Make sure you read the most recent update made at the end of this post, in response to several of our reader’s comments (updated Thursday, December 1st, 9:45 P.M. CST).
The following comment was posted in response to our recent post, “Teens In The News: David Ludwig and Kara Borden.” Due in part to the attention our article has received, as well as the excellent opportunity for clarification it provides, we felt it was wise to share this comment with you and then respond.
We would like to reiterate our great appreciation for the wise words this reader shared. We have turned this exchange into a post only in order to clarify the message we’re sending.
DeputyHeadmistress said: This is a good post, and I agree that we all need to look to ourselves and not be coplacent. But I think it’s interesting how different people can read the same thing and come away with different ideas about it. I also read David’s blog (and their friends’ blogs) and I was struck by his view of God as a vending machine on high. I wasn’t favorably impressed by either Kara or David’s expressions of faith- they were not much different than expressions of delight over a rock band or a new and very cool shirt, IMO.
In reading those blogs I was also disturbed to see that for most of those kids murder and premarital sex were ‘making bad choices’ and nobody should judge those who indulged in those bad choices. But letting somebody’s parents know what was going on was worse than a bad choice- that would have been a very, very *bad* thing for them to do. These kids have, at best, a very twisted sense of values, right, wrong, sin, and good and evil.
You might read this (and other news reports on the same site):
Did David Ludwig use his Christian faith to manipulate and get close to girls? John Powers, of Long Island, N.Y., has written about the case on his “Action Report” Web site.
In an interview today, he said that an anonymous source gave him access to Ludwig’s e-mail account and that Ludwig’s e-mails show Ludwig had another relationship with a girl he met while on a trip to Hawaii last summer.
Ludwig had contact with several other girls around the same time, Powers said.
In the e-mails, Powers said, “He starts off preaching the word. It’s a level of communication they all could understand, something they all have in common.”
The girls responded in the same vein, and the relationship developed, Powers said.
Ludwig had gotten into trouble locally and, it appears, in Hawaii, for his actions in the past year, according to news accounts and the Web sites.
The pastor of Ludwig’s church told a reporter last week that Ludwig took a girl to Ludwig’s family’s cabin in Juniata County without her parents’ permission last spring, but that the girl’s parents did not contact authorities about it.
In a story posted on Court TV’s “Crime Library” Web site, writer Steve Huff said, “David Ludwig, at least, seemed to use his ‘faith’ in the same way other men use sports cars — as a ‘hook.’ ”
I would also note that looking at a timeline of events, the ‘spirit led’ initiative to fix up The Barn as a place where the kids could go to ‘seek God’s face’ (because, naturally, David adn his pals could not seek God’s face at home or in their churches or with adult supervision) only took place after the family cabin was off limits to David because he took at least one girl there without her family’s permission.
None of this negates your broader points, I would just be careful about taking those public confessions of faith as expressed by Ludwig and people like him at face value.
Alex Harris said: To begin, let me thank you for your input. Even from reading your (relatively) brief comment on our blog in response to my post on the subject, I appreciated the fact that you have diligently researched the issue. I too had been to Lancaster Online, reading the articles, and many of the lengthy comment sections. I had also frequented Crime Library and the Action Report, and read the released excerpts from the emails allegedly written by David and his various female acquaintances. All this to say, I was aware of the information you cite, before I wrote my post.
With that understanding, I would respectfully defend my position on a few of the points over which we disagree, but primarily, just clarify several areas of misunderstanding:
As you recognized, the message of my article was simply, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” You see, regardless of the differences between David Ludwig, Kara Borden and myself, the only thing that separates me from them is the grace of God. Remove His grace, and I would be no better. In fact, I would be worse.
To continue, you will notice that I never claimed that either David or Kara were saved. My first reference to Christianity was to say, “David and Kara, you understand, are churchgoers, youth group attendees, from Christian families, with Christian friends.” Later, I referred to them as “homeschooled teens from Christian families.” However, I did not claim that they themselves were born again.
Our reason for disagreement, even if it is ever so slight, I would assume, stems from a different statement: my claim that David and Kara, quote: “bore many signs of true faith and an understanding of the Gospel.” In retrospect, perhaps I could have clarified this statement more explicitly by saying something more to the effect of: “bearing the outward appearance of faith and seeming to have an understanding of the Gospel.” However, the purpose of the statement was only to recognize that — for a majority of their lives, and to most people around them — David and Kara appeared to be saved.
