Ariel Castro won? Maybe…it’s complicated

My friend Todd over at “Had a Few Beers” recently wrote a blog about the suicide of Ariel Castro this past Tuesday (link).

In case you missed it, Castro was the guy who had kept several women chained in his house for more than a decade. They were bound, tortured, beaten and raped for years and years. Castro even fathered a child by one of them. You can read about it in any of the 100 stories written (link).

In exchange for life in prison, he pled guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years. After less than a month in custody, he hanged himself in his prison cell (link).

I was batting around the idea of writing a blog on this topic, then saw Todd’s. He brought up some points that I thought were worth exploring—not in a refuting way, but more like a companion piece, maybe? I dunno. Todd knows I luvs.

First, before we get in to attempted logic and rhetoric (always a crap shoot with me), it’s important to recognize the emotional impact of this guy’s actions. I can’t even begin to imagine the levels of pain and psychological damage this monster inflicted.

I wanted to get that out there first. It’s important to let suffering seep into our psyche sometimes and be revolted. We have a tendency to treat people like we would statistics on an Excel spreadsheet—all numbers and hardly any feelings. We’ll talk about ‘them’ and ‘they’ and not realize they are people, with parents, friends, teachers who tried to impact them….

It’s important to remember that people in this case were hurt—severely—over the course of 11 years. It’s important to try and put ourselves in that situation and empathize.

These women were chained to beds, raped, starved, forced to miscarry…unbelievable things that happened while everyone was flipping out about iPhones and the housing crisis and how terrible John Carter was.

A few houses down from normal people griping about normal things…these women lived in a different world…might as well have been another dimension. It was a nightmare. And the nightmare happened…every…day. Christmas, weekends, the first snow of the winter, when the alarm clock goes off and Castro gets up, there’s also the clink of chains….

Second, before I get all kumbaya, hopey-changey and lose some of you, I wanted to introduce an aspect of myself.

I am devoted to the defense of the exploited. Not only through causes or organizations, I will absolutely negate someone’s well being when I see them abusing others, in a bar, next door in an apartment, wherever. Furthermore, I would completely end someone who sought to bring harm to my loved ones. I do believe there is such a thing as righteous indignation.

I’m not a vigilante, but I’m not a pacifist. I grieve when I hear stories about human trafficking. I hate the exploitation of people.

I’m normally a very happy, go-lucky dude. But some of my friends have seen me when I turn. It doesn’t happen very often—like at all. But if that moment comes, you will know it.

So, hi. Nice to meet you. Anyway…

Castro killed himself. He was caught, arrested, tried, sentenced and he killed himself.

As Todd pointed out in his entry, in response, people tend to fall into one of two camps: the ‘rot in hell’ camp and the ‘at least he saved us tax dollars’ camp.

Also, as Todd points out, both sides are pretty much off kilter. Todd says that’s because both sides have been robbed of their vengeance. Castro was able to get by with very little punishment—punishment that we can mete out.

But where Todd, as an atheist, gets to the point where he shrugs his shoulders in anger, I, as a theist, operate in an additional sphere.

I do believe in an afterlife. I do believe we will stand before our creator. It’s my thing. Can’t prove it empirically, like Todd says. Just is my deal.

However, what Todd said to the ‘rot in hell’ group is true, though. If Castro had a moment when he asked for God’s forgiveness, through Jesus he’d get it. When it came time for the rest of us to chill with God in the next age, yes we might very well see that Castro dude.

In fact, there will probably be a whole lot of people chillin’ with God who we didn’t think were good enough. I think we will be floored at who is actually there…and people who aren’t there, even when they seemed so pious.

C.S. Lewis wrote a short book called “The Great Divorce” (link). It’s an allegory, hardly supposed to be taken literally; but in it, a group of people who have been living in a rainy dreary English neighborhood take a magic bus up into the sky and into this verdant majestic world of plains, mountains, rivers and forests. They find that they are nearly transparent and that the sun hurts their eyes, the blades of grass pierce their feet and even drops of water can crush them.

The people are from ‘hell’ and are visiting ‘heaven.’ The fantastical tale centers around glorious, light-enshrined heavenly people coming toward the dreary ghostly people from hell, trying to convince them to stay. If they stay, the idea is they’ll grow stronger, solidify and all that. Again…an allegory. As if Plato’s cave thing was any less bizarre (link)!

