Time Travel Interview: Starr Daily and the Power of Love


In recent articles I have spoken about love. Our modern understanding of love makes it appear to be a “soft,” romantic notion, good for little more than sentimental movies. Love is anything but that. The question of love in this article is addressed to Starr Daily. Daily was full of hate and crime from grade school days until the time he experienced Jesus’ love while in the “hole” in a very primitive and abusive prison in the early years of the last century.

What is presented in this article is from books by Starr Daily. They are referenced in the article and can be ordered from Amazon.

How did shame in childhood shape the man, Starr Daily?

Shame is different from guilt. When we do something wrong, we are genuinely guilty for our irresponsible behavior. Guilt is a reasonable emotion to wrong acts. On the other hand, when we feel shame we feel that our very self lacks worth. Starr Daily felt shamed and worthless, because of an incident that took place when he was a child. Here is his story, as recorded by Stephanie Wiggins in the book, Rebirth and Resurrection.

My story is a compact record of a man whom the prison system failed to correct. My earliest memory is that of fear; three fears, and the greatest of these was sin. As a child my nature was painfully religious. I dreamed of walking and talking with Jesus. Still, my sins would torture me for days on end. I feared death. I had the fear of finding myself locked in, with no way of escape from the dangers of my vivid imagination.

I stopped going to school in fifth grade. When I was eight I had a four-verse poem to recite in school. My step-mother was too busy to come and my father was at work. Many parents were in the room for the event. At midway in my presentation, I forgot the key line. I could not go on. One child giggled. In an instant the whole room was filled with laughter – even the teacher eventually joined in. I ran from the room and later had a fight as a result of the fiasco.

Shortly after that, I chose to seek the society of older boys. At twelve I had left the world of boyhood and had attached myself to the world of men. Please know, most confirmed criminals are men who act upon the impulses of their early childhood. As a teenager, I moved from crime to crime and from jail to jail. None of the actions of society worked to make me a better man. All for the simple reason that I didn’t want to be corrected. Only God can help the man who has no desire to help himself.

What was Starr Daily’s first experience of love’s power?

Starr Daily had a profound experience of the power of love when he was a young man in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, this experience did not transform him. However, it was still an experience that opened his eyes in some way to the immense power of love. Here is Daily’s account. It can be found in the book, Love Can Open Prison Doors, by Starr Daily.

I was held in jail on suspicion of burglary. For two days and nights I had been subjected to “third degree” police measures in an effort to torture a confession out of me. My head had been beaten with a rubber hose. It looked like one large blood blister. Lighted cigars had been pressed to my skin. I was hung for three hours with my wrists handcuffed over a hot steam pipe. My arms had been twisted behind me and my elbows beaten with black-jacks.

On the third night I was about to get it again. Up to that point, I had been sustained by hate and anger and had not broken. The chief promised me the works if I didn’t confess. “Alright,” he said. “Get busy boys. Give him the works. Let him have it.”

As they approached me, something took place in my inner self. All hate and anger were gone. In an instance, an overwhelming compassion for these men came over me. I saw their ignorance, their underdeveloped souls, and the pitiful condition of their hearts. At the very same time, the chief spoke. He said, “Don’t hit him again. Take him back.”

I was returned to my cell. I was under the care of a doctor. The next day I was transported to a private hospital, where I lived for three weeks. The wives of the men who had beaten me actually brought me flowers. My bills were paid. When I was discharged, I was given $50.

It took me twenty years before I could see what had happened to me. The power of love had moved the men.

How did God reveal his love to Daily through a priest?

Starr Daily was a burglar. While still engaging in criminal activity, it was his opportunity to be a recipient of the power of love. Daily tells this story of love’s power.

I was in the middle of a burglary and a man came to the door in a robe. He said, “What are you doing there, my child?” I turned my gun and flashlight on him, and he said “I mean you no harm.”

I said, “Stop or I’ll drop you.”

The man said, “Put your gun down. I only want to talk with you.”

It was then that I discovered that the man in the bathrobe was a priest.

I sat down and listened to him while he talked to me about God in a way that was not offensive to my God-hating mind. To listen to him talk, God might have been my own father, or an older brother, or a very close friend. God was anything but the fierce-eyed, black-bearded monster of wrath, anger and fire I had heard so much about. At two in the morning I accepted this priest’s invitation, went with him into the kitchen and joined him in a cold bite. I left his home without taking his money. He shook my hand and blessed me.

