Matthew Warren was the 27 year-old son of famous evangelical minister Rick Warren, known for his invocation at the 2009 Obama Inauguration, his best selling book “The Purpose Driven Life,” his antipathy toward LGBT people and his support of the anti-LGBT rights movement. Matthew died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday at his home. According to a statement released by the family, Matthew had suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts for some time, and had received unspecified treatment for his struggles with mental illness.
First, my deepest condolences to the Warren family. No parent should have to suffer the loss of their child, and the death of a child by suicide is particularly hard for many families to bear. All too often, we read about young people taking their lives to the point that many in our society have become numb to the pain these individuals suffered every day. Anyone who has lived with a person, or been a caretaker for a person with anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders knows too well that pain is real and debilitating. I don’t agree with Rick Warren’s views, but I do feel empathy for the the pain he must be feeling right now over the death of his son. I’ve come close to losing people whom I cared deeply about to suicide.
I don’t know if any good can come out of such tragedy, but I hope that, after reflection on the true teachings of Jesus and much soul searching, Rick Warren decides to reassess his intolerant views regarding gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and the transgendered. Many of them suffer under the burden of societal animus, an animus fueled by many popular evangelical Christian preachers such as Rick Warren. Many of LGBT youth commit suicide after long periods of bullying and often abandonment by their own family members. The pain they feel – is it so different than the pain your own son felt before he died, Mr. Warren?
Perhaps I am hoping for too much. It is not easy to change the habits of a lifetime. Still, what better memorial to Matthew Warren’s life could there be than for his father to support the people he previously disavowed and despised, to finally preach that they too are God’s children? You have asked for us to pray for you and your family, Mr. Warren. Very well. My prayer is that you find a way through your grief over the loss of your son, and that in doing so, you use your position of influence in the evangelical community to turn away from hatred and intolerance and come out in support of LGBT individuals, the rights and their lives. Your family statement says that Matthew 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.”
I have no reason to doubt that assessment of Matthew’s character, despite the demons he fought against during his far too short life and which ultimately led to his decision to kill himself. I only ask that you, Mr. Warren, consider whether Matthew would have wanted his father to continue your anti-gay ministry, or whether, out of compassion for LGBT people who have suffered so much, Matthew would want his father’s heart to change, and for you to publicly recant all your former hateful opinions and statements about LGBT people. I ask you to ponder whether Matthew would want you to keep your grief to yourself, or, instead, to use it as a positive force to help others. At least consider the possibility that he would want you to fully accept that all men and women are brothers and sisters and that everyone is deserving of love and respect regardless of their sexual orientation. To have you preach love and inclusion, instead of preaching bigotry and hatred.
That is my prayer for you. That is my prayer for you. May God give you the strength in the days to come to see past your grief and accept the power of love, not just for those who are like you, those who believe as you do, but for everyone.