Several years ago I was invited to speak to an Ecumenical ministers gathering in Rehoboth, Namibia, in Southwest Africa. The topic was a biblical view of suicide. October was known in Namibia as suicide month and all you had to do was look at the newspapers and see that this year is no different from the last. Each day more and more people decided that their life was longer worth living.
I moved to Battle Ground in September of 2011. Since that time several young people have taken their own life and suicide attempts and suicidal thinking are up massively in this same time frame. As in Nambia, Battle Ground in in the grip of a cluster of suicides and it begs a response from leaders of every shape and form. It especially calls for leadership from religious leaders of ever faith. As a Christian priest I can speak for my tradition.
Suicide presents each of us with many challenging questions and as a society we ask; “Why are so many people taking their own lives?” We try to find answers to a question that has no concrete answers. We try to make sense of the senseless. Recently I heard someone say that teaching evolution in schools and Roe v Wade were contributing factors. I find this explanation absurd and others less than complete. For me these answers are not good enough because they do not get to the heart of the matter and I believe that at the heart of suicide is a loss of all hope.
As a Christian disciple and as the leader of a congregation I cannot sit by and allow hopelessness to multiply and grow. Like a virus it spreads its sickness and the only adequate response is to strengthen the whole body, the community of Battle Ground and beyond, with faith, hope, love and education to surround this virus of hopelessness. I feel it is incumbent on Church members and leaders to speak out with the language we know and to engage with mental health professionals. To help in this endeavour I want to share a little of the scriptural and historical background on suicide and give us a new place to start the conversation. In addition I want to share my personal reflections on how we must change the conversation. Part 2 of this post will explore the Biblical and Traditional Christian views on suicide and the reason why I believe they got it wrong.