Should Christians Scoff at ‘Darwin Award’ Deaths? The Answer Isn’t Simple or Obvious

By John Zmirak Published on February 14, 2023

Perhaps the greatest quip in history comes from the poet and novelist Oscar Wilde. Wilde said: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.” Wilde was reacting to the cloying sentimentality and mawkishness in Charles Dickens’s depiction (in the serialized novel The Old Curiosity Shop) of a saintly girl dying slowly … very slowly … slow enough to sell lots of newspapers. (Dickens got paid by the word.)

I had a similar reaction reading a piece of recent real news at The Blaze:

A California baker – who identified as an anarchist and social justice advocate – died after she was the victim of a brutal theft. Family and friends don’t want the criminals who are linked to her death to be prosecuted because that would allegedly go against the woman’s values.

Jennifer Angel went to a Wells Fargo bank branch in Oakland on Monday afternoon. A car pulled in front of her vehicle and blocked her from leaving, Angel’s fiance, Ocean Mottley, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

A spokesperson with the Oakland Police Department said that around 12:30 p.m., “an individual broke into” Angel’s car while she was in it and stole an item, then ran back “to a waiting vehicle.”

Angel chased after the thief and got caught in the door of the fleeing car. She was reportedly dragged down the street for more than 50 feet, hitting her head several times.

Jennifer died from her injuries sustained in the robbery on Thursday. Doctors confirmed that Angel had lost all brain function.

Family and friends of Angel issued a statement.

“It’s with very heavy hearts that we announce that Oakland baker, small business owner, social justice activist, and community member Jen Angel has been medically declared to have lost all brain function and will not regain consciousness. Her official time of death was 5:48 p.m.,” the statement began.

The family and friends said, “We know Jen would not want to continue the cycle of harm by bringing state-sanctioned violence to those involved in her death or to other members of Oakland’s rich community. As a long-time social movement activist and anarchist, Jen did not believe in state violence, carceral punishment, or incarceration as an effective or just solution to social violence and inequity.”

The statement said that Angel “worked toward an ecologically sustainable” society, where “people are free and equal.”

The friends and family proclaimed that the criminals involved in Jennifer’s death should not be prosecuted.

“If the Oakland Police Department does make an arrest in this case, the family is committed to pursuing all available alternatives to traditional prosecution, such as restorative justice,” the statement declared.

A Grueling Mental Effort

Sorry for the long quote, but you really did need to read through all that hogwash for yourself. If I’d been the obituary editor, I couldn’t have resisted adding something like “The family asks that in lieu of flowers, well-wishers send Darwin Awards.”

I would have gotten fired. But it would have been worth it.

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Or would it? Maybe it makes me a terrible, unregenerate reprobate that my reaction to this sad, squalid story is first and foremost … a shrug. That it takes me a grueling mental effort to remind myself: “Now, objectively this is sad news. God doesn’t rejoice in the death of sinners, so neither should we. … Not even if they’re ‘anarchist social justice activists’ engaged to marry men named ‘Ocean.’”

I think we can profit by stepping back and examining more closely the ambivalence this story provoked. Not just in me, but possibly … in you. Now, you might tell me you saw no poetic justice in this story. I just wouldn’t believe you.

Hoisted on Her Own Petard

But isn’t that reaction straight from Hell? Isn’t it just tribalism, taking an illicit satisfaction in seeing one’s enemies destroyed, in this case from a massive overdose of irony?

I’m not sure. Not quite, at least, and not entirely. Let’s take this step by step.

First of all, it’s not always and purely bad to take satisfaction in the defeat of the genuinely wicked. Sometimes that satisfaction takes the form of righteous indignation, as when the prophet Elijah first mocked the priests of Baal, and then led his followers in slaughtering them. (1 Kings 18:40)

Other times the event itself demands from us laughter, as when a bumbling al Qaeda terrorist intent on murdering New Yorkers instead blew off his privates .  

Still other events call for grim, solemn satisfaction, as Jews in Israel felt when their government hanged the Holocaust architect Adolph Eichmann.

The Cloying Unction of the Pharisees

So I ask myself, what is it about the fall of Jennifer Angel that provokes a mixed reaction in me? And might also provoke the same in you? It’s the sickening, self-righteous rhetoric her friends and family offered by way of commentary. It’s their call for the police to leave a violent felon loose on the streets, to prey on more innocent people who maybe don’t oppose imprisoning violent criminals, as she did. That’s the blather that makes this story more than merely grim, or mildly ironic.

The reaction of Angel’s family wasn’t so much political as religious, delivered with pharisaical piety and glistening with the unction of self-congratulation. As I show here in detail, theirs is the religion of the Antichrist.

The Woke “Anti-Racist” “social justice” cult is a cancerous tumor sprouted out of Christianity’s stolen DNA. It’s a Puritanism without Jesus, a witch-hunt conducted by atheists full of zeal for the kingdom of Mammon. And if (as her friends and family insist) Jennifer Angel believed in it — really believed that it’s unjust to imprison violent criminals — then her end contains some rough, if ugly, justice.

Just think how irresponsible, wicked, and destructive it would be to turn loose all violent offenders on the public. How many innocent, hard-working people — most of them poor and non-white, just by the way — would be terrorized and abused, robbed, raped, or murdered, if Jennifer Angel had had her way. If they had the power, her family would stop the Oakland police from imprisoning her killer. Wouldn’t that put the blood of his next victim on them?

Guilt Is for Other People

They wouldn’t admit that. They’d feel no guilt, no blame. Why should they, when they have “systemic racism” to blame, or the Elders of Jamestown in 1619, or Donald Trump, or unvaccinated conservative Christian pastors?

Now let me get to the really sad part, which I can’t ignore because it would be spiritually unhealthy. It is genuinely tragic that a child of God could let her mind be so poisoned and addled as to believe what Jennifer Angel apparently did. We could scorn her death, but we ought to mourn her life. To try to prevent anyone else from perverting her own mind and conscience that way.

The Rev. Jim Jones’ deluded followers didn’t just drink the cyanide-laced fruit punch. First they poured it down the throats of their reluctant neighbors and of their own children.

That’s the kind of suicide cult we face today. So when we’re finished laughing at it, we should take the time to cry.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”

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