Purpose-Driven Surrender
April 7, 2005

It's not often that I quote Ann Coulter, but her most recent column touches on a story the media quickly buried: the redemption of Brian Nichols.

Last month America saw a rash of senseless killings all in the same week. The events that transpired in Atlanta's Fulton County courthouse on March 11th were broadcast nearly the entire day. The event was no doubt tragic, but there came a point when the reports on the story became excessive. The culprit, Brian Nichols was vilified by the media and proclaimed a thug by bloggers. Which isn't to say that he deserves a halo and a can of Spam or anything even remotely spectacular. He certainly doesn't deserve our pity. What he does deserve is the right to be viewed as a frail human.

I wrote last month about what happens when good people attack. In the same week that Nichols summoned death for four people, a church-going white man named Terry Ratzmann murdered seven people. The press was far more sympathetic to Ratzmann's humanity. How could he have possible done such a thing? Granted, Ratzmann wasn't on trial for a crime like Nichols, but Nichols' record is fairly clean compared to how he's been portrayed. Surprisingly enough, the NAACP, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson were nowhere near this issue. And while I agree there may have been (enough cushy talk, there were) some discrepancies in reporting due to race, the bigger issue is the media's pathetic coverage of how Nichols came to surrender.

The reality is, neither of the two men could have predictably committed their crimes. In what can only be estimated to be a point of human weakness and desperation, they both gave way to a murderous spirit and their actions took the lives of others. Sad it truly is, but we are in no way justified in identifying these men by their crimes.

In her most recent column, "The purpose-drive left," Coulter tells the story rarely told by the media:

Nichols' murderous rampage began when he took the gun from a 5-foot-tall grandmother who was his sole guard at the Fulton County Courthouse. It ended when an otherwise unremarkable 26-year-old woman appealed to the Christian conscience of this same violent killer holding her hostage.

At 2 a.m. one Saturday night, Ashley Smith went out for cigarettes while unpacking her new apartment, yet another victory for tobacco pleasure. Returning from the store, Smith was grabbed by a man at her front door, who put a gun in her side and told her not to scream. He asked if she knew who he was. When he removed his baseball cap, she saw it was Nichols, the dangerous fugitive all over television who had escaped custody during his rape trial and had killed four people in the previous 48 hours. (Although he also looked a lot like of one the guys on "American Idol.")

In Smith's apartment, Nichols bound Smith's feet and hands and put her in the bathtub. Later, at Smith's request, Nichols allowed her to hop from the bathroom into the bedroom, where she began talking to him.

In short order, Smith was reading aloud to Nichols from the Christian book "The Purpose-Driven Life" -- in direct violation of his constitutional right to never hear any reference to God, in public or private, for any purpose, ever, ever, ever! For more on this right, go to the "People for the American Way" website.

After reading the first paragraph of Chapter 33 aloud, about serving God by serving others, Nichols -- the man pundits were calling an "animal" -- asked her to read it again.

Nichols listened to the passage again and responded by telling Smith he was already dead, saying, "Look at my eyes." But Smith looked and told him God had a purpose for him, perhaps to minister to other lost souls in prison. Smith read to Nichols some more, both from the "Purpose" book and from another popular book that's been dropped from all news accounts of this incident: the New Testament. (In the Hollywood version, Smith will be reading from the Quran.)

Smith knew all about Nichols' violent depredations from television. Yet she saw him not as a monster, but as one of God's creatures. Most Christians -- most people -- have trouble seeing the humanity of people who take our parking spots. Smith could see God's hand in a multiple murderer holding her hostage. By showing him genuine Christian love, Smith turned Nichols from a beast to a brother in Christ. This phenomenon, utterly unknown to liberals, is what's known as a "miracle."

As a self-professed language butcherer (see) I can appreciate Ann's clever insertion of parentheticals in this particular column. Moreover, I appreciate that she has precisely nailed this issue.

