Friday, September 11, 2009

The Expectation of Someone Wanting to Seek the Lord

Apologies again for the lack of posting here. I have been working a lot of extra hours at my job and do not have the free time to write as much as I would like. But I do want to chime in about a tragedy I read about a couple of weeks ago.

On August 23rd, a Pentecostal pastor named Carol Daniels was found murdered in a church in the town of Anadarko, Oklahoma. The gruesome details of her death have since emerged. I won't go into it here, but suffice it to say, according to the CNN article I linked to, "[Pastor Daniels] died from 'multiple sharp-force injuries,' according to a preliminary autopsy report obtained by CNN. Sharp-force injuries mean cuts or stab wounds."

From what I have read, Daniels frequently drove some 50 miles to her small church in Anadarko, where according to those in the area who knew her, she would be the only person in the building for the entire time she spent there. Daniels' mother is quoted as saying that she went to the church, which was far from her home in a run-down neighborhood, “with the expectation of someone wanting to seek the Lord.”

It is terrible that Pastor Daniels died, particularly in the horrifically violent manner in which it occurred. I can't imagine the terror she must have felt in those last moments as she tried to fend off her savage attacker. Whoever the bastard is (I don't think it's a stretch to expect that the murderer is an extremely troubled male), I hope he is caught and given the maximum allowable sentence under the law.

At the same time, I cannot help but feel a tremendous sense of sadness and frustration over the fact that Daniels belief system was a contributing factor in her death. Imbued with her religious faith, she would travel far out of her way and spend hours by herself in a church anticipating that she would be some kind of catalyst in miraculously transforming someone's life for the better. After all, isn't the Bible filled with tales of miracles? Don't we hear about stories all the time about supposedly miraculous events or see movies and television programs wherein God or angels intervene in the lives of people and set things right? As an atheist, I can't see Daniels efforts as anything more than a pointless exercise in futility. The accumulated hours of time wasted that could have been put to more productive use, not to mention the gasoline expended travelling back and forth to the church. However, I understand that for Daniels, as well as for many others, if what she was doing provided her with a sense of purpose, then who am I to argue otherwise? Granted. And yet I can't avoid what for me is an inescapable conclusion: Carol Daniels died for a figment of her imagination. In other words, she died for nothing.

9 comments:

Sparrowhawk said...

I'm not sure I agree with you on this one. This woman was brutally killed in a way that seems, so far, at once random but incredibly calculated and brutal at the same time. I don't think she was doing anything particularly dangerous or delusional because of her belief, aside from the belief itself, which I only intellectucally think is delusional. I'm not sure it's accurate to link her belief with her death just yet...not without all the details. I don't think what she was doing was at all unusual. Sure, being by yourself like that isn't smart...but she was probably just very dedicated to it.

cl said...

I disagree. Even if God doesn't exist, it's still wrong to say she died for nothing. Whether God exists or not, this was a woman with a heart to help others, and she died staying true to her heart.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I hope he is caught and given the maximum allowable sentence under the law.

Do they still string 'em up by the balls in Oklahoma?

...a pointless exercise in futility.

Nice touch, Tommy. ;)

Carol Daniels died for a figment of her imagination. In other words, she died for nothing.

I don't know. It was something that gave her life meaning. I'm sure, way in the back of her mind, she knew that something could happen to her, all alone in that church, but it was worth it to her. She took the risk.

We don't have the right to define other people's meaning for their own lives. We resent it when Christians try to tell us that an atheist's life is meaningless, so we should respect their choices. That doesn't mean we need to agree with them. Like you said:

if what she was doing provided her with a sense of purpose, then who am I to argue otherwise?

Sometime I think I'm tilting at windmills with my blog (esp. when cl shows up, but not just then). On the other hand, everyone needs a hobby, and I happen to like mine.

Hmmm. Now that I've written this, I've bothered to read the other comments, and I see I agree with cl.

I guess there is such a thing as miracles.

PhillyChief said...

Did her belief lead to her death? Sure, it was the reason she was where she was and also why she probably had little fear of being there alone.

