Religious debate: Can Mesac Damas get to heaven as he wishes after admitting he killed his family? POLL

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Can a man accused of killing his family get into heaven?

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— Can a man accused of killing his wife and five children get into heaven?

Mesac Damas said in an exclusive Daily News video this past week that he killed his family, but wants to go to heaven.

Damas, now in the Collier County jail on first-degree murder charges, said he found the truth and that he would get into heaven.

Damas, 33, is accused of killing his wife, Guerline Dieu Damas, 32, and their children, Meshach “Zack” Damas, 9; Maven, 6; Marven, 5; Megan, 3, and Morgan, 19 months, in their North Naples home about 10 days ago.

By professing he is a Christian, can he get into heaven if he did commit the crime he confessed to?

Here are some thoughts on these questions from clergy members and religious experts:

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■ Florida International University professor Christine Gudorf, with the school’s Department of Religious Studies:

Depending on whether Damas has complete and sincere remorse for his actions, there is every possibility for him to get into heaven, Professor Gudorf said.

“Perhaps he feels he is contrite and has been forgiven,” said Gudorf, whose areas of expertise are religious ethics, modern Christianity, feminism and development.

The fact that Damas publicly said he wants to die for what he did, Gudorf said, could be seen as his way of wanting to atone.

However, accepting punishment for a sin someone committed isn’t the way God forgives.

“God’s forgiveness has to be accepted in the heart,” Gudorf said, adding that human beings grab on to that punishment partially as a way to salvation. “It’s God’s forgiveness that saves.”

But in the end, whether Damas gets to heaven is between him and God.

“That is the bottom line,” she said

Gudorf said in Christianity, the belief is forgiveness can be attained.

“You have to be truly contrite for it and normally you need to expiate some way the guilt for it (the sin),” she said.

The main issue is “we don’t know if he’s truly contrite or if he has approached God in contrition,” Gudorf said.

Then there is the question of expiation — atonement or punishment for that sin.

“We can judge according to civil law,” Gudorf said. “We cannot judge the moral guilt of a person before God ... we can have our suspicions.”

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■ First Baptist Church of Naples minister of counseling Steve Hayes, who has a master’s degree of divinity and a master’s degree in social work, wrote in an e-mail:

“I found Damas’ statements disturbing in the way that he referenced God and invoked the name of Jesus while discussing this horrific crime. This is not a new problem. The prophet Isaiah also addressed a similar problem when he wrote, ‘… this people draw near with their words… but they remove their hearts far from Me.’ (Isa.29:13) The apostle Paul wrote to the Galation church, ‘Do not be deceived God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will reap.’ (Gal.6:7)

“Divine forgiveness for any sin or trespass comes only when one deals honestly with himself and God about the gravity of one’s violation of God’s holiness, takes full responsibility for one’s actions, and pleads for mercy made available through Jesus’ sacrifice for us resulting in core character change.

“I did not observe any of this in the statements made by Damas. Like many deceived people he appears to be using the name of Jesus like a spiritual get-out-of-judgment-free card. When he stands before God he will not be judged according to his words but according to the contents of his heart.”

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■ Moorings Presbyterian Church Associate Minister Jim Kirk, who is involved in his denomination with disaster response, such as the Columbine shooting:

Kirk said there are individual spiritual struggles.

“I think with this gentleman, he is struggling with many powerful forces,” Kirk said.

After reviewing Damas’ video confession to the Daily News, Kirk said Damas had a powerful struggle from good and evil.

What happens after death, Kirk said, is nothing that we as humans can determine and is up to God, who is both just and merciful.

“It’s within God’s ability to make that judgment,” Kirk said.

As we bring our faith to bear in this situation, Kirk said, faith is something that would allow us to accept the things we cannot understand.

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