The Brian Nichols portrayed on television was not the Brian Nichols sitting with Ashley Smith. Nichols himself admitted that his actions were quite unlike him. Coulter continues:

Nichols told Smith she was "an angel sent from God," calling her "his sister" and himself her "brother in Christ." Nichols said he had come to Smith's home for a reason, in Smith's words, that "he was lost and God led him right to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people."
Amazing. I am less irritated about the lopsided coverage of a black murderer and a white murderer than I am about the media's preference to spend more time vilifying a black man than they would reporting on his repentant attitude as a result of *gasp* God. Who knew He worked?

Apparently, not Christians. It never fails to amaze me how collectively distracted American Christians can become. Post-trauma, while the news media was busy glossing over key parts of the Nichols surrender, Christians were too distracted, yammering about how they don't like Rick Warren (author of "The Purpose Driven Life"), and being critical of the fact that Ashley Smith would get the full amount of Federal reward money for helping the police capture Nichols.

When all is said and done, yes lives were lost and that's not to be taken lightly. But we certainly can smile in knowing that there is redemptive value in aspects of this tragedy's end.

Posted by Ambra at April 7, 2005 12:26 AM in Culture
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I like that title: Purpose-Driven Surrender. It has a hint of oxymoronishness.
Maybe Mr. Rick can use it for his next blockbuster book.

There really is no purpose to surrender, other than survival. We come to a point where we feel like we cannot go on until/unless we surrender to God. That's when He blesses us, that's when He can use us.

I thought Ashley's courage was remarkable! It is clear that God was right by her side. It is no accident that Mr. Nichols ended up at her apartment. What he did was appalling and abhorrent... but God wanted to stir his heart and reel him back in. Even the worst of the worst can be transformed by Christ. Those people have incredible testimonies that are powerful enough to change the lives of many more people. God uses all sorts of people to reach out to the lost. He knows that a squeaky clean white Christian girl from the suburbs is not going to be able to relate well to hardened criminals... but someone like Brian Nichols might just be able to. He can relate to them and can show them the TRUTH of the Gospel of Christ. I pray that he will follow God after what he has experienced and I pray that he will repent and turn from his ways in order to follow Christ.

This reminds me of another true story of a woman who was abducted by a murderer and who turned him around by talking about Christ. Her name is Margy Mayfield. There was a broadcast of her story on Focus on the Family.

Click here for more info.

Ah, but the media mischaracterized the situation with Ratzmann as well. His "church" was more like a cult, with a high degree control exercised by the minister, etc. While this COULD happen in any church, it is still a bit misleading to suggest that this happened in anything like a normal church. I forgot who I got that from, could have been LGF or LaShawn.

Dr. Galster you are correct. According to the media, if you've seen one church, you've seen them all.

But as I said some time ago....a church (or ekklesia) is merely a called out group of people. But called out by whom? There are Satanic churches, Animal-worshipping churches, all kinds. The question becomes, was Ratzmann a member of the Church of Jesus Christ (no not of latter day saints). Jesus said He is building His church. The fruit of that is not cult-like behavior. Unfortunately, we are living in the era of counterfeit churches.

[b]Janna:[/b] There are so many instances of this happening. I heard of a case where a man was about to rape a woman and she started calling on the name of Jesus and he grabbed his stuff, apologized and ran off crying. Such is the power of God.

So I guess my question to you Ambera, is if Mr. Nichols has been brought to Jesus by his exposure to The Purpose Driven Life, and its interpretation by a reader, what significance does that have in the final analysis of that story from a journalistic or social perspective. If Nichols has confessed his sins, and found forgiveness for himself, how does that impact me, anyone else, or specifically those individuals and families he affected with his actions?

Interesting, I wasn't aware of this.

After reading over some of the data, I came to the conclusion that there was a good chance that Nichols was innocent of what he was on trial for (prior to the murders). It's a sad thing that he let himself be moved by fear.

Who wants to hear that the man's "redemption"?

You. Must. Be. Kidding. Me.

If they did focus on it, like they focused on the turn around of the white woman on death row who Pat Robertson and other white evangelicals tried to get off death row, the conservative media would be in an uproar.

Oh, and lastly, every place I heard about this in the news media, what she told him and his response was covered very well.

In other words, I don't quite get what you are writing.