What was the strange power this man had over me? It was genuine love – not romantic, sentimental emotion that men call love. His was a deep sense of compassion that was like Jesus’ when He said, “Neither do I condemn you.”

How did Starr Daily experience the power of love within the walls of a prison?

Starr Daily had one of the most dramatic conversion experiences I have ever read about. He was in the middle of a 20 year prison sentence when Jesus became very real to him. God’s love did what no human institution could do to transform his life. I will write his conversion story in another article. Like Glenn Clark, Frank Laubach, and Rufus Moseley, he experimented with God. One of his experiments involved loving very unlovable people. Here is Starr Daily’s account of how he began to change his views about love. I include it because it demonstrates that love is not “soft,” but a powerful energy from God for human good.

Nearly all my life I had preached the gospel of hate. In prison I had been associated with those who preached the same gospel.

After my experience with Jesus, those who had been my friends had become my enemies. I had to hear their accusations as someone who had sold out and gone over to the official camp, perhaps as a snitch. I learned to convert my enemies into objects for practice and self-improvement.

I quit trying to change my enemies, and chose to use my relationship with them as a means for self-improvement. I fashioned a mental portrait gallery of all my enemies. During the day and night I would take them in turn, bring them before my mind’s eye, and identify them with me in terms of love and a true and noble friendship. I learned the transforming power of love that could reach and affect the dreariest outcast and melt the stone casing around the most unregenerate heart.

I was put in a cell with Dad Thompson. He had many key passages out of the Gospels which he believed and lived with every cell in his body and with every impulse of his mind and heart. Early in our friendship he told me that the greatest service one man could render to another was to love him without strings and without indulging his weaknesses. He said, “The test of your religion is not knowledge or wisdom. A hate-filled atheist may possess either. It is not faith or creed. The devil himself has faith and an unbending creed. It is not healing or interpretation. The worst sinner can heal and a man with no control over his animal nature can interpret. The final test of your religion is a love-filled life. The love of God and the love of man. Your love of God is His love of you in action. As your love goes out to man in a godlike way it is His love expressing itself through you.”

Love has made God available to me, and has given me a faith that works on earth as well as in heaven. Because God through one man loved me, I am trying to love all men. By loving me he made Christ intimate and real, radiant and colorful, and life a joyous opportunity and an exciting journey.

What is one example of how Daily saw God’s love at work?

Dad Thompson, my cell mate, said this to me: “Seek the fellows you want to help silently, but don’t intrude upon those you want to help in other ways. Let this remain in God’s hands. Trust in Him and He’ll arrange the right time and the right place. And He’ll put the right words in your mouth to fill the need. Let love precede and trust follow.”

He also said, “Before what you are in the experience and character of Christ no argument can stand, for no other proof or defense is needed. This is your light. It is this light which constrains others. Remember it isn’t your knowledge that transforms your character. You’re made new by the Spirit. Knowledge as such polishes your intellect. The Spirit makes your soul.

Dad Thompson often asked me this question about my walk with Jesus: “Have you made it change your character?”

I worked in the prison hospital and there was a man there, called Satan by the underworld. On his sick bed he asked me to get him a Bible, saying that he wanted to hunt up a few more obvious contradictions in it.

I took him a Bible and read 1 Peter 3.19. (1 Peter 3.19 – “He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.”) I said, “If it’s traditionally true – and many including myself have reason to believe that it is – then it shows Christ not just as a friend to the prisoners but a very special friend. I was in prison and He came to me. I know others in prison he’s come to.

How? he asked.

“In His Spirit,” I told him. In order to visit the hell bound spirits, Jesus had to descend into the most miserable conditions imaginable. He did this as a voluntary sacrifice, and it proved his unlimited love for the imprisoned population.”

It was true that this man could make this passage look like a dime’s worth of dog meat if he had a mind to. But his meditation drew him below the crusty surface of controversy and argument. None of that type of thinking had any transforming power in it, which he well knew. So he took it just as it was written, and reached the inner conviction that if Christ loved the prisoners well enough to join them in their hell-holes they in turn ought to love Him. There and then he made a mental decision to become a prisoner of Christ instead of Satan.

Once Daily and this man were released from prison, he could say this about the man who was formerly called, “Satan.” He said, “I know this man well and he is now a respectable member of society.”

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