Anne Eggebroten reflects on the suicide of Rick and Kay Warren’s son

April 15, 2013

Rick, Kay, and Heartbreak (by Anne Eggebroten)
Writing on her blog, Martha y Maria: Women’s Lives, Women’s Rights, Anne Eggebroten shares her heartfelt thoughts, condolences, and personal concerns upon learning that 27-year-old Matthew Warren had taken his own life. Matthew was the son of Rick Warren, the noted evangelical pastor and author of The Purpose Driven Life. Anne begins by observing, “Life is harder for the children of successful parents. When you add to that the special pressures on preachers’ kids and an underlying genetic vulnerability to a mental illness, the outcome is precarious.” In addition to sharing her own thoughts, anxieties, and faith in God’s grace, she refers to a Los Angeles Times report about Rick Warren’s decision to be public with his grief, but choosing to do so through his own statements on Facebook and updated tweets on Twitter rather than through public appearances or interviews with the mainstream media. Be sure to read the LA Times piece in addition to Anne’s post. (Anne Eggebroten is one of the founding members of our organization, EEWC-Christian Feminism Today. Her most recent article for our website was “Why We Need Immigration Reform: A Christian Feminist Perspective.” )

Related thoughts and links: Anne’s piece is brief, but in addition to its main points (including statistics on the incidence of suicide and the role of guns in so many of those suicides), she briefly touched upon two other things that got me thinking. One is our lack of awareness of the suffering, struggles, and hardships being dealt with in the private lives of public figures whom we have admired (or disagreed with) or who perhaps have made significant theological or intellectual contributions to our own lives through their writings and speaking. Anne mentioned that she had no idea that Rick and Kay Warren were dealing with the mental illness of their youngest son. Similarly, until Rosemary Radford Ruether wrote Many Forms of Madness: A Family’s Struggle With Mental Illness and the Mental Health System a few years ago, I had no idea that her son, David, had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. For a quick overview, read Mary E. Hunt’s review of Ruether’s book.

The other thing that Anne’s heartfelt and compassionate article got me thinking about was its contrast with the utter lack of compassion displayed in some other Internet comments, as some people use tragedies in the lives of public figures as opportunities to spew out their hatred of those public figures—in Warren’s case because of his theology and views on certain social issues.  In one social media statement, Rick Warren wrote, “Grieving is hard. Grieving as a public figure, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest.”  David Hayward talked about that in a Naked Pastor blog post this past weekend titled, “Rick Warren and the etiquette of critique.” Hayward shares his own three guidelines for critiquing the certain teachings of some Christian leaders with whom he disagrees but without attacking and maligning the person. He says the “vultures” need to “back off.”

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you, Letha, for noticing my blogpost on this sad turn of events.

    In regard to hateful posts via social media, my daughter Roz tells me that some young people use Facebook and Twitter and other media mainly to post mean comments for the fun of it. She says there’s a competition to see who can be more outrageous or mean, attracting the most shocked attention. People who post these things are not necessarily filled with hate–just enjoying this perverted sport.

    She told me about this after I noticed mean comments on FB about the suicide death of the 13 or 14-year-old daughter of an elder of my church last fall. It’s still terrible, but these posts fit into a genre.

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