19338 Beaver Dam Rd, PO Box 67, Beaverdam, VA 23015
Beaverdam United Methodist Church
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Friends, United in Christ, Nurturing Each Other and the World
Dear Class Member,
     Charles Manson, one of the most notorious murderers of the last century, died November 19th at age 83, while serving life imprisonment. Whatever your personal reaction to this news, it gives us an opportunity to think about Jesus' "love your enemies" statement and how central that teaching is to our Christian faith. (This is developed more fully in the "Applying the News Story" section below.) So that will be the topic of our next class.
     Below are some materials for advance review, but please know you do not need to review in advance to join us on Sunday morning.  
     I look forward to Sunday, January 7, 2018, at 9:30 am and hope to see you for fellowship and Adult Sunday School!
     - Anissa Dougherty

Charles Manson Dead at 83
The Wired Word for the Week of December 3, 2017
In the News
     Last Sunday, Charles Manson, the notorious leader of the cult-like group called the Manson family, died at 83, in California, where he was serving life in prison for nine murders in 1969.
     Manson and his "family" -- a loose, shifting band of a dozen or so, mostly young women who had left middle-class homes -- came to public attention after his followers committed seven brutal slayings, collectively known as the Tate-LaBianca murders on two consecutive nights in August 1969. Manson himself separately killed two others the previous month, but was convicted of all nine because his followers were acting under his orders in murdering the seven.
     The Tate-LaBianca murders was shorthand for the group's killing of actress Sharon Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant, along with four other people in her home in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles on August 9, 1969. One of the Manson women wrote "pig" in blood on the front door of the home before leaving.
     Manson's targeting of the occupants of that house sprang from his desire to have a career in music -- he wrote songs and played a guitar. He hung out with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and the band's record producer, Terry Melcher, who refused to give him a record deal.
     Angry at this rejection, Manson ordered several of his drug-addled, brainwashed followers to kill everyone inside Melcher's former residence, which was then owned by Tate's husband, film director Roman Polanski, who was not home the night of the slayings. Even though Manson knew that Melcher no longer lived there, Manson chose that location because, for him, it represented the music industry that had snubbed him.
     The night after the Tate killings, Manson and six of his followers selected, apparently at random, another house in Los Angeles and killed the two occupants, a grocer named Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. The phrases "Death to Pigs" and "Healter Skelter" misspelled, were scrawled in blood at that scene.
     Helter Skelter was the name Manson, who admired Hitler, had given to an apocalyptic race war that he hoped the killings would incite, and for which black people would be blamed.
     In the subsequent trial, Manson and three of his family members were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. But in 1972, after capital punishment was made illegal in California, their sentences were reduced to life in prison.
     The murders, with their linkages to sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and Satanism, and the trial were widely covered, which allowed many to view Manson as a cultural icon of the 1960s.
     The New York Times obituary for Manson observed "Since then, the Manson family has occupied a dark, persistent place in American culture -- and American commerce. It has inspired, among other things, pop songs, an opera, films, a host of internet fan sites, T-shirts, children's wear and half the stage name of the rock musician Marilyn Manson. It has also been  the subject of many nonfiction books …."
     Manson achieved a pinnacle of popular fame, appearing on the cover of the Rolling Stone in 1970.
     Elsewhere, writer Paul Berman commented, "The really frightening thing about Charles Manson was not so much his own murderousness (except from the standpoint of the people being murdered, of course), nor his hold over his insane Family, the cult murderers, but his acceptability and even his appeal to other people, the sane and high-minded and groovy bystanders."
     Over the course of his imprisonment, Manson was denied parole a dozen times, and no one who carried out the murders has been released. One of the women convicted died in prison of natural causes.  
     Incarcerating Manson cost taxpayers an estimated $3.5 million.
     Throughout it all, Manson maintained that he felt no remorse about the murders.
     More on this story can be found at these links:
Applying the News Story
      Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, who pens a column for Religion News Service, wrote this week that when he heard that Charles Manson had died, his immediate response was "Good." He then posed the rhetorical question, "Was that a 'nice' thing to say about the dead?"
     Salkin went on to answer, "In fact, it wasn't. And, for good reason. Judaism does not always require that we be nice. It does require that we be good, and that we strive for justice, and that we make clear ethical claims. In a world in which we frequently eschew such terms as 'evil,' the life of Charles Manson bore grisly witness to the fact that, yes, there really is evil in the world."
     Salkin then quoted Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, from his essay, "The Virtue of Hate" (see links list above): "While Moses commanded us 'not to hate our brother in our hearts,' a man's immoral actions can serve to sever the bonds of brotherhood between himself and humanity. Regarding a rasha, a Hebrew term for the hopelessly wicked, the Talmud [the primary source of Jewish religious law] clearly states: One is obligated to hate him."
     Thus Salkin concluded, "So, yes -- it is quite acceptable to (even quietly) cheer Manson's death." (A TWW team member noted that one of the psalmists would agree, citing Psalm 139:19 -- "O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me …")
     Then, referring to the title of his column for this week, "Charles Manson Can Go to Hell" (see links list above), Salkin affirmed that Jews do believe in hell. He acknowledged that some of his readers might be skeptical about that topic, however, and said, "But if there is a world after this one, I refuse to believe that Charles Manson will be hanging out in the same neighborhood of eternity as, say, Mother Teresa. The world isn't fair. But, God's justice stretches far, far beyond what our mortal eyes can see."
We have taken the time to summarize Salkin's thoughts on Manson's death not to promote them, but because they stand in stark contrast to something Jesus said which seems to apply to Manson and others like him: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …" (Matthew 5:43-44).
     In the contrast of Salkin's pronouncement of "Good" at the news of Manson's death with Jesus' "love your enemies" statement we find the topic for this installment of The Wired Word. Where do people such as Manson fit into the Christian gospel message of salvation, and what are the implications of that for us who are followers of Jesus?
 The Big Questions
     Here are some of the questions we will discuss in class:
  1. What was your first reaction when you learned that Charles Manson had died? Upon reflection, how do you feel about your reaction? Why? Would you feel differently if Manson had shown remorse, or had converted to Christianity? Do we reveal our faith in how we individually feel about the death of Manson, or in how we act regarding it? Are feelings themselves neutral, while only actions can be right or wrong?
  2. Do you ever wish that Jesus had not said, "Love your enemies"? Why? When has that command from Jesus caused you to treat someone better than you would have preferred, given your dislike of that person?
  3. While Jesus said to love our enemies, do particularly monstrous enemies such as Manson belong to a "special case" where the usual Christian responses don't apply? Explain. Can "love" -- for enemies and for all -- be compatible with just punishment for wrongdoing? If "love" is for all, not just enemies, is letting a murderer free loving to former and future victims?
  4. If places in heaven were reserved only for those who deserve to be there, how many do you think would be there? On what do you base your answer?
  5. Is there only one possible response to Manson's death that is actually "Christian"? Can there truly be various responses that are all in keeping with the spirit of Christ? Explain your answer.
Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
     We will look at selected verses from these Scripture texts. You may wish to read these in advance for background:
     In class, we will talk about these passages and look for some insight into the big questions, as well as talk about other questions you may have about this topic.