One by one, the people from hell decide they’ve had enough and get back on the bus. They are fed up with how they’re being treated, or offended that someone who had done them harm had gotten ‘in’ while they were being kept out, or that someone who was politically or ideologically ‘wrong’ was clothed in light while they were shrouded in shadow.

The whole point was they couldn’t get over themselves. They rejected God’s judgments.

What Todd mentions about judging is partly true. God ultimately judges. We are given things to discern and judge too, sure, but ultimate reconciliation between an individual and God is between the individual and God. We can see evidence of people living changed lives…good fruit and bad fruit…but there’s no formula to know for sure.

In the C.S. Lewis book, the hellish people were so stuck on a situation from their Earthly life, they couldn’t see past it. They felt they knew best. They didn’t think it was fair about such and such. They didn’t think it was right about this and that.

In the Christian texts of the Bible, Jesus instructs those who would follow his example to forgive. He instructs us to love our enemies. He instructs us to treat others as ourselves. In fact, the most important things to do are love God and love others as ourselves.

In doing so, we rise above ourselves and live in another level, for another purpose.

That’s why, for those of who don’t believe in God, Christians seem absolutely crazy.

Adding to the crazy is another situation, though. There are those who call themselves Christians who have decided instead to cultivate hate and vengeance in their hearts, and to use the Bible to justify it. These are a lot of the ‘rot in hell’ crowd. They get some sort of glee out of the idea that such a monster like Castro will burn or be tormented forever.

They can’t get over themselves to see what God might have done even in a life like Castro’s—even at that last second situation that Todd wonders might have happened. These hate-mongers end up being a lot like the hellish people in the Lewis book.

Did he ask? Was he forgiven? I don’t know. Does Castro deserve to be forgiven? Nope.

But, nether do I.

Even though I haven’t done the monstrous things that Castro did, I’ve done things and contributed to causes that have inflicted suffering on others…perhaps monstrous suffering…and I can’t hide behind my country’s flag when the time comes.

But I’ve been forgiven too.

I’ll probably be surprised to see several people on the day after I die. Shoot, some people I’ve wronged might be surprised to see me.

And if it’s too much for any of us to take, if we can’t accept God’s grace could forgive someone like Castro…or drug dealers…or pedophiles…or whoever…perhaps there will be a bus for us to get back on.

There might be a few people who reject grace at the last second because of those who accepted it at the last second.

Castro is out of our hands. I’m angry and heartbroken at the suffering he inflicted and I pray for healing. But there’s no neat bow for the situation—no tidy bit of closure.


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About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

4 responses to “Ariel Castro won? Maybe…it’s complicated”

  1. Ted Salmons says :

    So well written that any comment other than “That’s my Son and I’m proud of him”. Would pale by comparison.

  2. Kathryn says :

    Josh I LOVE C.S. Lewis and you just happened to write about one of my very favorites from his collection. “The Great Divorce” taught me to look past myself and realize that much of life is about our own perceptions. You know – the grass is always greener and all that. Even when we are gifted with paradise, our own egos or feelings of entitlement get in the way of seeing the beauty that is in front of us.

    While I see your point in using the book as a look into the possibility that even in death, with Gods forgiveness Castro will not be just forgiven and “let in” and that we all face judgement from God in one way or another even if we ask forgiveness goes against everything Christians are taught. Forgiveness means you get a clean slate and entry to heaven – no matter what you have done.

    While Todd is an atheist, I guess I now fall into the Agnostic category after being a Bible thumping Jesus freak for many many years. One of the main reasons I left the Christian church is the absolute lack of accountability. I just saw people using God as an excuse to behave in any way they want – say chaining up three women, holding them captive for 11 years and torturing them; and then with a simple prayer their crimes are erased from their heart.

    I think it was Chris Rock who made the joke: “I asked God for a bike, but I know He doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.”

    I now believe that any religion that absolves us of responsibility in this life is a dangerous one. Ariel Castro evaded earthly and possibly heavenly punishment for his crimes.

    I don’t believe anymore in the Christian God, but I do believe there is something out there, that there is an afterlife, but in my belief system, Castro is still being punished. Maybe he will be reincarnated as an abused dog, or his energy (soul) will remain wandering for a while. Who knows – but I refuse to believe that he died with a clean slate – no matter what God if any he appealed to.

    Sorry for the long response – maybe I should have written my own on the subject 🙂

  3. Had a Few Beers says :

    Absolutely brilliant as always Joshua. The forgiving those who have done you wrong, as a concept, is something everyone (me as well) should work into their moral compass.

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