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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Matthew Warren, Son of Megachurch Pastor and Bestselling "Purpose Driven Life" Author Rick Warren, Commits Suicide

Krishna Mohan. Sunset at Thanner Bavi Beach. Source

On Friday, April 5, Matthew Warren, 27, shot himself to death. Matthew Warren is the youngest son of megachurch Pastor Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," a Christian self-help book that has sold thirty million copies.

From Pastor Rick Warren's email to his staff:

"You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He'd then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.

But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America's best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.

Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I'll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said 'Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?' but he kept going for another decade."

***

If you google "Matthew Warren," the very first search that google prompts you with is "Matthew Warren gay." This pops up because so many people assumed that Matthew took his life because he was gay and he could not live with his father's anti-gay marriage position. As far as I know, there has been no public statement from any informed person identifying Matthew as gay.

Many things can be said about these speculations:

Some of the internet posts alleging that Matthew was gay are sick and cruel. Ha ha ha, they say. Now you will suffer, Rick Warren, they say. You drove your son to suicide. Karma is a bitch. What goes around comes around, they say.

Posts like this are a reminder that even people who identify themselves as motivated by compassion can act and speak without compassion. These posters no doubt think that they are being kind to gay people but in fact they are merely being cruel to a grieving father at his worst moment.

These speculations highlight another factor. People don't understand why someone as lucky as Matthew Warren would take his own life. Matthew hit the jackpot. He was born to one of history's bestselling authors, a beloved pastor who guides millions. Love, luck, wealth and ease were Matthew's birthright. Other people born into hellish circumstances of child abuse, poverty, incest, and war survive to die natural deaths. Why would someone so lucky as Matthew take his own life? People need a reason, and so they hit upon Matthew's alleged homosexuality.

People say, "Depression is horrible. It's as bad as having concrete problems. It doesn't matter if you are rich, healthy, and loved if you are depressed. If you are depressed, you have no free will. You can't enjoy all your blessings. It kills you."

Is that true? Does depression really remove free will, and does depression make enjoying life impossible? Does depression make a suicide like Matthew's inevitable? If it was depression that killed him, is there nothing Matthew could have done to change his fate? In other words, did depression kill Matthew the way a car kills the victim of an accident? I'm asking. I don't know.

***

I grew up Catholic, not Protestant like Rick Warren.

I remember suicide being condemned in frightening terms. I remember being told that suicides could not be buried in consecrated ground. This information hit me like a hammer. I never heard this said about other sinners. Child abusers, thieves, murderers: no one told me that they could not be buried in consecrated ground. Suicides alone were so sinful, so outside of God's grace, that their inanimate corpses needed to be cordoned off so that good Catholic remains could be safe from contagion. What was that contagion, I wondered?

I didn't understand that horror, that anathema, then, and I don't understand it now.

Again, I assume that the web speculation about Matthew's being gay is mere speculation, but there is a connection between these two alleged sins of suicide and being gay.

Both are victimless crimes. Both are often associated with mental illness. Both are condemned with a fury we don't devote to other acts.

I wonder if thoughtful Christians who had previously assumed that all suicides go to hell will reconsider now that they have a personal connection of some kind to a man whose son committed suicide.

I can't imagine any serious Christian publicly stating, "Rick Warren's son is in hell."

***

I can't get over the heartbreaking paradox. Rick Warren is highly valued by millions for the guidance he offered on how to live a good life. For some reason beyond my ken God has offered him this challenge: to confront the suicide of his own beloved son. "The Lord giveth and the lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

I am always impressed when I read formal Catholic church teaching on any question. This is one of the reasons I am grateful that I was raised Catholic. There is such a storehouse of wisdom and compassion and powerful intellect. I visited a Vatican page on suicide. I recommend it. It is beautifully, clearly argued. You can read it here

1 comment:

  1. A very tragic thing. Did others know Matthew was being treated for being Bi Polar? It wouldn't matter if he was gay or not. If he was his parents would know and be aware now people are born that way not made. Being Bi Polar is a very difficult thing for people. Some have no money and cannot get medicine to treat it so suffer more.

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