re: questions about suicide, Christianity, & the after-life.

I recently wrote a review (as simple and short as it was)  of Kristen Jane Anderson’s book “Life, In Spite of Me.”  After I posted my review, I scouted around in search of other reviews of the book. I came across this one.

In the book, Kristen tells about the time when a lady told her that she would have gone to Hell had she been succesful in committing suicide. It was this event in her life that drove her to ask questions about Salvation, and later receive Jesus Christ as her personal Savior.

At the end of the above-mentioned book review, the blogger posted some questions about sucide and Hell. With her permission I’m reposting a part of that paragraph, and also parts of a few comments that were left in response to her blog post.

Last paragraph of the blog post:

“…would you think it fair for a 17 year-old to be thrown into hell just because she failed to be a member of the exclusive Club Christian? Does calling Christianity a club make me a bad Christian? Discuss!”

Comment #1:

“I don’t understand why people who suddenly find “God” ditch the none believers. I find that the most disappointing part about religion, they become mightier than thou and judgmental.”

Comment #2:

“She went to church, she prayed, she believed but holy minister was all ‘hell cause you weren’t saved and a true Christian.’ It seems everone believes that that they have the patent on Jesus. Drives me insane. When I was little I worried all the time I wasn’t saved just so, so it makes me mad.

And if God was that selective would it be like, “Sorry Anne Frank, you’re Jewish, so you’re off to hell.”
“Sorry Muslim, you devoted your whole life to me, but I’m still sending you straight to hell.”
“Sorry atheist, hope you like barbeque.”

I honestly can’t think of anyone deserving eternal suffering.”

Comment #3:

“The point you make about Hell is a good one. I’ve often said something similar myself. Personally, I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell except as possible states of mind we can occupy while alive. I don’t believe in a personal after-life, but that it is the ideas and actions of our life which live on after we are dead and give our existence its meaning. But, assuming the concept of Hell to be real, I ask myself this question, “If I would not condemn anyone to burn for eternity, even if they were a serial killer, a child molester or Hitler, and I’m only an ordinary guy with an ordinary guy’s capacity to love or forgive, then how could a God who is supposed to be completely loving and forgiving condemn anyone to such a punishment, especially for something as harmless as not being a Christian. Is God so vain that he will inflict that punishment on someone simply because they ignore or deny him?

I think there is a great deal of inspiration to be taken from the Christian philosophy and the life of Jesus, but when it comes to the supernatural “magical” ideas that have accumulated around them I think Mao Tse-Tung was right (and most of the time I think he was wrong) when he compared religion to opium. For those who suffer greatly and are weakened by the blows that life has inflicted upon them, such magical beliefs can make life bearable, but one can tell how truly strong someone is by who they associate with. If someone only associates with those who believe as they do, it is because their spirit is weak and they need reinforcement and a lack of challenges to their ideas. A truly strong individual relishes mixing with people who think differently and is not afraid that to do so will weaken their own principles. Jesus was a very strong individual and so he mixed with people of all kinds, from the innocent to the “sinners” and engaged with many people whose thinking was radically different to his own, not even fleeing from them when they tortured and killed him.

So my only problem with evangelicals is when they claim to have the answer for everyone rather than just the answer for themselves.”

Comment #4:

“I still consider myself a Christian, but I don’t believe the whole Bible. Read Genesis. It makes no sense, so I believe it was a parable. I do believe God watches out for me, so I take my “opiate for the masses” when in need and I still pray compulsively for perfection (but everybody does that, heh!) I also believe God has a plan for everyone and when I’m not thinking I’m dying, I like to think there’s more to life.”

So now, readers, it’s open to you.

What answers can you provide?
What hope can your offer?
Do you agree with anything that was stated in the above comments?
If yes, what?
What do you disagree with?

Related Article: Question of the day: suicide.

