Manson-cult murderer dies, but found redemption

Susan Atkins, the follower of Charles Manson and the murderer of the pregnant Sharon Tate, is dead. The news account of her death tells quite a story, going from unimaginable depravity to the Cross:

One night in August 1969, Manson dispatched Atkins and others to a wealthy residential section of Los Angeles, telling them, as they recalled, to “do something witchy.”

They went to the home of Tate and her husband. He was not home, but Tate, who was 8{ months pregnant, and four others were killed. “Pigs” was scrawled on a door in blood.

The next night, a wealthy grocer and his wife were found stabbed to death in their home across town. “Helter Skelter” was written in blood on the refrigerator.

“I was stoned, man, stoned on acid,” Atkins testified during the trial’s penalty phase.

“I don’t know how many times I stabbed (Tate) and I don’t know why I stabbed her,” she said. “She kept begging and pleading and begging and pleading and I got sick of listening to it, so I stabbed her.”

She said she felt “no guilt for what I’ve done. It was right then and I still believe it was right.” Asked how it could be right to kill, she replied in a dreamy voice, “How can it not be right when it’s done with love?”

The matronly, gray-haired Atkins who appeared before a parole board in 2000 cut a far different figure than that of the cocky young defendant some 30 years earlier.

“I don’t have to just make amends to the victims and families,” she said softly. “I have to make amends to society. I sinned against God and everything this country stands for.” She said she had found redemption in Christianity.

The last words she spoke in public at the September hearing were to say in unison with her husband: “My God is an amazing God.”

Indeed. Does this bother you in any way? Do you see that Jesus bore in His body, along with everything else the world has done, the sins of the Manson cult? Do you see this woman as your dear sister in Christ?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • James T. Batchelor

    I cannot look into this woman’s heart. If her words do indeed match her faith, then I rejoice at the miracle God wrought in this woman.

  • James T. Batchelor

    I cannot look into this woman’s heart. If her words do indeed match her faith, then I rejoice at the miracle God wrought in this woman.

  • http://www.ifyoucouldreadmymind.wordpress.com Lisa R.

    I am in no way connected to the Tate/La Bianca murders. I was very young when they happened but old enough to be aware of how scary the Manson family was. It was inconceivable that anyone could invade my peaceful home in small-town America with the intent to kill me or my family. I’ve never killed anyone, but I have sinned. And this account affirms my hope “that is in Christ.” I am glad she found Christ before her death. Isn’t Susan Atkins the latest representative of all the prodigal sons and daughters that God has saved over the millenia? In response to your last question, Dr. Veith, I think there will be lots of dropped jaws when we reach heaven and see who else made it.

  • http://www.ifyoucouldreadmymind.wordpress.com Lisa R.

    I am in no way connected to the Tate/La Bianca murders. I was very young when they happened but old enough to be aware of how scary the Manson family was. It was inconceivable that anyone could invade my peaceful home in small-town America with the intent to kill me or my family. I’ve never killed anyone, but I have sinned. And this account affirms my hope “that is in Christ.” I am glad she found Christ before her death. Isn’t Susan Atkins the latest representative of all the prodigal sons and daughters that God has saved over the millenia? In response to your last question, Dr. Veith, I think there will be lots of dropped jaws when we reach heaven and see who else made it.

  • scotsgrey

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”
    1 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

    Note: “great mercy”

    If true (see James #1), praise God for His great mercy and I will rejoice to see my sister Susan in heaven.

    If this bothers you then you do not understand your own sin in relation to a holy God or what mercy is. May God open your eyes.

  • scotsgrey

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”
    1 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

    Note: “great mercy”

    If true (see James #1), praise God for His great mercy and I will rejoice to see my sister Susan in heaven.

    If this bothers you then you do not understand your own sin in relation to a holy God or what mercy is. May God open your eyes.

  • Joe

    Praise be to God. Amen!!!!

  • Joe

    Praise be to God. Amen!!!!

  • Mary Ann

    I pray it is true! God’s grace is awesome indeed, and deserved by none.

  • Mary Ann

    I pray it is true! God’s grace is awesome indeed, and deserved by none.

  • JennaT

    “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst!”

    Stories like these show us the depth of God’s mercy!

  • JennaT

    “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst!”

    Stories like these show us the depth of God’s mercy!

  • Orianna Laun

    I echo the commenters before me: I cannot see into the heart; therefore, I cannot judge as to whether her words were empty words or a confession of faith; yet I recall the words of St. Paul saying he was “chief of sinners.” If Paul, who was “breathing threats” against followers of Christ (pre-meditatation?) and was an accomplice in the stoning of Stephen was our brother, then how can we say one murderer is and one not?
    It truly shows how deep the mercy of God is and that all-availing truly is ALL-availing; otherwise, we would have little hope, for we would need to question how bad is too bad for Christ’s forgiveness.

  • Orianna Laun

    I echo the commenters before me: I cannot see into the heart; therefore, I cannot judge as to whether her words were empty words or a confession of faith; yet I recall the words of St. Paul saying he was “chief of sinners.” If Paul, who was “breathing threats” against followers of Christ (pre-meditatation?) and was an accomplice in the stoning of Stephen was our brother, then how can we say one murderer is and one not?
    It truly shows how deep the mercy of God is and that all-availing truly is ALL-availing; otherwise, we would have little hope, for we would need to question how bad is too bad for Christ’s forgiveness.

