Matthew Warren, the 27-year-old son of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, committed suicide this weekend. Matthew had a mental illness.
As a sympathetic Christian man, I’d like to address both the religious right and the anti-religious factions.
First, to the anti-religious: I can anticipate all of your jokes that connect religious faith with a mental illness. As a writer, let me assure you that such jokes are lazy, and make the joke-teller look more ridiculous than the point you are trying to make.
But even if the jokes weren’t lazy, they would still be offensive to both the faithful and the ill. You CAN be a Christian and be mentally ill.
To the religious right: I can anticipate all of your anti-psychology screeds that connect mental illness with sin. But such condemnations of the mentally ill make you look insensitive and self-righteous rather than Christian.
The religious right argues that depression is the result of sin, that anxiety is a sign that you don’t trust in the Lord, and that both are better cured through prayer rather than therapy. But mental illness is no more a sign of sin than diabetes, migraines or gout. You CAN be a Christian and be mentally ill.
Matthew Warren’s suicide does not justify anti-religious smugness, or religious-right self-righteousness. The people who will use his death to denigrate faith or mental health are misguided, and probably need to overcome their hate with church, or drugs, or both.