" but we are in no way justified in identifying these men by their crimes"

you must be joking... is this a belated April fool's day post?

The press was far more sympathetic by wondering how he could have done this? Huh? I want whatever you're smoking.
You explain this yourself by stating the fact that Ratzmann had never done anything before in his life that remotely resembled his actions. Nichols was on trial for kidnapping and raping his ex-gf. PLUS he had tried to bring weapons into court before hidden in his shoes.

Sorry but this post of yours is ludicrous. Nichols is a scumbag murdering rapist who deserves an injection. Ratzmann saved us the trouble and offed himself.


We are in every way justified in judging these murderers by their actions. Jeesh... get with it.

"but we are in no way justified in identifying these men by their crimes."

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we -- the public consumers of mass media news -- are not justified in judging these men solely by their crimes. That seems to be the thrust of your article.

I'm glad there was something in Nichols that made him responsive to Ashley Smith and what she told him. That "something" saved Ashley's life, and brought Nichols's murderous rampage to a swift conclusion.

But there is nothing wrong with identifying Brian Nichols as the guy who is accused of murdering a judge, and three other people, whose families will be adversely affected for generations.

Soon, Mr. Nichols will face another human judge (and a jury, if Nichols demands one) who will be perfectly justified in judging him by his crimes. And I hope the judge will impose an earthly sentence on Nichols that consists of punishment that fits his crimes.

But Nichols will also face yet another Judge when he dies, and that Judge will also be perfectly justified in either judging Nichols by his crimes and imposing eternal punishment, or judging Nichols by his faith in Jesus Christ and "imposing" eternal life.

The interesting thing is that we all face the same dilemma. We all get to "choose" whether God will judge us on our own merits and shortcomings (oh, and by the way, the standard against which we will all be judged is perfection), or whether God will judge us based on the merits of the life and person of Jesus Christ -- the only perfect person who ever lived on Earth.

Here's a word of advice -- when you're faced with a choice between "death and unending punishment" on the one hand, and "eternal life" on the other, choose life. You'll be glad you did.

uhm... Ambra, nothing to say regarding this? I am really curious as to how you could defend your post.

Oops, forgot about this thread. In addition to juggling a million balls, I can't keep up with comment threads either...

But for the record, I've never made it a point to answer ever single comment. I don't have to; it's my site.

Darkstar wrote: "every place I heard about this in the news media, what she told him and his response was covered very well.

In other words, I don't quite get what you are writing.

See TruthIzStrangers comment. That's why I'm writing.

Laserlawyer wrote: "Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we -- the public consumers of mass media news -- are not justified in judging these men solely by their crimes. That seems to be the thrust of your article."

Perhaps your words would have been better, but I think you got my intent. We the people/media/whomever. Of course God is the ultimate judge.

TruthisStranger wrote: "Nichols is a scumbag murdering rapist who deserves an injection." I'll keep this short because your tone of commentary is a turn-off. Yeah, you'd be the "we" I'm referring to in this post. The tone of your comment is the exact provoked emotional reaction the media coverage inspires. It's one I had too, until I got some sense.

"Ratzmann saved us the trouble and offed himself." Do me a favor and keep statements like this to yourself. All life is precious to God. That's the thing that angers me about a murderous spirit. It doesn't just want to kill others, but it also wants to kill the person who possesses it.

Clearly this is your opinion as even the courts have substantial proof that Nichols committed the crime. Keep on with the attitude you have though, it'll serve you well...somewhere, but not here.

There is no such thing as big sins and little sins. The point here is that if God is not merciful and just and cannot forgive, then why serve Him?


Good analysis Ambra.

I wrote an article about it [url=http://www.circlesixmagazine.com/ARTICLES/FAITH/031805_2.html] here [/url]that you might find interesting.


I was just reading Jesus' encounter with the stone-cold killing crew when I came up on this.

The racist account of the Nichols deal should come as no surprise. The story that I'd like to see reported is the one that gives a little bit of context. It's clear to me that homeboy had been railroaded by prosecutors, and by the judge. His cellmate TOLD people repeatedly that Nichols wasn't all there as a result. That he needed mental help or someone would get hurt.

