While Family, Congregation Waits For Him to Conduct Sunday Service
by Alberta Parish
A Macon, Georgia pastor committed suicide this past week as his family and church congregation waited for him to conduct Sunday service. Pastor Teddy Parker, Jr. was discovered dead in front of his home from a self-inflicted gunshot, according to the county coroner’s office. He leaves behind his wife and two daughters as they struggle to understand why he suddenly took his life so violently.
Pastor Parker’s story, although shocking to his parishioners, is not anything unique. In fact, there has been an increase in suicides among pastors in recent years. There is so much societal pressure that is placed upon pastors until they often fail to live up to the high moral standards that the world places upon them, and as a result, many of them become depressed, suicidal and even homicidal. Therefore, it is not uncommon to hear about pastors committing various crimes like rape, child pedophilia and murder.
In a recent sermon posted on YouTube, Pastor Teddy Parker proclaimed that sometimes he felt like god wasn’t hearing him. As a result of his own self-doubt, he tried to justify that god doesn’t withdraw from us for the sake of leaving you but he withdraws so you can grow and mature. This was the same type of religious rhetoric I heard from my former pastor for so many years, which is how I know the sermon delivered by Pastor Parker was standard textbook pep talk so he could make himself feel better about his non-belief or failing belief. I believe Pastor Parker took his life because he lost faith in god. He didn’t feel like god was there with him, and he became depressed and killed himself. This is not an uncommon phenomenon among Christians, which is why many of them end up committing suicide like a former church member I once knew.
In December of 2010, Sister Rose had returned home from working at the hospital, and afterwards, killed herself. Her daughter discovered her in their home from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The sister shot herself in the head at close range. I was particularly disturbed by what happened, and like others I sought answers that I never got because the pastor chose to remain hush-hush about it and pretend like it never happened. Sister Rose lived one or two blocks from the church when she took her life.
Since Christianity has produced a lot of dysfunctional people, suicides will more than likely increase among Christians in the very near future. Consider the doomsday preppers, many of whom reside in Christian communities. Since they’re all expecting the world to come to an end very soon, many of them will end up committing suicide. People that are preparing for the end of the world are usually very desperate people, and they are probably the most dangerous people that you should probably stay as far away from as you possibly can. As Christianity becomes more and more unpopular, and people began to move away from Christianity, there will be a boom in the field of psychiatry because many of these ex-Christians will be in need of serious psychiatric help in order to deal with the religious trauma that they have been subjected to under church ministries.
I don’t think Pastor Parker sought help outside the church, because I think he’d still be alive today had he sought therapy to deal with his depression and the pressures that he faced as a religious leader. Pride kept him from seeking help to deal with his questions that he had concerning the inner turmoil that he faced as a man.
Like Pastor Parker, I often questioned whether god was hearing and answering my prayers when I was a Christian. Because I didn’t feel like god was there for me when I needed him, I often became depressed and wondered whether I was pleasing god. Many times, I felt like I was doing something displeasing to god, and therefore, he wasn’t answering my prayers. I also felt as if I wasn’t doing enough for god and, as a result, my prayers weren’t being answered. I always believed that god was angry with me about something. At that time, I was suffering from delusions of grandeur, which is a delusion that you are greater and much more powerful than you really are. I gave myself far too much power, and this is where a lot of Christians run into their crisis of faith. When they don’t get the answers from god because they feel they are chosen of god and, therefore, god hears them and they expect their prayers to be answered, they start to question whether god even exist. When they entertain even the very thought that perhaps god is not real, then it becomes a matter of what do I believe. Do I believe god is real or not? A lot of Christians ask themselves this question, and they are literally terrified of the answers they will receive if they are true to themselves and listen to their own instincts. They’ve been lying to themselves for so long until the truth is far more scarier than the fictional biblical tales they’ve been taught all their lives.
One church member said that Pastor Parker preached against suicide, which is why his suicide came as a complete shock to his congregation and family. Yet, this man is not to be condemned because he failed himself and could not deal with the personal doubts that he faced as a Christian minister. Instead, his suicide should serve as a lesson to those that would place their pastors on a high pedestal and pretend like these men and women never question their belief system. Pastor Parker questioned his and because he didn’t get the answers he expected, he ended his life. One faith’s is central to his very existence. Some lose their faith and find a balance thereafter while others lose their faith and kill themselves. I don’t think one deciding to not take his or her life after losing their faith is a sign of strength. Neither do I think one taking his life because he lost his faith is a sign of weakness. There had to have been other issues plaguing this minister long before he took his life. I don’t think anyone suddenly decides to end his life over night. I think suicide is an extended series of acts before the final act.
Before Rose’s suicide in 2010, she attended church off and on. Rose would come to church for a while. Then, she’d stop coming and I wouldn’t see her for a long time. Perhaps, she had a work schedule that did not permit her to attend church on a regular basis. Whenever I did see Rose, she was always kind to me. We weren’t close friends, but we were sisters in the faith.
When Rose committed suicide, I wondered what was so bad in her life to make her end it the way she did. To this day, I don’t condemn her for what she did and how she did it. I realize that people no matter how outwardly strong they appear to be are flawed creatures. Sometimes, people cannot handle life as efficiently as others can. It is rather difficult for some people to effectively deal with their inner turmoil.
Pastor Teddy Parker had plenty of money and a beautiful family. Many people that cared about him surrounded him. Yet, none of this was enough to keep him from taking his life. Rose had three daughters and was beloved by many. But it didn’t stop her from putting a bullet in her head. Neither did god. Since when has god ever stopped anything bad from happening to good people? And when has it ever been the gods’ responsibility to ensure that bad things don’t happen to good people or to stop good people from doing bad things?
Teddy was probably a good person trying to make sense of his own religion and belief in god. Rose was a good person. Despite their flaws, which led them to the act of suicide, they were somebody’s family member, somebody’s spouse, somebody’s nephew-in-law, somebody’s father, somebody’s mother and somebody’s best friend. They were here for a short time and decided to go away for reasons that none of us will ever truly know no matter how much we speculate and assume. Many more will follow in their footsteps, because suicide among Christians and non-Christians is as common as cancer. Who will be next? is the question. Will it be you?
Once you’ve taken your life, the world will go on without you. Your friends, your wife, your husband, your children, your coworkers, your sisters and brothers, and even your god(s) will go on with their lives and daily routines. This is what happened after Sister Rose killed herself. People at church went on with their daily routines as if her suicide was business as usual. Church people grieved for one week. After that week was up, the subject of Rose’s suicide was never openly broached again. I realized then that there was something seriously wrong with most of the congregation that buried a sister who committed suicide under their watch, as they remained far too silent on the subject. It was as if they didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that one of their own was far from perfect and Jesus didn’t save her.