Darwin Awards: Evolution Earth
Darwin Awards: Evolution Earth
1969 Chain-Smoking Fifth Bishop Of California

1969 Chain-Smoking Fifth Bishop Of California

1969 Darwin Award Winner for so many reasons! The inspiring life of a wise man; the inspiring death of a dumbass, this groovy guy wins a DARWIN AWARD—and I want to give him a hug!
September 1969, Israel

Annoying mainstream vanilla clergy was a side hustle for Bishop John Pike, The Fifth Bishop Of California. In the 1960’s this man of God questioned Mother Mary's virginity! said HELL was fake news! The chain-smoking Bishop pushed for the ordination of women and the desegregation of churches. He promoted acceptance of LGBT people, (Q was on the horizon) and living wages for the working poor. He invited Martin Luther King Jr. to speak in Grace Cathedral in SF after the Selma March. He rattled cages!
The Bishop's LIFE & DEATH would make a wild movie.

He was great at making the most of media, too, years before TWITTER. For example, an honorary degree was offered him by a whites-only college. He pulled a fake-out. He agreed to attend the ceremony--then announced publicly in the NEW YORK TIMES that he would never accept this ‘dis-honor’ from the racist college.

James Pike’s many revolutionary actions and speeches made the Episcopal Church buzz like a hive of hornets. They tried in various ways to oust Bishop Pike, but it was politically not feasible. Eventually, they found a pretext — he was barred from all priestly functions—ostensibly for disobeying his superior and marrying a divinity student 25 years younger.

HE said, of this incident, 'The POOR may inherit the Earth, but it appears the RICH will inherit the Church.' Plenty more on Wikipedia. An amazing man to invite to a dinner party!

But also lurking in his wheelhouse was the ability to win a sensational Darwin Award. His fatal final day on Earth was the 2nd of September, or the 3rd, 4th, or 5th of September 1969. The exact date of death is unknown—despite being very well documented in a book!


The Bishop, now unemployed, took his Bride headed to Israel to research a book about Historical Jesus. Off-the-cuff they decided to get a taste of the Savior's '40 Days In The Wilderness' and take a drive through the Judean Desert. Today that drive is just a 45-click trip from Jerusalem to Qumran, but in 1969 the distance was farther and the roads were poor.

The couple's first mistake was purchasing two cokes along the way, and considering it good enough for a hot desert drive. (A bit further down the page, Diane is saved from death by a road construction crew with plenty of tea.)

The couple’s second mistake was driving off the beaten path onto a camel track. The pair had a map from the rental company, yet drove wrong and wronger until the car got stuck in a rut on a dilapidated side road—referred to as a 'tertiary road' in Diane Pike's subsequent book. From the main road—> to a side road—> to a beat-up 'tertiary' road, possibly a camel path.

1) Out of water,
2) confused by the map, and
3) stuck in a rut, John Pike and his wife blundered deeper into doo doo.

There was a jack in the car. So they tried to jack the car out of the rut, but couldn’t figure out the European jack. “Must be 'missing its base'“ they clevered, and tossed aside a perfectly good tool, making fail #four. Quickly on its heels followed fail #five: The exasperated couple began to walk to Qumran—but headed in the wrong direction.

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Two hours later, as night approached, the 56-year-old Bishop could go no farther. This good man found a bit of shade in which to rest and possibly die. His 30-year-old wife was very concerned that the Church might consider them God-forsaken 'suicides' if their dead bodies were found together, so she summoned her stamina and continued on.

Ten hours later she reached a group of road-builders and was saved by cups of tea!

Diane Pike did everything she could to assist the search for James Pike, including enlisting spiritualist and clairvoyant help as well. At last the former Bishop was located—and how strange—

Evidently the former Bishop had received divine intervention! He had staggered away from the shady spot, and hiked until he found a large pool of water in a shaded canyon! Wow! How delicious that water must have tasted. After hydrating, he followed his wife's planned route. And to indicate his path, he left a trail: the map, his underpants, sunglasses, contact lens case. So far so good...


James Pike was climbing a steep canyon wall in Wadi Mashash—when he slipped and fell 60 feet to his death. Aww. So close... At least the chain-smoker didn’t die of emphysema, hey?

Vivid, passionate, progressive Fifth Bishop Of California James Pike died as he had lived: on his own terms and sustained by his faith. Charles Darwin could not be more delighted to welcome this wonderful new Darwin Award Winner into the afterlife. I am sure they have much to discuss!

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Darwin Awards: Evolution Earth
Darwin Awards: Evolution Earth
The Internet invented Darwin Awards to warn us, yet still we are dancing a conga line into calamity. Ready to facepalm in the face of folly? Strap in! Time to slay 'em with science and a splash of snark, because Evolution is a Honey Badger—she don't care.
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