Charles Manson and the Bible

Published 10:26 pm Thursday, August 20, 2015

I was probably the only one sitting in Sunday School yesterday thinking of Charles Manson.

Manson was the crazed cult leader who directed two terrible mass murders in 1969. I read Vincent Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter” years ago, and the author explained how Manson used the Bible to brainwash his followers.

Our scripture was Revelation 9. John wrote about scorpions that torment the ungodly in the days of God’s wrath. It’s scary stuff.

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Manson had a unique interpretation according to Bugliosi.

Manson believed the scorpions were none other than the Beatles from Liverpool.

After all, John said they had “hair like a woman” and shining breastplates that were obviously electric guitars (Revelation 9: 8-9).

Manson believed the Beatles spoke to him through their songs, and one song, “Helter Skelter,” had special meaning. He saw it as a race war that would eliminate all of humanity.

Manson was Abaddon (verse 11) who would take his followers to a secret place in the desert for safety, from which they’d emerge as world rulers when the war was over.

For two terrible nights in August 1969, Manson sent followers to commit murder, instructing them to leave “helter skelter” in blood on the walls of the houses.

Manson believed black Americans would be blamed for the murders and the race war would commence.

The Manson murders that year marked the end of American innocence.

We’ve had worse tragedies since but that awful month was a time of uncertainty and fear. Many of us who didn’t live in California were perplexed and wondered, indeed, if we were entering a new era of terror.

The Manson saga had two interesting repercussions. Two of the murderers, Susan Atkins and Charles Watson, found faith in prison and published books about their lives.

Atkins wrote “Child of Satan, Child of God” about her conversion. She requested immersion baptism and was baptized in a cattle dipping tank brought into the prison. She was once a guest, via telephone, on the PTL Club with Jim and Tammy Bakker. Atkins died of brain cancer in 2009.

Charles “Tex” Watson, author of “Will You Die for Me?, found Christ in a Texas prison, where he serves as assistant chaplain.

It’s hard to believe how a single individual, Charles Manson, could incite such carnage. Revelation also tells of a man in the last days, who will delude many and, like Manson, claim to be God. This declaration will usher in the return of Christ.

I’ve taught in a number of jails and prisons over the years. It’s an awful place, but it’s common to find many followers of Christ. After all, sometimes we must be in the lowest pit before God gets our attention.

Brooks is a professor at Judson College and a weekly contributor to The Selma Times-Journal.