Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jeffrey Dahmer

Spiritually Clean?

Yet, were he free again post-baptism, would he look for an opportunity to take up where he left off, or would he resist all that and continue in this new life of faith? Ratcliff seems uncomfortable on this issue. The point for him appears to be whether Dahmer is spiritually clean, not whether he's safe.

Frankly, it's not all that interesting to read Dahmer's simplistic theological arguments. Once he's locked up, without access to victims, no one is surprised that he might have turned to the Bible. It happens all the time with inmates. How sincere was he? How much did the love of God penetrate and motivate his day-to-day affairs? There are no answers in this book, aside from something "in his eyes." If readers are looking for a genuine case of a serial killer who's been cured, they won't find it here. In fact, between the lines, self-serving behavior is still evident.

In one instance, Ratcliff sympathizes with Dahmer over the fact that some attorney funneled his meager prison wages to relatives of victims. Dahmer whines about how this makes his life difficult. Ratcliff agrees and seems to think the attorney is the bully. "Is the point of prison to torment him over and over again?" he asks. There's also an odd moment when Dahmer mentions that some guys in the prison make it difficult for him to live his faith. As if! Ratcliff never seems to get the "poor me" attitude as that of a psychopath who wants life organized around his own needs. Thus, he's in no position to judge Dahmer's sincerity. He simply doesn't have the necessary knowledge to do so.

Since Ratcliff offers only idealistic notions about what can happen to a baptized soul, we don't really know what happen to Dahmer's, in terms of a life-changing shift. That's unfortunate, because given the utter heinousness of his acts, it would have been instructive to learn more about how he viewed them (and himself) from a spiritual perspective. He should have been horrified. He should have wanted to digest all this with a spiritual mentor. Yet with Dahmer, apparently, one gets only distance. He certainly kept Ratcliff at arm's length with words and arguments. Supposedly the minister met with Dahmer nearly every week for seven months, but all he can offer is a few brief, superficial conversations.

It seems that the sun's eclipse on the day Gacy died and Dahmer got saved was more than a metaphor about these two. Ratcliff also seems somewhat blinded. He doesn't know, for example, why Dahmer never told his father, whose gestures were instrumental to his conversion, that he had become a Christian. In fact, Ratcliff knows very little about Dahmer outside the frame of what he wants to see.

Readers who seek insight ought to pick up the book by Lionel Dahmer instead. This one is less than persuasive. In fact, some readers might not be too pleased with Ratcliff's platitude to Dahmer, "It's amazing how God can use bad things in our lives to bring about the good things he wants to bless us with." I'm all for second chances and self-recreation, but the lack of depth in Ratcliff's spiritual conversations with a man who raped and cannibalized corpses prevents this book from making any contribution to our understanding of Jeffrey Dahmer. That's disappointing.


We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'