Friday, January 4, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Kill Thyself

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Recently two of my colleagues wrote about how suicide has impacted their lives. You can read Rob Greene’s story here and Daren Rome Leo’s story here.

I always believed that suicide was a mortal sin. An instant ticket to H-E-double hockey sticks. A story that had been passed down to me from my elders was of the funeral of a Follower who had committed suicide.

Follower funerals are a bit different than those of outsiders, in my experience. Most church members make the trip to the funeral home to view the corpse of the deceased either the day before on the morning of the funeral.

All church members are invited and expected at funerals. If a funeral falls on a weekday, a lot of the men will miss it because they cannot get away from work. All the Follower families drive to the Carus Cemetery, park their cars and gather around the designated gravesite. There are several seats put out for immediate family members. Everyone else stands in a large, multi-layered semi-circle and waits for the funeral procession. When the hearse arrives, the noise and chatter quiets down. Once the coffin is in place, everyone crowds in closer to hear what’s happening.

Church men sing a few hymns picked out by the family. Every memorial flyer includes the twenty-third psalm, the names of the pall bearers, and the names of the hymns. After the very short service, church members drive to the church for a potluck.

The lore that followed the suicide was that during the service people heard the sounds of burning, and crackling. The sounds of Hell. I’m not sure who the funeral was for, it was before my time.

There were other folks who, sadly, took their own lives in our church. They were still buried in our cemetery paid for by the church, but everyone assumed they knew their destiny.

I’ve researched the sinfulness of suicide and haven’t found anything definitive or explicit. I don’t say that to encourage anyone to do it. It’s not a good risk. Many people say that suicide is selfish, and that makes sense. The “victim” is stealing something from his/her loved ones.

Maybe suicide can be seen in another way: it is a statistical death sentence for a certain percentage of mentally ill folks. Like saying (and I’m making these stats up) that 15% of cancer sufferers will die of cancer; 25% of clinically depressed people will die of depression. That’s not exactly fair, since cancer deaths are not choices.

I don’t have an easy answer about this. But, if you are considering taking your life, please don’t. Please talk to your family about it. And if you can’t talk to them, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


  1. There have been too many. One is too many, it is the ultimate in selfish acts. It must say something about the power of depression for someone to do that in the setting of the church. We're so close to one another. It would seem like you would feel close enough to someone to at least talk to them about whatever is bothering you. It's also telling of the strength of ex-FOC that you could be cut off from that support system and persevere.

  2. At least two of the last three men who committed suicide in the FOC Oregon City Church were people who were questioning the church semi-secretely. They just could not rationalize this being god's only chosen church in the world and the church still not have a preacher or the healing miracles seen in earlier years.

    In Oregon City, you just cannot tell anyone you question the church's "rightness" your wife and children might leave and never speak to you again if you continue to question.

    The other was someone who left the fold and returned. Most people shunned him. We will never know if the shunning or guilt over the life he may have led outside the church drove him to take his own life. God please have mercy on all our souls if our actions had part in his decision....

  3. Are you referring to the Oregon city group? That doesn't sound familiar.

    1. I think the person the last commentor is referring to was JB. That was about 20 years ago, I believe.

  4. I was taught when i was young that there was only one unforgivable sin and to the best of my memory that was to say that you did not believe in God. If that is true then is suicide a forgivable sin?

    1. The unforgivable sin is actually to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. I don't know how one would do that, exactly. Maybe a good topic for a theologian to answer ...

      Plenty of people do not believe in God, and later become born-again Christians. The Apostle Paul persecuted the Christians before being called into ministry himself.

  5. It's just murder with no time for repentance. Plain and simple. Can you be forgiven for killing if you never repent? I wouldn't roll those dice!

  6. I think suicide can be forgiven if a person isn't in their right mind. But it is wrong on so many levels. We are not our own - we belong to God and He has placed us here to fulfill our purpose. We don't get to check out early because life is hard.

    Despair and deliberate refusal to accept God's mercy and forgiveness are what I have been taught is the unforgivable sin. I think of St. Peter and Judas. St Peter betrayed our Lord 3 times but accepted Jesus' forgiveness and became the greatest of the Apostles. It takes a humble heart to accept forgiveness.

    Judas hanged himself in despair. Despite all he knew of Jesus, he still didn't believe or wouldn't accept his forgiveness. That's why I believe Jesus said it would be better for him if he had never been born. I believe Judas sent himself to hell - he prefered eternal separation from God to being forgiven. That's a form of pride. I believe Satan was offered and refused forgiveness as well.

  7. sounds simple. tell the people that suicide is unforgivable that way you dont feel guilty for not helping them. suicide is forgivable. God can do anything. if someone commits suicide i believe they dont think there is another way.

  8. All our sins came after Jesus died on the cross. Even suicide. We are already atoned for. To say we are sinners, is to say Jesus died for nothing. Where sin abounds, grace abounds more.

    Suicide is not a selfish act. It is an attempt to end the pain. The same way we put down dogs who are sick. The same way we dope people up in the hospital into comas just to prevent pain from making their last days unbearable.

    If you have never suffered deeply disturbing depression, you can't possibly understand the darkness one feels. To call a suicidal person selfish, is to wound them, and only further their pain.


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