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Posted on April 29, 2011, in Re: and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Just one comment: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not everyone is entitled to their own truth. I try not to argue personal opinions. Often people pick and choose what they want to accept from other’s statements (ie. Jesus’). Anybody can say anything about God, justice or death -and it is their right to do so.
    However, *in my opinion* If you have questions about the afterlife, you wanna listen to the only one who came back from it. You can say Jesus was a good example, teacher or moral compass, however, if he indeed rose from the death, this single fact validates everything He said as absolute true including the reality of afterlife in hell or heaven and that He is the only way for salvation.
    http://thoughtswithaccent.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/did-jesus-resurrect-or-is-it-a-conspiracy/

    • “If he indeed rose from the death” is the key phrase. We have no more empirical proof that he did than we do that Theseus slew the Minator.

      To have faith that he did is fine, but it is only to be expected that many like myself will view it as a fairy story.

      Throughout the history of the human race wherever we have lacked knowledge we have filled in the gaps with superstition. Our ancestors no doubt saw gods in anything that scared them – volcanoes, the sea, or whatever.

      As for Jesus, my own personal opinion is that he never wanted to found a religion. I believe he wanted to set people free by explaining the nature of their psychology to them so that they could be as healthy psychologically as he was. But, unfortunately, he failed. People just couldn’t understand, so they turned his wisdom into a superstitious religion which left most of its adherents enslaved.

      Of course that is only an opinion. I claim no authority for holding it but the fact that it makes sense to me, and that, through pursuing such a philosophy I have come through many troubles, including a couple of suicide attempts, and now find myself feeling reasonably happy and not in need of an afterlife or somebody to tell me whether I’m O.K. or not.

      Of course tomorrow God might strike me down with a lightning bolt, but I feel the only path one can really take is to use the brain we have been given to assess reality as best we can and have the integrity to live according to the conclusions we come to and take responsibility for what results.

      • We agree. As I pointed out on my blog post (http://tinyurl.com/3e9zt6b), We agree in that we dont have hard conclusive evidence to proof Jesus rose from the death. All we have, and what many of us have chosen to believe, is the conclusion derived from so many facts of history, logically possible explanations and ‘coincidences’ in favor of the idea that Jesus did exist, that He did die in a Roman Cross and did rose from the dead.
        If we are wrong, we got to have a nice happy life on earth. If you are wrong .. you tell. If we are wrong, we didn’t miss much, if you are wrong, well, I guess we are all gambling on something.

    • “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not everyone is entitled to their own truth.”

      I like that.

  2. I believe that much more good comes from allowing God and His Word defining us than us trying to define God and His Word. There is far too much opinion strewn about as theology. The truth of scripture is not always comfortable and often challenges our existing perceptions of God, the world, others and ourselves. The problem is asking “What do you think about this or that?” when the real question is “What does God think about this or that?” Searching for God’s view of things keeps us humble and gives us perspective in line with His character and qualities.

    • But your only way of perceiving what God’s view is is through reading the words of biased, fallible humans and interpreting them using your biased, fallible brain. When it comes to theology nobody can seriously claim to be objective. You may feel he speaks to you directly, but I also have felt that I was getting messages from God when I was psychotic. When one has experienced psychosis or spent time with people who have strongly held irrational beliefs of one kind or another you realise that being certain that something is the case is less than proof.

  3. MY thoughts aren’t really worth a whole lot in this discussion.

    The only thoughts that matter much when discussing spiritual things, are the thoughts of the Author on the subject.

    Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

    He also said, talking about the saved, “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

  4. I have done many suicide preventions in my time. PTL, none that I know ever went back and did so.

    Several points:
    1) Some things that individuals have endured are so far on the cruel and punishment end of life that it is easy to understand one getting to a deep deep low view of tomorrow. I have seen that which Dr. Jim Logan describes as the worst he has seen in his years of ministry … and I have also seen God bring deep healing from these depths. God is still in that business.
    2) I believe that self murder or suicide is ultimately a sin. Ultimately, it is a mistrust of God Himself. I take this as a serious point in confronting someone who can not see tomorrow.
    3) I also know that I still struggle with sin in my own life, and do not see any difference in the result of a just judgement on the two. I plead God’s grace through the justice that was levied on the Cross. It is not like we may only slaughter a lamb but once a year to erase my sin, thanks to the sacrifice of Christ.
    4) Ultimately, it is not I who knows the inner heart of another, but God knows this. Pain and confusion makes discernment even in our own lives much greater to do. Thus, it is not I who can know how God will judge an individual in a situation of suicide.
    5) Because I never know the deeper heart of a suicidal person, I believe it is always good to easily assume that they are not walking after God, and to council them to a) Trust that God is a good god, despite what life on this planet may currently look like. b) Trust Him for forgiveness for our failure in our trust to follow Him. c) To trust Him in beginning to put one foot in front of the other in following after Him.
    d) To not close the door to God’s hand in their life by refusing to give God their future tomorrows.

