The death of the Moors murderer Ian Brady hasn’t brought out the best in us, has it? “Monster of the Moors is Dead” is the Daily Mail headline. “Burn in Hell, Brady”, the Mirror has it. “Monster Brady is Dead,” The Sun says.
Faced with evil incarnate, we derive palpable satisfaction from a good online and print lynching as a substitute for a physical one. It’s an instinct and a spectacle as ugly as it is human, and diminishes those caught up in it. For Christians, the thing is different: the Moors murderer has gone to the God who made us all, and who hates nothing that he has made.
I still feel quite the same way as the lynchers. Merely to look at the Brady/Hindley victims, aged from 10 to 17, makes the heart bleed. The policeman who, at the time, observed that, when he heard a tape of Brady’s victim’s screams he felt he could gladly kill him with his bare hands, was speaking for me; probably for lots of us. Ian Brady didn’t even have Myra Hindley’s redemptive aspects – not that they did her much good – for he didn’t repent, didn’t show remorse and didn’t identify the grave of one of his victims, Keith Bennett, whose grieving mother has just died.
Indeed, it’s not the only time I feel there would be an almost physical sense of gratification in exacting punishment on a sadist. Whenever I read about the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS – the crucifixions, the throat-cutting of Christians, the child rape of Yazidis, tossing gay people from tall buildings – it brings on fantasies of the perpetrators suffering just the same fate.
Which is where Christianity comes in. The requirement to forgive sinners is not contingent on them being repentant. Christ on the Cross forgave those who did not repent of what they had done; so did Stephen, before being stoned to death – rather an ISIS-style punishment, really.
The requirement of forgiveness, the insistence that though your sins be red as scarlet they will be washed white as snow, is easy until they’re applied to real people. I cannot imagine how any of the parents of Ian Brady’s five victims can say the Lord’s Prayer – the bit about “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. But it’s one thing to forgive those who harm us; another to forgive those who torture your child to death.
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