Suicides, Scandals, and Sex: Can the Church Handle Real Issues?

Rick Warren Purpose Driven Life book cover Earlier this week, Rick Warren, one of the most influential Evangelical Christian leaders alive today, received the worst news possible: His son was dead. By his own hands.

As the news broke to his disbelieving followers, the internet message boards became filled with condolences and empathetic prayers. Nobody wins with suicide. It's the curse that keeps on stealing. To make the unthinkable worse, the theistic elitists and atheistic sewer dwellers creeped out of their hellholes to cast accusations and damnations towards the Warren family. Classy.

As if the war for souls is going to be won over the corpse of an imbalanced boy.

Why is it so hard for the world, those saved and those secular, to understand the humanity of a tragedy?  The death of a prominent Christian leader's son is not a victory for atheism, nor is it evidence that Warren was not walking the straight and narrow...his son simply lost a battle with himself.

Colonial american being tortured by demons spiritual warfare drawing
What spiritual warfare feels like.  
There is no guarantee as a Christian that by giving your life over to a faith or a calling, that God will pave your roads in gold, and make your existence easy.  Growing up with a minister for a father, I can attest that the opposite is more likely to be true.  Only those who've ever invested a life in a ministry can tell you that for all the glory of God being seen, there is also a nasty flip-side called "spiritual warfare" that takes its toll on bodies, minds, marriages, finances, friendships, children, etc.  I'm sure Mr. Warren had experienced differing levels of spiritual conflict before this week.  I'm not sure anyone should have to endure what he's experiencing right now. I hope he takes a long break. I hope he screams at God.  I hope he wails, and seeks answers from God, and surrounds himself with loved ones who will not judge.

But what do I know? I've never experienced pain on that scale.  I have no idea what he needs physically or spiritually; but I know he doesn't need Monday morning quarterbacks questioning his motives or gleefully pronouncing his failure.

But that's one of the problems with churches and Christianity today: dealing with issues like suicide that were once easier swept under the rug.

Pilgrim's Progress 2: Various Shades of Black and White
The second of my Christian Outlet Bookstore
appropriate Historical Romances.  
I was on the phone this week with a prominent Christian publishing company, and the representative on the other side was praising the first chapter of my novel.  "This is exactly what the book market, not just Christian publishing, needs right now..." After twenty minutes on the phone I felt she was ready to bypass the normal protocols and offer me a contract right then and there.

But then we got into the nitty-gritty. She started telling me about their editorial standards. That there are certain "taboo" subjects that no matter the writing quality, the ultimate outcome, the message;  if certain words or certain "acts" are mentioned, they reject the project immediately (or demand heavy edits).

I mentioned that one of the characters in my novel has "relations" with his long time girlfriend...a decision that nearly destroys both characters and is essential to the plot.

"Oh...that changes everything; yeah, they, they wouldn't publish it. No pre-marital sex is allowed in our books."

Really?  I mean, I know the importance of purity and the sanctity of intimacy, but isn't premarital sex nearly as rampant between believers as it is with non-believers?  Isn't there divorce and infidelity and sexual dysfunction and sexual addiction and drug addiction and mental instability and suicide and immorality and a myriad of other "problems" happening to Christians, all the while churches are  turning a blind eye towards these issues?

Facebook ignore option screen pop-up.
Because "ignoring" reality; ignoring the fallenness of this world; ignoring human nature and sin, and pretending that everything is hunky dory is obviously working so well for church numbers and believer's souls in this day and age.

 So RIP Matthew Warren.  Hopefully you find the peace that you didn't find in this world.  And to Rick Warren: we don't need any statements. Grieve in peace, and don't feel the need to respond to critics.

One of these days, Christians, desperate to speak relevancy to a hurting world, will reject the mass marketing system of watered down Christianese, and start to say something REAL to the world again.


  1. I couldn't agree more with you Chris. Without a full out diatribe, it's one of the reasons I've moved away from Church and to Spirituality. I need a reconciliation between life and Faith. Life isn't just: good or bad, yes or no, right or wrong.

    As for the bottom feeders (best word choice I could come up) that chose to take shots at the Warren family at this time. They're just repugnant.

    You nailed it with this piece sir. Keep trudging the road on the book deal. Think of it this way: it'll give you something great to write about in a follow up novel.