  5. First off, let me say that I like the look of your blog, and I am reading the book you sent.

    Secondly, I am unsure what question you are wanting addressed; the question of suicide, or the question of whether or not commenter 1, 2, 3, or 4 were biblically illiterate, self-anointed proclaimers of falsehood? I’ll stick with the suicide question, since I don’t need the added stress of dealing with stupidity – sorry, I know that wasn’t nice, but I’ve been dealing with tornadoes since Wednesday.

    I have heard it said for as long as I can remember, “If you commit suicide, then you will go to hell.” I have a very hard time with that statement. On what is the logic based? It is based on one thing in particular: sin can make one lose one’s salvation.

    I don’t believe that sin can make one lose his salvation, for if that were possible, there should be no peace whatsoever for any so-called believer. Why? Because sin is sin, whether it be intentional or by way of omission.

    If one were to die in a car wreck one Sunday afternoon, unless they had just confessed every sin seconds before, they would probably go to hell. Just driving 56 in a 55 is a sin, and if it had been in progress at the time of death, sorry, hell is the driver’s reward. So, to say that one goes to hell just because he commits suicide, because he never had the chance to receive forgiveness, denies an understanding of true forgiveness through the blood of Christ.

    Now, there are those who say that a believer would never commit suicide. They say that the person who killed himself was obviously not a Christian. Hate to say it, but that’s another example of LEGALISM. Is it not possible for a Christian to get to the point where he or she makes a stupid mistake out of guilt or depression…a mistake they can’t take back?

    • A.C I totally agree with you. I have been involved in suicide prevention and awareness work for many years. I set up a network in my then local area with the local churches a number of years ago and saw a number of people come out of the woodwork who had been effected by it.

      * An 80 year old church elder whose father committed suicide when they were 9 and was made to promise never to talk about it – ever… and for the first time in her life she shared her grief and pain of this.

      *My sons pre-school teacher shared how her partner took his life when she was preggers… she become a Christian through our ministry.

      * The biggie for me was when we held a memorial service at the local hall to celebrate and commemorate the lives who had been lost – later over a cup of tea and biscuit I asked one lady if the morning had been beneficial.

      She grasped both my wrists tightly, looked me in the eyes and told me. Craig, my son committed suicide 12 years ago. We had been active in the church all our married lives and the pastor got up on the sunday morning and preached how all who commit suicide go to hell. ..her husband stood up and led her and her daughter and other son out of the church and they never went back…

      The family were considered back slidden and no one contacted them… She gripped my wrists tighter and said.. I have never stopped believing in the grace of Christ. But the church has hurt us immensely – you have given me hope that we can find another church who will accept us and minister to us and one that we can call home…

      Sorry I can’t say any more… I am now crying in memory of this….

    • Self-righteous….

      • whoops not you, the guy who said i’m stupid

        • Just in case you’re referring to me, as in the one who called you stupid, I did not call you stupid.

          Also, if you will notice, I was speaking out of emotional frustration. If you recall, our area was destroyed by tornadoes. After a couple of days dealing with tragedy, I woke up to this post via emai. I was not in the best mood.

          But when you say self-righteous, that’s pure irony. If anything, I am not self righteous. My righteousness is as filthy rags before God. I claim no goodness on my own. My only hope of heaven rests in the righteousness of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My “self” would be destined for hell without His sacrifice made on my (and your) behalf.

          Finally, at the time of my comment, I had not read your article, only the comments included in Heather’s post. It was the proclamations about who Jesus was, statements completely unbiblical, that irritated me. Forgive me for offending you. You were NOT the subject of the “stupid” comment.

          • No problem, I totally understand and God bless. Some of NC got a bit, but not like Alabama. I hope everything works out for you and your family and sorry I called you self-righteous.

