The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

March 2005

Wisconsin Killers Go Free


On Saturday, March 12, my wife and I were eating dinner in front of Fox News (combining the admonition to eat together as a family and keep an eye on world the Tribulation won't take us by surprise -- which it won't), when we heard the first announcement of a multiple shooting during a church service in Wisconsin.  The report said the shooting occurred in a hotel where a small church was renting space for "sabbath services". 

We looked at each other, eyebrows raised.  Who do we know who rents space for "sabbath services"...? 

That was just the headline.  Later in the hour came the first report from someone on the scene.  The church was described as "The Living Church of the God" (the press can never get these names right, it seems).  

"Meredith's group," I said. 

"Do you think it's anyone we know?" my wife asked. 

"Not likely, but I'll bet the gunman was depressed over prophecy," I replied.  "I'll bet he took out the preacher first." 

I was just shooting in the dark, of course, but subsequent reports seemed to confirm my initial gut instinct.  The gunman was reportedly depressed over losing his job, and also frustrated with a sermon played two weeks previously.  The sermon, by Dr. Meredith, was about "the end times". 

As I suspected, since I've never been to Wisconsin, I didn't know any of the victims in the massacre.  But it occurred to me that I could have been sitting in that group that day, or another one just like it, if I hadn't been given an opportunity 13 years ago to walk away from the whole stinking, sordid mess.  How many crackpots did I go to church with over the years, both in local areas and especially Pasadena?  How many people did I know who were frequently frustrated and depressed?  For that matter, how many times was I frustrated and depressed? 

Like all of us here at The Painful Truth, I feel terrible about what happened that Saturday.  Those people were just like me, doing their best to try to please God as they understood their obligation.  None of them deserved to be shot, nor did their relatives deserve to lose them.  The killings are a tragedy as monumental on a small scale as December's tsunami was on a large one. 

Police are trying to understand what set Terry Ratzman off.  They may never find the complete answer, and in any case, Terry removed justice from their hands by taking his own life.  

I never heard of Terry Ratzman before; by all accounts he was a nice guy, but troubled.  In that sense, I think I understand him somewhat.  I have a close friend who did know him, and gave me a thumbnail of his circumstances.  A single man, likeable but painfully shy, not very good with the ladies.  Living at home with "unconverted" relatives, probably torn between loyalty to his family and his duty to God (as he understood it).  Wanting to get married, unable to date outside the cult.  Still single at 44.  Probably felt himself trapped, powerless, a loser.  And about to lose his job. 

Perhaps he asked for counseling and was told he was his own worst enemy, that his troubles were his own fault (I'm speculating here, I have no information to that effect).  Then here comes a blistering sermon that the end of the world is imminent (isn't it always?), and you need to prepare!  Looking at his own life, a miserable failure (at least in his view), and wondering what he has to live for?  No doubt feeling "unworthy" to escape the coming Tribulation. 

As Mike Minton said, how long can you pull a dog's tail before it bites you?  Terry Ratzman got tired of the tail-pulling, and he bit.  He bit everyone in sight.  And then he bit himself. 

I don't blame Terry Ratzman for the massacre.  Terry is the 8th victim, in my opinion.  I'm profoundly sorry he shot anybody, himself included, and I'm always a little perplexed when someone decides to do something like that, no matter what the provocation.  But I don't blame Terry. 

Justice will never be done in this case.  Because the real perps are still out there, spinning the story to protect themselves, expressing shock and grief and promising to cooperate with the authorities in any way they can.  But they won't stop perpetrating their crimes, because it's what they do.  It's what some of them have been doing for 50 years, and it's all they know.  Their livelihood depends on it. 

If I'm not being vague enough here, let me spell it out.  Terry Ratzman only pulled the trigger -- the real killers that day in Wisconsin were the leadership of the Living Cult of God.


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