From what I understand everyone Nichols killed was either directly responsible for his plight (in his eyes), or was in the way after he'd gotten out.

This is tragic. No one had to die. I'm just glad the woman was able to use the Spirit to bring Nichols back to reality.

Ambra wrote:... your tone of commentary is a turn-off..
well excuse me for speaking the truth even if you don't like the tone. The media
inspired my reaction only in the factual information it presented - i.e. Nichols was
on trial for raping and kidnapping his ex-gf, he attempted to bring weapons into the
court before, and ...g... he murdered some people. Logic inspired the conclusion
that this scumbag deserves an injection. The fact that you believe in god is fine,
but to suggest that just because this coward supposedly found god or whatever after
the fact is a reason to look on him as a poor victim is just plane insane.

You are... what? 23? well you seem very bright and talented but likely naieve - I am
glad you have gotten a lot of attention for your great blog and even have the writing
gig going now but the ... for the record, I've never made it a point to
answer ever single comment. I don't have to; it's my site.
is rather
pretentious eh? No law states you have to do anything - but if you don't want frank
discussion on your blog then why bother writing it?
Also understand that everyone that reads your blog may not take your perspective on
life and god etc. So to say that some murderous spirit is inhabiting some innocent
guy is... well, frankly a little childish sounding to me - forgive me for having an
opinion! You can always ban me if you don't like what I have to say.

Believing in God and His word has nothing to do with naivite or age as the word is timeless and full of wisdom.

When you come to this blog, you subject yourself to the worldview of the blog. This is a Biblical worldview weblog. If you don't like that, then don't read it. Simple as that. There are hundred of sites to read on the internet where you can get all kinds of worldviews. You however chose to come here.

What you see is what you get. Thank you for flying.

The fact that you publish your 'world view' on the internet suggests you want other people to hear what you have to say, yes? When you open up comments on your 'world view' do you expect everyone to agree with you?
Sorry to dissapoint, but, what I am doing here is disagreeing with your post on Nichols. In turn this leads to the underlying disagreement on how we view the bigger issues like god etc. makes sense right?

If you want interesting debate and aren't set in your ways at 23 (often times a sad by product of blind faith in dogma) then let us jump in your comment pool and splash water at ya. If you can't deal with people's differing opinions then you just can't deal '.'

Also, any suggestion that Nichols was played by the media on a racial angle is totally ludicrous.

Of course people will disagree with me. I've been running this weblog for almost a year and half and all I've gotten is disagreement. Hatemail, disgustmail. Comes with the territory. DUH.

The difference between me and other bloggers is that I'm not here for the co-sign gang and I don't care if people disagree. I write for me. You'll notice I rarely moderate comments for that reason. I'm not here to debate with people. If that's what you want to do, I can suggest some good places to go. Conversation? Now that I can get with. But I choose conversations based on the motives of the person attempting to engage. Discernment is key as a writer.

I see your motives and I ain't feelin' it.

You're always welcome to disagree. You think the post on Nichols is ridiculous. That's a fine opinion. It's there for the world to see. Maybe you'll get some good feedback. But this is as far as this will go with me.

Thanks for your opinion.

Ambra, good post and analysis. God does move in mysterious ways and however it turns out for Nichols, there's no denying His power to change lives.

Nevertheless this renewed faith in God won't spare him from worldly justice, as it should be.

And you're absolutely right about murderous spirits. The Bible tells us that there is an ongoing spiritual battle for our souls and it would seem that Satan's greatest hoax is convincing many that he doesn't exist. Fortunately, God got to Nichols before Satan could finish him off in his sin. Also, only God knows how many others will repent & turn to Him as a result of Nichols & Smith's saga.

Keep on preachin'.

I will leave it at this:

To say you write just for yourself is funny. If that was the case then we wouldn't be reading your stuff - you could just keep it in a nice little diary by your bed. Writing a blog is about ego - DUH. Obviously differing levels of self absorbtion shine from blog to blog.

My motives in posting here are that I disagree with your observations about Nichols. But that doesn't mean I don't have respect for you.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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