    • I think you mean self-appointed, not “self-annointed”. I’m commentator No. 3 and I don’t throw holy water over myself before I say something.

      Maybe the wrong impression was given. I’m not a Christian, so Bible-literacy in my case is not an issue. I don’t claim it. I’ve read the Gospels and Revelations, but I haven’t study them. Since I don’t take them to be the unassailable truth, I take or leave ideas from them as I please.

      As for falsehood, all I claim is that these are my opinions. They may be unfounded opinions. I’m biased in favour of them and therefore not the best judge. But when I say they are my opinions, that much is true. I’m not recycling anyone else’s opinions that I may have swallowed whole as a matter of faith.

    • I hope you are enjoying the book! :]

  6. I came to a point in my life that I felt God did not want to hear my confessions anymore. I was/am a believer, but I was mistaken about grace. I did not understand the ramifications of the Cross. I felt I was displeasing God on a daily basis, unable to stop offending Him, and convinced He didn’t want to hear me say “I’m sorry” one more time. The feeling of humiliation and guilt led me to put a loaded 12 gauge shotgun to my mouth. I had my thumb on the trigger when my dad knocked on my bedroom door.

    Since that day, even though I understand God’s grace more than I did then, the “ghost” of suicide ever haunts me. I believe it always will. Much like the one who takes a hard-core drug just once, the temptation will always linger. Something in my brain, much like a switch that can’t be flipped back to its original position, will always keep reminding me that suicide was an option at one time.

    One of the most important and profound bits of counseling I ever received was from Jan Silvius, a Christian author and counselor. She told me, “Anthony, suicide is AN option; but it’s not the BEST option.” She was the first, and one of a very few, who did not put me down for feelings I was already ashamed of. She validated my pain, but encouraged me to see OTHER options.

    For many Christians, those who do not know that grace is available to them even in the midst of their worst sin, the only option they see is suicide. They are not sinners that want to sin even more, but sinners who do not want to further offend God. They don’t realize that Jesus bore on the cross ALL their sin, not just the past ones. They don’t understand that Jesus felt their shame and endured the pain it brings. They don’t understand that on the cross Jesus suffered ALONE. They either don’t know, or forget, that Jesus did all this so He could be their Advocate (their attorney Who understands and pleads their case) before God. They don’t understand the depth of grace.

    I believe that Legalism kills. I do not say that flippantly. I mean it – Legalism KILLS! We don’t earn salvation or forgiveness. We don’t stand justified one moment, then condemned the next. Believers are covered once and for all by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. Our failures of the past, present, and future were covered in the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God never to be slain again. The legalist, the suicidal Christian, the hurting Christian may not see this, or he may be blinded to it by the Enemy; but let me say on the authority of the Scripture, Jesus “will in no wise cast out” those who put their trust in Him!

    I know this is long, but I am pouring out my soul to some reader who needs this. In response to my attempted suicide, and the following realization of God’s unconditional love for me, I wrote a song. Let me share with you the lyrics.

    At times I wondered how a perfect God
    Could ever understand
    The pain I feel when I know I’ve failed,
    Time and time again.
    I wondered how my Lord could know
    The lonliness I feel
    He never felt such painful shame
    No wounds of sin to heal

    But that was what the Cross was for
    There in love He opened Heaven’s door
    His own Father had to turn His face
    From the sin our Savior bore
    What He never knew, there He became
    And all the guilt He bore the same
    How could He understand the sinner’s place?
    Well, that was what the Cross was for.

    There’s a second verse, but I’ll spare you. I just hope this helps make the point that even Christians can make a stupid decision based on a faulty understanding of Grace…but even then, they are loved.

    • Wow. Do you have music to the song you wrote? It’s beautiful!
      And I’d rather not be spared from verse 2… just saying. :]

      • Yes, there’s music. Lyrics are better, though. I wrote it in my “beginner” days of music, but maybe somebody with real talent could rework it or massage it.

        The King of Kings, the Holy One
        Jesus Christ, the Perfect Lamb
        Creator of everything
        God in flesh, the Great I Am
        For the sake of love He came to dwell
        In the body of a man
        The Father’s final Sacrifice
        Yet, how could he understand?