Now, bear in mind that when I say this, I do not necessarily refer to the several days, weeks, and months immediately prior to the murder of Michael and Cathryn Borden, but rather to the broader picture of Kara and David’s lives. I think it would incredibly assumptive for us to say that — had we met David Ludwig or Kara Borden three to six months in the past — we would not have thought them to be pretty normal Christian kids. David we are told was involved in Bible Quizzing and probably had the entire book of 1 Peter memorized (and most likely, had other books memorized as well, since that was just one competition). As one of our readers aptly noted, David had memorized more Scripture than most of us have. Furthermore, a fellow employee and college student who was interviewed in the aftermath of the murder said, “I considered [David] to be a good Christian — he brought his Bible and read it during breaks.”
Suffice to say that — during a significant portion of his life — David Ludwig showed more signs of being a Christian than many people who will never commit a crime. His familiarity with Scripture means he probably had a much better understanding of the Gospel than your typical youth group-attending, faith-professing Christian. ‘The Barn Project’ was described as the fulfillment of his father’s vision for their barn to be used as a church (“7 years ago Greg Ludwig had a vision that this place would be used for “church.” now 7 years later, God is beginning a work that is going to produce greater fruit than we can ever imagine; 30, 40, 50, a hundred fold! Our prayer is that The Barn may be a place of worship, where God is glorified, brothers and sisters in Christ are fed the meat of the Word, Jesus is worshipped, and God’s will is advanced in His time.”).
To be frank, based upon the evidence that is currently available, I would reject the theory that David used his “faith” as a hook to manipulate girls. At the very least, I would issue a strong word of caution. The truth is that, in many ways, the effort to label David as a “sexual predator” is distinctly Darwinian in nature; attempting to label criminals as sub-human or somehow less developed (or ‘further depraved’) than we are ourselves.
The quote by G.K. Chesterton, which I included in my original post, is appropriate again here: “No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how [little] right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees…”
Without expounding further at this time, and without claiming that David was nothing more than “starry-eyed and bushy-tailed,” I would caution all of us to guard our hearts from the tendency of our secular culture to preoccupy itself with coming up with some sensational explanation for sin, when the real answer is given clearly in Scripture, and applies to each and every one of us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
As Kathrynne said, the “Christian”-like actions performed by David and Kara are not enough, by themselves, to change anyone’s heart. What this means is that we cannot be complacent or lacksadaisical about the state of our souls. If all we do is go to church, read the Bible, memorize Scripture, and say ‘God bless you’ in our personal correspondence, it’s not enough. And let’s face it, we don’t even do all of those things consistently.
In conclusion, it all comes back to grace. We all are born with sinful and wicked hearts, and no matter how vast the distance between us and any given criminal… That difference is God’s mercy, and not our merit.
UPDATE (12/1): My response to several issues brought up by our reader’s in the comments section:
Jamie: You are right in observing that I am very hesitant — as the evidence currently stands — to say that David was only using the appearance of Christianity to feed an abnormal sexual obsession. I am very uncomfortable with the tendency to paint David’s entire childhood and teen years — the Bible quizzes, the lifeguarding, the Bible reading, the emails, ‘The Barn’, the prayer huddles — as nothing more than a facade to lure impressionable girls.
I do not deny that David took a significant turn for the worse over the past few months, and a more subtle turn over the past year or two, but I do disagree with the theory that all the things that caused people to identify him as “a caring person,” and as “a good kid” with “a strong faith,” were just an act to hide a murderer waiting for an opportunity. I would never support releasing David, even if he repents, or consider him “safe,” but I do believe that a 14 or 15-year-old David would have been surprisingly similar to a majority of young men in the church today.
Concerning the theological issue: Nightfly was right on when he said that the point is not whether David and Kara were/are/can be saved or not. I appreciate many of the things that have been shared by our readers on this subject, but I’d prefer it not turn it into a debate. For now, I will only say this: If David and Kara were/are truly saved, I would expect repentance. If they weren’t/aren’t truly saved, they are by no means beyond the reach of God’s saving grace. I pray for repentance.
Tim: You’re right when you say we have a serious problem. In fact, that was one of the very things I hoped people would start realizing when they read my post. The truth is that a majority of what we classify as “normal Christian teens” are Christians in name only… It’s just the environment they happen to be in… It’s their parent’s faith, not their own. In fact, I think it’s highly probable that this was the category into which David and Kara fell. This is of great concern.
Again, we should all take this opportunity to examine our hearts and exhort our fellow young people. Do we go to church just because our parents make us? Just to see our friends? Do we read our Bible, memorize Scripture, and talk the talk, just because that’s what expected and admired in the environment in which we live?
This is really a message that goes to the heart of The Rebelution. Our actions should never be dependent on cultural expectations, whether it be church culture, homeschool culture, or pop culture. Our authority is Christ and His Word, and He does not change.
Let’s be honest, guys. Have we ever tried to impress the opposite sex by our spiritual maturity? If we have, I think we should be cautious in labeling David as some sort of predator… At the very least, we should take great care to ensure that our attitude does not even hint at self-righteousness.
A debtor to mercy, Alex Jordan Harris