  • Rob

    As a father of a recently murdered daughter I would find it hard if not impossible to rejoice in God showing mercy and forgiveness to her murderer. Even though He may. Right now, I cannot, oh how I need Christ! He can do things I cannot.

  • Rob

    As a father of a recently murdered daughter I would find it hard if not impossible to rejoice in God showing mercy and forgiveness to her murderer. Even though He may. Right now, I cannot, oh how I need Christ! He can do things I cannot.

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    I’m always skeptical of these reports, especially when nothing is heard until after or near death. There really isn’t enough in that story to tell for sure, but there is no reason (it should be obvious to every Christian) that it couldn’t be true. And no, it doesn’t bother me that she could have been saved. I hope she was. It does bother me when Christians make much ado about celebrity conversions when there has been no life lived to corroborate the testimony as they so often prove embarrassing. So I am tentatively pleased to read of Atkins’s alleged conversion, hope it was real, and rejoice in the fact that God saves all kinds of people, including members of the Manson family like Charles “Tex” Watson.

    Oh, yes, and me. That’s every bit as amazing.

  • http://thirstytheologian.com David Kjos

    I’m always skeptical of these reports, especially when nothing is heard until after or near death. There really isn’t enough in that story to tell for sure, but there is no reason (it should be obvious to every Christian) that it couldn’t be true. And no, it doesn’t bother me that she could have been saved. I hope she was. It does bother me when Christians make much ado about celebrity conversions when there has been no life lived to corroborate the testimony as they so often prove embarrassing. So I am tentatively pleased to read of Atkins’s alleged conversion, hope it was real, and rejoice in the fact that God saves all kinds of people, including members of the Manson family like Charles “Tex” Watson.

    Oh, yes, and me. That’s every bit as amazing.

  • Rev. Alexander Ring

    In my years of instructing in the faith, this is one of the consistent issues that comes up, The vile murderer who confesses faith at the last minute; does he receive the same forgiveness? And my opinion is we struggle with it not so much out of self-righteousness, but our desire to see sin punished. We want to know the sinner has been punished, we want the murderer to know the horror of death; we want them to earn their forgiveness. And so we go back to the cross, where the murderer receives the death penalty and we are reminded that Susan earned her forgiveness as much as I earned mine. Sola Gratia. Yes, this is a hard saying; who can listen to it?

  • Rev. Alexander Ring

    In my years of instructing in the faith, this is one of the consistent issues that comes up, The vile murderer who confesses faith at the last minute; does he receive the same forgiveness? And my opinion is we struggle with it not so much out of self-righteousness, but our desire to see sin punished. We want to know the sinner has been punished, we want the murderer to know the horror of death; we want them to earn their forgiveness. And so we go back to the cross, where the murderer receives the death penalty and we are reminded that Susan earned her forgiveness as much as I earned mine. Sola Gratia. Yes, this is a hard saying; who can listen to it?

  • Rob Cartusciello

    For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.

    When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is
    right.’ So they went.

    When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

    When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.

    Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but
    each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

    But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

    So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

    - Matthew 20:1-16

  • Rob Cartusciello

    For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.

    When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is
    right.’ So they went.

    When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

    When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.

    Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but
    each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

    But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

    So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

    - Matthew 20:1-16

  • WebMonk

    David, one thing that tends to exacerbate instances like this story where there is the appearance that nothing happens until suddenly the subjects are found to have converted and we only find out after/immediately before their death, is that the news isn’t particularly interested in a story about a person in jail who has found Christ.

    A much more exciting story is a person who just died or is about to die. That tends to make these sorts of stories appear to be out of the blue, but in some/many cases the person has been a Christian for many years in prison. It’s just that no one pays attention until they die or are about to die.

    I don’t know her story, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case.

  • WebMonk

    David, one thing that tends to exacerbate instances like this story where there is the appearance that nothing happens until suddenly the subjects are found to have converted and we only find out after/immediately before their death, is that the news isn’t particularly interested in a story about a person in jail who has found Christ.

    A much more exciting story is a person who just died or is about to die. That tends to make these sorts of stories appear to be out of the blue, but in some/many cases the person has been a Christian for many years in prison. It’s just that no one pays attention until they die or are about to die.

    I don’t know her story, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    How horrible, Rob! We think of the sinner but often forget the sinned against. Christ has something for them both.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    How horrible, Rob! We think of the sinner but often forget the sinned against. Christ has something for them both.

  • Booklover

    In our haste to rejoice with the “celebrity” criminal, we must still embrace the victim.

    The father of the prodigal son said “we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

    But he *first* turned to the ever-faithful son and said, “My son, you are *always* with me, and everything I have is yours.” Let us not forget those words.

  • Booklover

    In our haste to rejoice with the “celebrity” criminal, we must still embrace the victim.