    1. Thanks Michael. Bottom feeders. Great characterization. Do you think there are more repugnant types alive today, or has it always been this way? I guess it's impossible to know. I do know that anonymous internet comment boards let ignorant people see their disgusting views. I guess I could ignore them, but...

  2. Chris,
    I agree that it seems wrong not to show Christians struggling with sin. I mean isn't that what salvation is for? I am always confused by the fact that they won't put certain topics in a Christian book. Maybe they feel like it's a slippery slope and where do you draw the line once you've crossed it? I'm not sure. I write YA the teenagers in my stories kiss so that would be an immediate no for me too even though the characters are Christians. I never even approached a Christian publisher. I self published and it's doing well so it's fine but I get what you are saying.

    I'm so sad for the Warren family. For those who come out and are negative and use it for their own agenda I just say they are lost. What else could it be? I enjoyed your post but I think after such a sad one you need to write another Sears customer story. =)

    1. I keep hearing the opposite about self-publishing. That while it is incredibly freeing creatively, it is nearly impossible to find your own audience. I feel like some of my viewers would buy a book (or download) but outside of a few hundred sales, I don't see how it go much further (without tons of word-of-mouth). Plus paying a professional editor, paying the print company, etc. I'm out a few thousand dollars. That doesn't seem like a great reward for the 1.5 yrs. it took to put it into fruition. Maybe you have a different take? How's "Breathe" doing? It's on my summer reading list (trying to read a download is too insane during the school-year).

      Yes, I agree it is time for a funny story.

    2. If you're interested in a well written YA novel with Christian undertones.

    3. I think it depends on your long term plan. Yes it can be expensive to self publish. I pay a really good editor and I have a formatter who is amazing but does not charge what she's worth, my graphic designer for cover art is really reasonable. If you plan on writing a lot of books it's more about building your audience. Not really about the one story. I think you've already started finding yours.

      If you want to chat about this more I'm happy to share what works for me. Send me an email me at I love to talk to other authors about self publishing. Also I'll send you the book. Just let me know what format you want. I don't want you to pay for it.

      Thanks for the plug. Very sweet of you.


  3. I find it interesting, being a reader of Christian novels, that they would draw such a firm line. How can you show a complete view of God's love if you leave out all of the sin? The amazingness of God's compassion is how thoroughly He accepts the most craven and His willingness to see past our greatest sins to the potential value we hold. I think they (publishers) are doing a disservice and missing a whole market of readers that could benefit from reading a story about how a bad choice can be overcome (of course, I have no idea if this part fits your book).

    1. Christi, your assumption is right on, and I feel the same way. You can't talk about redemption if you don't talk about what needs redeeming. Otherwise we might as well throw out all the Books of the Bible dealing with David...and Paul...and Noah...and Moses...oh, nevermind.

  4. Here is Rick Warren's facebook status today: "I don't have to know why everything happens since I know God is Good, he loves me, and life on earth isn't the whole story."

  5. Oh my, I didn't hear about Rick Warren's son. That is so terrible. I agree 100% with what you're saying, and my primary issue with the church nowadays is the dismissal of humanity and it's struggles in it's quest to be "perfect." Can you guess why I failed that, and had to go through years of therapy/rehab to get over my non-perfection? Sigh. Rant over. People in pain need love, I guess is what I'm trying to say.
    Anyway, I'D read your book, and probably love it.

    1. Thanks Natalie, I'll read your book as well (you are working on one, right?)

  6. One of the things I am very passionate about is the need for the church to be able to grapple with the real issues that people face today. Not sweep them under the rug. Not slap on a smiling mask that says everything is OK when it's not.

    We need to live out both parts of Jesus's words to the woman caught in adultery. "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." Various groups of Christians get really good at one or the other. When we encounter someone who has messed up their own lives, and are longing for a way out, we need to express both.

    As for the Warren family...this verse doesn't even apply. To them, I pray for God's grace and comfort in this extraordinarily painful time.

    1. Yes, when to confront sin and where to show grace is something we all need discernment with. The church often states its viewpoints as law, and therefore turns people away before they can experience the beauty of forgiveness and mercy. To me, that is a crime against Christ.

  7. I agree. Your characters, and the real life action and feelings that will have to be processed are something that everyone, including many Christians could relate to. It's a shame that they most likely wouldn't accept it. Submit it to them anyway. Maybe someone there will be more realistic. Reality isn't always pretty and perfect, and it's not always due to a lack of faith; they've got to see that...