up to the point of his death. Charlie Manson, the psychopathic felon might be hated, feared and despised – but he would never again be ignored – at least not on this earth.
Today, things are very different for Manson. Today, there are no press hounds or penitentiary guards. There is only darkness, pain, grief, and torment. This very hour he is in a prison of agony and a torment that he will never escape except for the brief time he stands before the God he denied and is cast into a lake of Fire which burns forever. Yesterday, his terror just began.
Psalm 9:17 says “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” To that, the whole world stands and says amen! It’s one of the few things that will get secular thinkers to embrace the concept of Hell. “Charlie Manson. He’s in Hell. Where the Wicked Go! There is justice! Bad guys don’t get by with it! Amen, and Amen!”
But the praise choruses end when the rest of the verse is read. ” The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God“. At this point, the verse becomes fanatical meddling. Anger flares in hearts and nostrils. Social castigation ensues as people gasp, how dare you thrust your judgmental religion down our throats! We want justice, when we believe it is something truly bad. But we also want to be our own gods – determining for ourselves what we think is right and wrong and never subjecting ourselves to the Lordship of another, nor admitting his sovereignty over our futures. Put another way, God is A-okay as long as he is holding accountable sickos like Charlie Manson – but not when He does the same to us.
In our own way, each of us has a little bit of Charles Manson in us – or worse. Oh, we would all like to think we don’t; but, given his life experiences from an early age can any of us say that denied love and direction we would have ended up much differently? Even without the life experiences, our nation has within it over 325 million people who rebel against God and do not love others as they should. Alcohol, drugs, pornography, debauchery are all prevalent on our streets and in our homes. They are glorified on our TV screens and funded by our wallets. Violent crime is epidemic. Lives don’t matter. Everyone for themselves. Such is the way of nations that forget God.
And what about Christians? You would think they would be different, but many times they are not. We claim to love God and others, but we find simple obedience a very difficult thing and when it comes to others we would rather see souls die without Christ than to become unpopular in their eyes or to give one red cent out of our wallets for their welfare. Which is more barbaric? A man who was raised in such a way that anger at life turned him into a demented killer or Christians who have every blessing in the world but won’t step forward with the love of Christ to perhaps save that soul from Hell? The grace and love of Christ could have given Manson what he needed and could have turned that wicked heart into one that actually did some good for society. I wonder how many times their door was knocked on by a Christian who wanted to make a difference in their lives? To love them where they were at? To offer them a better way? I wonder if it ever happened at all?
Jesus, quoting Isaiah, said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Today, it is too late for Charles Milles Manson. He justly suffers the torments of a Hell he will never escape with only the sound of his own screaming and the deafening chorus of like-wails of those who rejected God’s truth and ways. But there are others out there just like him. Teens in the criminal justice system who have already known the brutal reality of crime and abuse. Infants left to cry until they no longer cry because there is nobody in their homes that will pick them up and give them love much less care that they exist. Forgotten ones. Brokenhearted. Captives whose hearts cry out for love. Blind of heart. Bruised by this world. Lost and in need of a Savior. Who will go to them? Who will care? Who will bring the healing their lives need?
Christian, when you stand before God to give an account of what you did with your life, your sins will already be under Jesus’ blood and will not be brought before you. But your works will be judged according to His righteous judgment and you will either obtain His reward(s) or you will be saved with nothing to show for it. Tears will exist in Heaven, at least for a time, because Christ said He will wipe all the tears from the eyes of His children and there will be no more sorrow there. I cannot believe we will be crying for any of the things we lacked in this world. The world to come will be so much grander and more lovely than anything that we have ever had down here and the love will flow freely and fully that we simply won’t miss what we didn’t have here. Rather, I think we will cry over the times where we could have given God glory but didn’t and could have reached out to the little Charlie Mansons of the world but found other things more important.
Today I don’t rejoice at the death of Charles Manson, but I reflect upon what could have made things turn out differently for him. In answer to that I have but one answer. Christ! The love of Christ. The hope in Christ. The grace of Christ. And the knowledge that though the whole world reject me, Christ never will. Who knows how that message might have made a difference? Who knows in whose life it can make a difference today? How can we remain silent while the world perishes?!!