Welcome, readers, to one of the last remaining posts on the docket here at “Church of Christ Celebrities”! Never say never, of course, but at this point, I am planning to wrap up this project at the end of 2019, since I have several other demands on my time which need to take precedence. At any rate, I hope you’ve enjoyed the rebooted version of the blog, and if you haven’t checked out our recent baseball and music entries, you should do so while you’re here.
Today’s entry is a bit of a doozy, since it focuses on topic suggestions who, properly speaking, are infamous rather than famous. In particular, it focuses on a few folks whose activities put them on the wrong side of the law for one reason or another. First up is a collective subject, suggested by more than one reader of the blog: the Hatfield and McCoy families of feuding fame.
The Hatfields and McCoys were two families in West Virginia and Kentucky who fought bitterly for several decades in the late nineteenth century. Their feud, which developed out of the murder of one of the McCoys by a group believed (at the time) to include a member of the Hatfield family, led to the death or imprisonment of nearly two dozen participants over the years. More significant than the literal carnage, though, is that the feud eventually became synonymous for many Americans with fighting or not getting along (like cats and dogs or oil and water). The History Channel even ran a miniseries on the feud in 2012 which featured, among other notables, Powers Boothe.
As is often the case, the Christian Chronicle provides a useful starting block for our research. A 2012 article by Bobby Ross Jr. sought to answer a spate of reader questions which stemmed from the appearance of a “Tug Fork church of Christ” in the aforementioned miniseries. Elaine Philpott of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society told the Chronicle (via church historian Doug Foster) that
“Anderson ‘Devil Anse’ Hatfield, the patriarch of the family, was baptized by a Christian Church/Church of Christ itinerate [sic] minister in the area by the name of W. Dyke Garrett. This was later in his life, and a couple of his sons were baptized at the same time.” (1)
During Hatfield’s generation, the dividing lines between Christian Churches and Churches of Christ were less clear than they would become, but according to preacher Neal Pollard’s blog, attestation of Hatfield’s links to Churches of Christ specifically can be found in Lisa Alther’s Blood Feud: The Hatfields & The McCoys. According to Alther, quoted by Pollard, Devil Anse “went on to found a Church of Christ congregation in West Virginia.” (2)
Flashing forward in time, our other subject for today is the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994), who was sentenced to sixteen life terms for a series of murders he committed between 1978 and 1991. Dahmer’s crimes went far beyond murder, of course, and included the cannibalism for which he became most infamous. Dahmer ultimately was killed in prison by another inmate in 1994. Legend has it, though, that Dahmer became a Christian behind bars, and that he was converted by a preacher associated with Churches of Christ prior to his death.
We’ll again start our research with the Christian Chronicle. In a 2010 piece, Bobby Ross Jr. noted that back in 1994, he had spoken to the member of the Crescent Church of Christ in Oklahoma who had initially led Dahmer through a correspondence course on the Bible. Dahmer expressed a desire to be baptized, and a minister of the Madison Church of Christ in Wisconsin (much closer to the prison) studied more with him and eventually baptized him. Apparently, Dahmer also asked for more copies of the correspondence course and shared them with fellow inmates. (3) The details of this story are confirmed by a contemporaneous story in the local Portage Daily Register (4) and by a 2007 story from Reuters. (5)
While Hatfields, McCoys, and Dahmer are not the typical topics here at “Church of Christ Celebrities,” somewhat oddly, both halves of our entry today fall firmly into the CONFIRMED camp. Thanks again for your support over the last two-plus years, and check back in two weeks from now for our final sports-related entry!
(1) Bobby Ross Jr., “‘Hatfields and McCoys’: Real historical ties to Churches of Christ?” Christian Chronicle, June 12, 2012, accessed August 5, 2019, https://christianchronicle.org/hatfields-amp-mccoys-real-historical-ties-to-churches-of-christ/.
(2) Neal Pollard, “Devil Anse: A Sinner Redeemed?” PreacherPollard’s Blog, March 31, 2016, accessed August 5, 2019, https://preacherpollard.com/2016/03/31/devil-anse-a-sinner-redeemed/.
(3) Bobby Ross, “Inside Story: Did ‘jailhouse religion’ save Jeffrey Dahmer?” Christian Chronicle, August 1, 2010, accessed August 5, 2019, https://christianchronicle.org/did-jailhouse-religion-save-jeffrey-dahmer/.
(4) Craig Spychalla, “Encounter with Dahmer changed minister’s life,” originally published in Portage Daily Register, November 28, 1994, accessed from Christian Chronicle, August 5, 2019, https://christianchronicle.org/encounter-with-dahmer-changed-ministers-life/.
(5) Michael Conlon, “Would serial killer Dahmer have been an evangelist?” Reuters, January 20, 2007, accessed August 5, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-religion-dahmer/would-serial-killer-dahmer-have-been-an-evangelist-idUSN0842299020061211.