In 1976, Austrian Jack Unterweger was convicted of the murder of 18–year-old Margaret Schäfer and received a life sentence.
During the trial, the prosecuting attorney had an easy time of it. Not only did Unterweger’s own girlfriend testify against him. He already had a reputation, with sixteen arrests, for brutalizing prostitutes. But in prison Unterweger underwent an apparent transformation. He began writing poetry, then children’s books, then a best-selling biography. Later became an Austrian motion picture director turned into a movie. Soon he became the toast of the Austrian literary luminaries. In fact, they were so convinced that Unterweger had been “redeemed by art” that they began to campaign for his release. Two Nobel Prize winners, Elfriede Jelinek and Günter Grass, joined the movement, calling for his freedom and praising his writings. To them, Unterweger displayed the soul of a true poet, a soul that was far too sensitive to be any threat to society.
So great was the support for Unterweger’s release that, after serving only fifteen years of his life sentence, Austria’s penal system paroled him. He became an immediate celebrity, appearing on TV shows and selling more books. But within the first year of his release, the dead bodies of women began to show up in forests—all strangled the same way as Margaret Schäfer from years before. Eventually, police arrested Unterweger for eleven murders, though he was convicted of only nine of them.
Those members of the intelligentsia who had crusaded so fervently for his release continued to support him right up to the end. They simply could not believe that someone so brilliant and talented was capable of such cruelty. But Unterweger did not live to serve his sentence. The night following his conviction he committed suicide by hanging himself. Strangely, the noose he used had the same peculiar knot that had been employed in all eleven of those murders.
Jack Unterweger was brilliant, talented, and a monster. Obviously, being the “best and brightest” says nothing about a person’s character. And it was the intellectuals (two of them Nobel laureates) and artists who were duped by him the most. Obviously, having a high IQ does not necessarily guarantee wisdom and common sense.
We place far too much merit on intelligence and talent, and give absolutely no consideration to character and wisdom. We choose leaders based on their charisma and charm—things that psychopaths abound in. It’s no wonder that so many corrupt, conscienceless, and controlling politicians win elections. That is why so many women end up in horrendously abusive relationships. Honesty, integrity, courage, and compassion—the essential components of character, aren’t even a consideration in most people’s minds.
May God open our eyes and teach us to treasure those Christ-like attributes of love, selflessness, humility, integrity, and courage. Unfortunately, our corrupted human nature pulls us in the opposite direction. It inclines us to be enamored with the haughty, the boastful, and the heartless. May God help us to fall in love with Jesus and to measure ourselves and others against the beauty of Christ!
Dear Father in heaven, please open my eyes to the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ, Your holy Son. Teach me to value His glorious attributes of love, selflessness, humility, and courage. Give me discernment to sense the evil of those who might charm their way into my heart, yet be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Help me, dear Father, to fall in love with Jesus and become more like Him day by day. Amen.
In article photo: U.S. Soldiers Conduct Population Engagement Mission in Shula by DVIDSHUB licensed under CC BY 2.0