Wednesday, April 10, 2013

De mortuis nil nisi bonum

Matthew Warren, 27, son of Pastor Rick Warren, committed suicide on Friday.

Perhaps you have heard the phrase "Speak no ill of the dead." Perhaps the appendage "or their families" should be added.

This past week, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed away at the age of 87. While much praise has been given to her from various world leaders, others have heaped scorn and hatred upon her even before her body was cold.

One politician tweeted a picture of a champagne bottle in celebration, hundreds partied on the streets of a couple of towns, and one politician whose birthday it happened to be said, "It's the best birthday I've ever had." Outlandish former British MP George Galloway didn't mince words: "May she burn in the hellfires."

Matthew Warren, 27, was less known, but his father Pastor Rick Warren isn't. He's the author and pastor of the mega-church called Saddleback. On Friday, after a "fun-filled" night with his parents, Matthew went back to his home and shot himself to death. Matthew had suffered from depression for many many years.

While outpourings of sympathy came from across the country, foes of Matthew's father and his message took to their iPhones and blogs:

A poster to USA Today's website from Cincinnati wrote:  "Either there is no God, or God doesn't listen to Rick Warren, despite all the money Rick has made off of selling false hope to desperate people." In another comment, the same poster counsels Warren to "abandon primitive superstitions and accept the universe for what it is — a place that is utterly indifferent to us." Others assured the Warrens that there is no Heaven where Matthew would go. Still others used the occasion to get on their soap box about gay marriage (which I fully support, but that's no excuse for this). One Twitter user who describes himself as a "partnered, faithful friend" living in New York posted, "Dear Rick Warren: now U know the 'anguished grief' parents of gay teen suicides feel after listening 2 U and UR ilk's anti-gay hate speech."

My reaction to all this is: have you no compassion? Have you no mercy? Where is your humanity? You can strongly disagree with a person's views yet show them respect, especially in death. I'm sure that if I were to sift through Thatcher's record there would be a lot that I would strongly disagree with, and I know there are things I strongly disagree about with Rick Warren.

But someone has just lost a mother and a grandmother. Someone has just lost a son and a brother. Show some respect.

Mark Andrew Nouwen