    The father of the prodigal son said “we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

    But he *first* turned to the ever-faithful son and said, “My son, you are *always* with me, and everything I have is yours.” Let us not forget those words.

  • Booklover

    Rob, #8, your sorrow is unimaginable. May you be bathed in comfort that can only come supernaturally.

  • Booklover

    Rob, #8, your sorrow is unimaginable. May you be bathed in comfort that can only come supernaturally.

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  • DrJoan

    This coming so close to the prisoner who WAS released “compassionately” who seemed to have NO remorse–the Lockerbie bomber–presents a dramatic contrast. I pray that Ms. Atkins found compassion during her last days and hours. I pray for the families of her victims that they, too, can find Christ in the midst of this whole situation.
    If God can rescue me from sin and give me eternal life through Christ, surely he can do the same for her.

  • DrJoan

    This coming so close to the prisoner who WAS released “compassionately” who seemed to have NO remorse–the Lockerbie bomber–presents a dramatic contrast. I pray that Ms. Atkins found compassion during her last days and hours. I pray for the families of her victims that they, too, can find Christ in the midst of this whole situation.
    If God can rescue me from sin and give me eternal life through Christ, surely he can do the same for her.

  • Kathy Sandor

    “Church Lady”

    I too sometimes question last minute “conversions” but Susan Atkins conversion was definitely not one of these. She wrote her book, Child of Satan,Child of God, in 1977 and has had an extensive Christian ministry from her prison cell in California all these years. See her website at susanatkins.org.

  • Kathy Sandor

    “Church Lady”

    I too sometimes question last minute “conversions” but Susan Atkins conversion was definitely not one of these. She wrote her book, Child of Satan,Child of God, in 1977 and has had an extensive Christian ministry from her prison cell in California all these years. See her website at susanatkins.org.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    “Do you see this woman as your dear sister in Christ?”

    Yes, I do…until proven otherwise by The Big Guy.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    “Do you see this woman as your dear sister in Christ?”

    Yes, I do…until proven otherwise by The Big Guy.

  • Trey

    Recently, I had a conversation concerning those who have committed a external sin (contra a thought sin) and their attitude concerning such. If one is truly repentant, the Scriptures teach they will not justify themselves, but accept the consequence of their sins. Based upon the post Susan Atkins was contrite and accepted her penalty from God’s left kingdom while trusting in Him for her sin.

    Rob,

    I am sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine to know how your emotions. Keep your eyes on the Son of God for He has conquered all things for you.

  • Trey

    Recently, I had a conversation concerning those who have committed a external sin (contra a thought sin) and their attitude concerning such. If one is truly repentant, the Scriptures teach they will not justify themselves, but accept the consequence of their sins. Based upon the post Susan Atkins was contrite and accepted her penalty from God’s left kingdom while trusting in Him for her sin.

    Rob,

    I am sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine to know how your emotions. Keep your eyes on the Son of God for He has conquered all things for you.

  • Reg Schofield

    I used to struggle with this concept ,I just could not see how this could be . But then as I have had time to look deep within my own soul in light of God’s holiness and see the filth and degree of sin that is lingering , I realize its a matter of degrees to being a murderer etc.. However if we cannot grasp that God can do this very thing then we need to stop reading Paul.How much pain and suffering had he inflicted on the early church but Christ transformed him into a champion of the faith .When such a vile crime as rape or murder takes place, ministry needs to happen on 2 levels . To the victim’s family and the perpetrator.
    Rob – Truly I’m sorry . I’ll will pray for grace and healing ….I cannot fathom your pain .

  • Reg Schofield

    I used to struggle with this concept ,I just could not see how this could be . But then as I have had time to look deep within my own soul in light of God’s holiness and see the filth and degree of sin that is lingering , I realize its a matter of degrees to being a murderer etc.. However if we cannot grasp that God can do this very thing then we need to stop reading Paul.How much pain and suffering had he inflicted on the early church but Christ transformed him into a champion of the faith .When such a vile crime as rape or murder takes place, ministry needs to happen on 2 levels . To the victim’s family and the perpetrator.
    Rob – Truly I’m sorry . I’ll will pray for grace and healing ….I cannot fathom your pain .

  • Z

    So many Christians ask “But is if fair? I’ve lived a good life all these years and they did drugs and booze, they might have murdered!, but they repented and go to heaven, too?” (it always DOES sound ‘self righteous’, Rev. Ring!) They forget these people never got to live HERE in the better way we do as Christians. Of course, with Atkins, it sounds like she did and that information is very interesting, Kathy Sandor (#18), thanks.
    Rob, I’m so very sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine that pain and wish you peace….it sounds like you definitely know who to turn to.

  • Z

    So many Christians ask “But is if fair? I’ve lived a good life all these years and they did drugs and booze, they might have murdered!, but they repented and go to heaven, too?” (it always DOES sound ‘self righteous’, Rev. Ring!) They forget these people never got to live HERE in the better way we do as Christians. Of course, with Atkins, it sounds like she did and that information is very interesting, Kathy Sandor (#18), thanks.
    Rob, I’m so very sorry for your loss, I can’t imagine that pain and wish you peace….it sounds like you definitely know who to turn to.

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