The Heart of a Serial Killer

I am not sure how closely TV matches reality, but if the show Criminal Minds is near the truth then FBI profilers have an interesting job. In the show, a group of behavior analysts try to catch serial criminals (usually killers). The focus is on the psychology of the criminals, not the forensics of the crime. What is it that makes these killers tick? Why does that guy burn down houses? Why does that woman kill other women? Why does that man rape and kill women and then carefully bury them with their arms cross? Mixed in is a lot of Freudian non-sense. I am not necessarily recommending the show. I am not sure about shows that claim to be against violence, but often glorify the violence they claim to oppose.

What I found interesting about the show is the criminals do what they do to fill a need. A common phrase on the show is, “The criminal does [fill in crime here] to fill a need.” Determining what need the criminal has will often help them catch the criminal. Of course, lurking in the background is secular psychology and no concept of sin, repentance, and salvation. However, it got me thinking about how we all try to fill our needs and the results of trying to fill those needs. In the show the needs are often emotional.  A man needs power so he rapes. A woman hates her father so she burns down houses with unfit fathers. A child abandoned by his mother beats another child. A man needs control so he kidnaps kids. And so on.

We want there to be a chasm between us and those criminals. Sounds outlandish doesn’t?  Abusing others to meet a need in ourselves is not what we do. Right? Right? Of course, we do.  That is one of the reasons the show makes sense. Humans function from a deficit. We are all running on empty. All of us are needy.  The show merely gives us the big, bloody, terrifying truth about all of us. We use other people to fill our own souls. We take from others to give to ourselves. Our cup is half-full so we suck from those around us.

Many of the criminals on the show believe they are doing good. As Christians we can take the same approach. We do good things and ask others to do good things, but the reason is to fill some hole in us. Christians don’t kill others. But we manipulate them to get what we want. Christian parents do not usually physically abuse their children, but they chain them in other ways, such as making house rules into God’s rules. Christian wives do not usually shoot their husbands, but they will use verses such as Ephesians 5:25 to make sure their husbands don’t lead, but give in to their whims. Christian husbands do not usually treat their wives in wicked ways sexually, but they will view them as objects, there to satisfy their needs. Our hearts often function in the same way as those serial killers. We are empty and needy and therefore we take from others.

The answer, the only answer to our emptiness, is Christ. He is the only one who fills our needs. With Christ we are full. Therefore we do not need to take. With Christ we do not want (Psalm 23:1) and therefore we are free to give to those around us. If you are not being filled by Christ then you will stay empty. If you are not being filled by Christ you will drain those around you dry. You will wither and those around you will wither. If you are empty, look to Christ, who gives water that quenches all thirst (John 4:13-14).