Does that make her death pointless? Well to others like you and me it might, but it probably didn't to her, and that's what matters most I suppose. We each give our lives meaning. It's not inherent, and it doesn't come from elsewhere (although we can choose to accept that meaning from elsewhere). Meaning is like how Liam Neeson described honor in the movie Rob Roy, "it's a gift a man gives to himself."

Tommykey said...

Thanks for your comments.

I did write "However, I understand that for Daniels, as well as for many others, if what she was doing provided her with a sense of purpose, then who am I to argue otherwise? Granted."

Again, what she was doing gave her a sense of purpose. And I certainly don't want to give the impression that being religious per se was what led to her murder. I know that there are pastors who run churches in crime-ridden neighborhoods, offering assistance to the poor, lobbying the police and elected officials to aid the community, and other vital work. I applaud their courage and their efforts.

Like I wrote in my post though, her religious belief inspired her to believe that travelling so far to a church that had no congregants where she was alone and vulnerable would lead to a miracle where she would bring some poor, downtrodden soul to Christ.

While her murder may be random, there is also a possibility that the killer may have taken notice of Daniels' routine and planned it in advance. He could have observed that she would be alone for extended periods of time and decided to gain access by feigning to be a person in need of help (which of course, he is), knowing he would have all the time he needed to perform his gruesome deed.

The other possibility, as Sparrowhawk alluded to, was that it was a disturbed person who did not go in there with the intention to commit murder, but something happened to unleash his rage. The example I have in mind is Tom Berenger's character at the end of Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Before he meets Diane Keaton's character, the film already sets up that he is, shall we say, troubled with issues concerning sexuality. When he goes to her apartment with her, he does not appear to have any harmful intentions towards her. But when he is unable to perform and feels that she is making fun of him, it is then that he goes psycho on her.

In Daniels case, her good intentions might have inadvertently triggered a violent response in her murderer. Unfortunately, we won't know until the killer is caught, and we can only hope that whoever he is, he won't kill again.

Sparrowhawk said...

Tommy, my only point really is that as far as religion motivating someone to do something dangerous/self-destructive, this story is pretty damn low on the bar. I feel awful for this woman. I looked into it some more and she was not just killed randomly...it can't be that. The body was cut up incredibly badly and in...bad places. And she was "posed" behind the altar.

I dunno, I see your point, that without her religious belief she might not have dedicated herself to the thing that eventually killed her, but I just think there's a difference between religion motivating someone to not take care of themselves or their kids...or motivating them to do something for a community that somehow ended up to be horribly horribly dangerous and deadly. Churches serve a lot more purposes in towns of 6,600 like this one.

Tommykey said...

or motivating them to do something for a community that somehow ended up to be horribly horribly dangerous and deadly.

The thing is, she wasn't doing anything for the community there. She wasn't running a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or anything like that. She would drive over 50 miles to this place and then spend hours there alone each day hoping and praying that someone would show up looking for salvation. That was the terrible irony that so saddens me about this.

cl said...

Just checking back. A few tangential points:

SI,

"Sometime I think I'm tilting at windmills with my blog (esp. when cl shows up, but not just then)."

I don't see why you would think that when your arguments have led me to change at least one position of mine. That most of your arguments lack cogency or that you respond before thoroughly reading your opponent's arguments doesn't mean you're tilting at windmills.

"Hmmm. Now that I've written this, I've bothered to read the other comments, and I see I agree with cl."

Ha! Hilarious! IOW, you do respond before thorough reading! By your own admission, again!

Philly,

"Did her belief lead to her death? Sure, it was the reason she was where she was and also why she probably had little fear of being there alone."

For the record, I think you show a distorted understanding of causality here. I wouldn't say your atheism led to your death if you got hit by a car on your way to your favorite atheist meeting, but that's just me. I think you have much stronger distaste for religion than I do atheism. Strong distaste often blinds.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Ha! Hilarious! IOW, you do respond before thorough reading! By your own admission, again!

First I don't read your arguments, now I don't thoroughly read all the arguments. What next? I don't read your mind?