After the recent suicide of Matthew Warren, 27-year-old son of Christian evangelical minister Rick Warren, coverage of the point of view Christianity holds on suicide was widespread.
In a Washington Post story, Henry Davis, leader of the evangelical First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover, Md., said,
When people suffer despite prayer and consider therapy, "people think: 'Is this a knock against my faith? Am I not believing in God enough? Now I have to resort to this?' ... "I believe God is in therapy. I believe God can be in medicine. If someone says, 'I'm just going to pray,' you have to do more."In a post on RevGalBlogPals, Presbyterian minister Mary Robin Craig shares the story of her 24-year-old twin son's death by suicide in 2008:
Our pastors were a tremendous help to us in their calm response, in their willingness to discuss suicide openly and candidly, and in their help in creating a beautiful service ... in which the cause of death was openly recognized, in which we were assured of the gift of resurrection, and in which the young people in the congregation were directly addressed.
Craig shares her advice (specifically to Christian ministers, but it applies to anyone) regarding their interactions with survivors of suicide loss: "As with almost any other form of pastoral care, the true gift in 'talking about suicide' is offered in the form of 'listening about suicide.'"
As with any trauma, many survivors need to talk. At length and in detail. And some do not ... My husband and I went to a Survivors of Suicide group a few times, and saw a grief therapist for awhile, who was helpful in the sense that it felt as if someone else was shouldering a portion of our crushing burden. After some weeks of that, my husband was finished. We are all different. I continued to spend hours and hours with my spiritual director for many, many months.For its article, the Washington Post also talked to William and Naomi Powell, whose son died by suicide in 2003:
The Mitchellville [Md.] couple wrestled with the belief held by many evangelicals -- and people of other faith traditions -- that those who end their own lives are going to hell ...Christianity Today also published a story about suicide after Matthew Warren's death, which says, regarding a person who has died by suicide:
"We had that question, too," William Powell said. But after some research and conversations with others, they found solace in the note their son left behind. "At the end, he said: 'Lord have mercy on my soul.' I know just by that request, that appeal, that my son was ushered into heaven."
The simple truth is that only God knows his fate. To say otherwise is beyond our knowledge.The magazine article also refers to passages in the Bible about suicide:
Scripture hints that there may be hope. Romans 8:38-39 promises that neither life nor death -- not even death by suicide -- can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, Samson died at his own hand, and yet he is included in the list of the faithful in Hebrews 11 ...The last word in this post goes to Father Charles Rubey, who has worked in Chicago for decades with people bereaved by suicide: He is quoted here in a 2005 PBS story:
God is just ... God can be trusted to do what is right. He is good and perfect and compassionate. While we ultimately don't know a loved one's fate, we know that our loving God will judge appropriately.
Suicide is not about religion. It's not about morality. It's about pain.