Note: Sometimes it’s seriously cringe, to look back and read something I wrote from a different headspace, or with a narrower perspective, in a different decade. I’m specifically referring to my comment “She will probably deservedly get the needle.” Yikes. This is a clear-cut case of a woman who suffered extensive emotional and physical abuse, and reached her breaking point before she shot her husband in the back. I no longer support the death penalty except in extreme circumstances involving mass murder or terrorism. But it’s important to leave a horrid comment like that up, because it demonstrates my intellectual forward movement, and the importance of my improved understanding of gendered violence. There’s no shame in making a mistake, if you later acknowledge that it was indeed a mistake. (It’s the doubling down that gets people in trouble). –Sean Prophet, August 2022
A show I promote, Nip/Tuck, uses the tagline “The Perfect Soul, The Perfect Mind, The Perfect Face, The Perfect Lie…”
Nip/Tuck, for those who haven’t seen it, is a drama about the disparity between appearances and reality in the world of plastic surgery. It’s an excellent depiction of many aspects of the shadow side of human nature. I’m proud to be working on such a well-crafted and brilliant show.
But there’s another oft-ignored shadow side to American society: religion. As illustrated by the tragic slaying of the father of the above pictured family, darkness lies in the sunniest places. People try to ignore it, like the June Carter-Cash song says:
Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life.
It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way,
If we keep on the sunny side of life.
Let us greet with a song of hope each day.
Though the moments be cloudy or fair.
Let us trust in our Saviour always,
To keep us, every one, in His care.
Well, evidently keeping on the ‘sunny side’ has it’s dark side too. It keeps us blind and ignorant to our true nature. This is apparently what happened, tragically, to Matthew Winkler, a 31-year-old pastor and father of three. Whenever these types of senseless killings take place, you always hear people say things like:
She described Mary Winkler as always seeming like “the perfect mother, the perfect wife,” with very loving children.
“Everybody is just totally shocked by what has happened.”
“The kids are just precious, and she was precious,” Killingsworth told The Associated Press. “He was the one of the best ministers we’ve ever had — just super charisma.”
“They were a nice family,” former Selmer Mayor Jimmy Whittington, who worked with the preacher collecting donations for hurricane victims last year, told the AP. “They just blended in.”
Whenever you hear these well-meaning statements, it’s always code for “we aren’t facing our shadow.” A truly conscious community would not be caught off-guard by something like this. There are always danger signs.
For me, the danger signs are when things are too ‘nice.’ When people look too perfect. When suppression smooths out the wrinkles of life too much. This is also illustrated in places like Utah, where Mormonism has driven antidepressant use to the highest levels in the nation.
I have no idea of the personal relationship of this minister and his murderess wife. But you can bet this problem didn’t develop overnight. It’s almost certain that the man subscribed to Christian hierarchical principles in his relationship. Possibly he was domineering or unsympathetic to his wife’s needs. It takes a lot to get even a mentally unstable woman to shoot her husband in the back.
But my thesis continues to be that religion is a form (or at the very least a co-factor) of mental illness. Since members feel that ‘Jesus’ or ‘god’ is the solution to everything, they don’t get the psychological help they need, or they just ignore their problems–putting their life in “Jesus’ hands.”
Obviously the woman is fully responsible for what happened. She has confessed to first-degree murder. She will probably deservedly get the needle.
But what are we to conclude of a belief system that in this case failed both the pastor AND his wife? You’ve got an entire congregation following a couple who clearly was on the verge of breakdown for some time. Neither the congregation could see it nor the minister himself.
I’d love to see people getting the help they need. Unfortunately, religious dominance in this country often prevents this, with awful human consequences. Until we break the stranglehold of religion on society, we can expect more of the same. Like a steady drumbeat, these tragedies tap out a funeral dirge to our collective folly. I’m sorry to be quite cold here, but this is perfect Darwinian justice. It’s also a prime example of the proverbial “blind leading the blind.”