Over the weekend, the son of Pastor Rick Warren committed suicide after a long battle with depression. The elder Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, wrote of his son’s struggles in an email to his California church family, calling it a “torture” that never subsided.
I’m not sure why anyone would be so surprised; a quote attributed to Warren himself covers online behavior quite well:
“I just think the Internet has made us ruder.”
So I’m sure Warren himself wasn’t all that shocked by rude things said (though I am sure it didn’t make things any easier for his family). And I’m not all that certain what would make other Christian leaders be so shocked, either.
I read a book written by a pastor — I wish I could remember what book it was — mentioned preaching a funeral of a young man who’d committed suicide. He tried to preach an uplifting message, hoping something good would come from the tragedy and trying his best to ease the parents’ burden, only to be confronted by an angry couple after the service who demanded to know why he hadn’t made mention of the fact that the young man was now surely in Hell because he’d taken his own life. The pastor’s response was perfect, essentially asking them how they’d feel if it was their child and that on top of the death itself, and the knowledge that the death was at his own hand, a pastor would be so cruel as to talk about their child being in Hell on top of it. He then pointed out the obvious: that “fact” isn’t something any of us could know, anyway.
I hesitate to even mention that particular church in Kansas that likes to protest funerals. They call themselves Christians, but they should and display messages of hate, not love.
Just the other day, I mentioned people — some of them Christian — who are so focused on the Second Amendment that they seem to worship guns more than they worship Christ’s message of loving their neighbors as themselves: rather than offering “prayers” for the victims of a knife attack in Texas, they used the occasion to make snarky political comments about gun control.
Unfortunately, some Christians seem to believe that they have all the answers. Anyone who doesn’t immediately agree with everything they say must be the enemy. These folks belong to a group that is so focused on “calling a sin a sin” they they forget an important fact: if you line up 100 people who’ve made the same transgression, you might not find any two who got to that point for the same reason. It reminds me of that whole, “Walk a mile in my shoes” saying. Some are more interested in pointing a finger than spending any time considering the “why.” I don’t suggest that it’s proper to look for excuses, but rather that it makes a difference when you can see how things could happen. In Warren’s son’s case, it was mental illness: suicide is a willful act, but in cases of mental illness, the person is operating from a skewed perspective to begin with, one that someone not in the grips of mental illness might never experience.
It’s easy to be rude when you aren’t willing to consider that behind every problem, there’s a real human being who, one way or another, is walking in pain.
It’s a shame many of us are so quick to lose sight of that.