Posted by: deerharas | April 27, 2006


Last night while working the front desk for one of my RAs I watched “Capote.”  All I really knew about the movie was that it was about the true crime novel “In Cold Blood” and that Phillip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor for his performance playing Truman Capote.  Plenty to warrant a 99-cent rental from 7-11.  The movie begins with Hoffman’s chilling voiceover, “On the night of November 14th, two men broke into a quiet farmhouse in Kansas and murdered an entire family.”  The movie chronicles Capote’s life as he chronicles the lives of these two men.  Truman grows close to one of the men in particular, Perry Smith, who proves to be a goldmine of information for Truman’s book.  A tension runs through their relationship as Truman is obviously using Perry for his own glory.  The movie portrays Truman Capote as particularly insecure, drunk off the praises of others, and extremely jealous.  At the film premiere of his good friend Nelle Harper Lee’s new book “To Kill a Mockingbird” (How cool is that?  Who knew they were friends?) Truman cannot even muster one word of encouragement or excitement for his dear friend, but somehow manages to turn the conversation back to himself.  His almost nonexistant caring side is best seen in his relationship with Perry.  He has a real connection with the man and at one point tells Nelle, “It’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he went out the back door and I went out the front.”

All of this, and that quote in particular, made me think about the recent murder of a young girl here in Oklahoma.  What finally ignites within a person that they would choose to murder someone?  Obviously there are murders for money, over jealousy, out of rage or insanity, but that’s not exactly what I’m thinking about.  How does a seemingly normal person go from normal to taking pleasure in the thought of killing another person they don’t even know?

In my Intro to Ministry class at OBU, I remember Dr. Kelly saying something about rejecting the “T” in Calvin’s TULIP.  He didn’t see humanity as totally depraved, but wondered how much of the image of God we held onto after the fall.  I think it’s a shame when people are written off as pure evil, as if they were somehow beyond redemption.  Kevin Ray Underwood hit a ten year old girl in the head with a cutting board, smothered her, sexually molested her corpse, and tried to cut off her head.  At first when I heard of this tragedy, I was outraged.  What a sicko.  I read as much as I could about the case.  (If you’re interested, the best article I’ve read is at .)  And then I read Underwood’s blog.  I’m not sure what I expected to read, but I was surprised.  I guess I thought that he would sound crazy.  But he sounded intelligent.  Obviously he had issues to deal with, but I wasn’t able to write him off as I had been so eager to do previously.  In one entry he writes:

The best explanation for why I am the way I am. From an unquoted source.

“It is not difficult to understand how children who have suffered from malnutrition or starvation need food and plenty of care if their bodies are to recover so they can go on to lead normal lives. If, however, the starvation is severe enough, the damage will be permanent and they will suffer physical impairments for the rest of their lives. Likewise, children who are deprived of emotional nurturing require care and love if their sense of security and self-confidence is to be restored. However, if love is minimal, and abuse high, the damage will be permanent and the children will suffer emotional impairments for the rest of their lives.”

Hear me, I am in no way making excuses for what he did.  It was awful.  Just awful.  However, I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that Kevin Ray Underwood is an evil man.  In his book “Searching for God Knows What” Donald Miller writes something that echoes my own heart as I attempt to make sense of this crime. “I happened to see Larry King interview Billy Graham shortly after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.  I had read an article the previous month about violent video games and their effects on the minds of children, desensitizing them to the act of killing.  Larry King asked Billy Graham what was wrong with the world, and how such a thing as Columbine could happen.  I knew, because Billy Graham was an educated man, he had read the same article I had read, and I began calculating an answer for him, that violence begets violence, that we live in a culture desensitized to the beauty of human life and the sanctity of creation.  But Billy Graham did not blame video games.  Billy Graham looked Larry King in the eye and said, ‘Thousands of years ago, a young couple in love lived in a garden called Eden, and God placed a tree in the Garden and told them not to eat from the tree…’ And I knew in my soul he was right.”

So I will pray for Jamie Bolin’s family.  But I will also pray for Kevin Ray Underwood.  Lord God, have mercy on us.


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