The Face of Evil
The Face of Evil
BTK... as in Bound, Tied, and Killed. Serial killer, over a thirty year span.
Married, ostensibly happily, two children, a decent job, dog catcher and municipal code enforcer, the president of his church council, and, according to co-workers, a stickler for civic righteousness.
Who would of thought? Lamont Cranston, perhaps, whose Sunday afternoon radio show in another millennium began with a declaration in sepulchral tones: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows."
Maybe Jesus too. As persistent as he was in reaching for the goodness inside each of us - think of the sinner woman who washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair - he still refused to look the other way at the Pandora's box the human heart is also. Reread Matthew 15:19 to refresh your memory of the Lord's list of the evil in the heart.
Hannah Arendt had Adolf Eichmann in view when she penned the famous phrase, "the banality of evil." The Nazis who made the trains run on time were able in their own minds to reduce the Holocaust, genocide, millions and millions of people, to statistical charts and the efficiency of gas chambers.
But in the heart of Kansas, home to Dorothy, Auntie Em, and Toto, America's heartland, the source of so much goodness? How can it be that so much badness might there be spawned?
Because, as the Shadow and Jesus know, the human heart, if a reservoir of love, can also be a seething cauldron of bile. That is not to say that you or I are capable of the evil Mr. Rader has committed. It's his mirror, not ours, that shows the face of evil. I am squeamish about trapping mice. I have no taste for the blood and gore of action movies. I even switch to another channel when I see someone in a TV drama being humiliated. I can't imagine what pleasure this perverted soul took in garroting his victims.
A specialist in serial killings explained Mr. Rader's behavior as "driven." That his psychosexual dynamic could find satisfaction/release only in murder and humiliation. It gives new credence to the Biblical category of demonic possession. Flip Wilson's trademark quip, "the devil made me do it," finds horrific confirmation in Kansas.
That carefully groomed, mustachioed face of BTK lingers in my mind. How different it is from the faces of those the movies portray as the devil. Jack Nicholson in "The Witches of Eastwick" and Al Pacino in "The Devil's Advocate" portray him with a lascivious smile, a smirk really. It's an expression foreign to the face of Dennis Rader. None of his neighbors or co-workers have yet to remark about his sense of humor. The characterizations that have emerged are of one who was all business all the time.
In fact, that perhaps is the most likely face of evil: one across which a self-deprecating smile would never trace. Few expressions tell more about the health of the soul than a hearty laugh at one's own expense. The world suffers a lot more from those who take themselves too seriously than from those who can measure their own foolishness.
Dennis Rader. The face of evil. An ordinary face. Like mine and yours. Only God knows the heart behind it. We catch only glimpses. Maybe it's just as well.