The above headline, from an Associated Press article, is a couple of years old now. I do not normally read such stories because I am opposed to the Death Penalty for a number of reasons. But that is not the point today. The story continued:
“LUCASVILLE, Ohio - Ohio executed a religious cult leader Tuesday for murdering a family of five followers who were taken one at a time to a barn, bound and shot to death. The youngest was a girl just 7 years old.
Jeffrey Lundgren, 56, died by injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. ‘I profess my love for God, my family, for my children, for Kathy (his wife). I am because you are,’ Lundgren said in his final statement.
The evidence against him in the deaths of the Avery family — Dennis, 49, Cheryl, 46, Trina, 15, Rebecca, 13, and 7-year-old Karen — was compelling.
Upset by what he saw as a lack of faith, Lundgren arranged a dinner hosted by cult members. Afterward, he and his followers led the family members one by one — the father first, young Karen last — to their deaths while the others unknowingly cleaned up after dinner.
Lundgren shot each victim two or three times while a running chain saw muffled the sound of the gunfire.
Lundgren argued at his trial in 1990 that he was prophet of God and therefore not deserving of the death penalty.
‘It's not a figment of my imagination that I can in fact talk to God, that I can hear his voice,’ he had told the jurors. ‘I am a prophet of God. I am even more than a prophet.’”
Lundgren formed the cult with about 20 members in the northeast Ohio town of Kirtland after he was dismissed in 1987 as a lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of the Latter Day Saints church.
He said God commanded him, through interpretation of Scriptures, to kill the Avery family, who had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow his teachings.
I found the following three passages riveting:
- Lundgren argued at his trial in 1990 that he was prophet of God and therefore not deserving of the death penalty.
- "It's not a figment of my imagination that I can in fact talk to God, that I can hear his voice," he had told the jurors. "I am a prophet of God. I am even more than a prophet."
- He said God commanded him, through interpretation of Scriptures, to kill the Avery family, who had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow his teachings.
Upon reflection on those three passages, I believe we can all agree that one of the following statements must be true. Either
- Jeffery Lundgren was stark-raving mad;
- Jeffrey Lundgren was lying about his communications with God and his status as a "prophet"; or
- Jeffrey Lundgren was telling the truth; that is, he was in intimate communication with the Almighty, he was HIS ordained prophet, and he killed the Averys on God's command.
Those are the only choices. One must be true.
But which is it?
Frankly, unless you are a devoted member of Mr. Lundgren's cult, I am absolutely certain that you have not chosen #3.
Every reader in general, and especially those who profess Christianity in particular, has opted for either explanation #1 or #2.
# 3 is out of the question. Dismissed. Impossible.
Atheists and like-minded secularists have an excellent reason for their choice: If there is no God, then #3 is not even a remote possibility. Their response needs no further explanation.
What about those of you who are Christians, Mormons, Jews, or Muslims however? Why do you reject the third option? Indeed, how can you?
Your entire belief system is based on the conviction that one or more times in the past, a Deity communicated His wishes and instructions directly to a human or group of humans. You are certain of this. There is no question in your mind.
But if God did communicate with man in the past, how can you be so sure that He was not in communication with Mr. Lundgren? Jerry Falwell claimed that God spoke to him every day, so why not to Mr. Lundgren?
And God has, according to the Bible, often ordered His followers to kill others, including little children. The God of the Old Testament several times displayed an extremely bloodthirsty and vengeful persona, so how can you know He did not instruct Mr. Lundgren to off the Averys?
You believe that if we all do not accept, worship, and fear this God, He will cast us into Hell and torture us for eternity. That's pretty serious, even vicious, stuff. Why then is it impossible to believe Mr. Lundgren was telling the truth?
The fact is I have a clear, concise, and rational reason for rejecting option #3.
No adherent of any "revealed religion", including Christianity, can make the same claim.