        • It’s beautiful, Pastor Baker. Thank you for sharing your song here.

          And also, thank you for sharing your story in your above comments. The Lord is good.

    • I think that, when we get to the point of contemplating suicide, is is generally because we judge ourselves too harshly. We shouldn’t really judge ourselves at all any more than we should judge others. If we have done destructive things or have the desire to do destructive things it is because of two things :

      1. We have been hurt. We’ve all been hurt emotionally to a greater or lesser extent through our lives, and hurting gives us selfish and/or aggressive feelings. They may take the form of the desire to do violence to others, or to hurt them emotionally, or it may take the form of a desire to assuage the hurt with lots of personal possessions or lots of food or alcohol or other drugs or lots of sex. That we have these feelings and desires initially is an inescapable product of our emotional experiences.

      2. Whether we get these feelings out of our system or not is the other issue. We might live them out. But that could be harmful to us in various ways and might make us feel guilty which being a form of emotional suffering would lead to more of the problem. We could repress them and adopt some form of disciplined life, such as religion (which does have the benefit of bringing with it some transcendence along with the discipline). Or, we could do the thing which would liberate us the most, which is to accept the desires as feelings and thoughts with the understanding that feelings and thoughts, unlike actions, don’t do any harm in themselves and find ways to express and satisfy them in vicarious, non-harmful ways such as watching movies full of sex and violence or expressing ourselves freely through writing or painting or whatever. Essentially anything that provides us with catharsis as a relief from repression.

      My view is that love is what is buried underneath all of the “sinful” contents of the human psyche and is only truly liberated when they are in some way set free.

      I sometimes wonder if some Christians don’t secretly hate God for lumbering them with this whole concept of sin in the first place. First he says, “You lot are bad”. Then he makes you super-guilty by letting his own son be killed and saying, “It was your sins that killed my son, I let him take them onto himself so you wouldn’t have to pay the fair price for committing them.” Gee thanks! But whether a person thinks they are bad depends on who they compare themselves to. Compared to Hitler hardly anyone’s misdemeanours are worth mentioning, compared to a saint we’re probably all scumbags. But if we recognise we are all in the same boat and follow that good bit of advice Jesus gave “Judge not that thou be not judged,” we can become part of a community of all humans and cooperate with each other to create a better world. I’d rather be a part of that than to wait for some magical being to intervene. That might never happen.

      • Sir, I appreciate your thoughts on all this. I am also sorry for any pain you have gone through dealing with depression or suicide. I just wanted to say that up front.

        If I had the time or energy, which I don’t at this moment, I would contend with you over your assertions/implications that Christians are nothing more than fairytale-believers. I would also contend with you over the “lack of empirical evidence” argument you proposed. The fact is that the Christian faith is not a blind faith, but one based on evidence: evidence which is readily available to any skeptic that wants to accept it for debate. The question is how one interprets the evidence.

        With regards to the “hating God”
        thing, your comments reflect little appreciation or understanding for the concept of the holiness of God. In the same vein, neither does your rationalization of sin, as with the comparison to Hitler. Even more, your characterization of the death of Jesus betrays a desperate need to better understand the role of Messiah in scripture. Because of the biblical understanding of these truths, I do not hate God no more than I blame any judge who justly views the criminal. No, I love Him because, even though I was guilty of countless infractions, He shed His own blood in my stead.

        With regards to Jesus and His desire to start a religion, you are partly correct. He did not come to earth with intention to create a new religion – He came to fulfil one.

    • Anthony, thank you for this, for both your personal story and your song – very humbling and deeply moving.

  7. Hi will post the link today, very sorry, and thank you all for the answers given!

  8. OK done! Sorry again about taking awhile.

  9. I think Lisa’s excerpt from her blog post, and all 4 comments listed are valid in the sense that each person’s faith journey is individual. My relationship with God can never be exactly like anyone else’s. I will add that in my opinion the exclusive, narrow-minded, over-controlling behaviors of some churches are not helpful to anyone seeking to know Jesus better. If you want people in your church or in the flock in general, you had better learn to be hospitable, non-judgmental and tolerant because learning takes time, and these are large mysteries – it’s not all spelled out for us in an A-B-C fashion. No one on Earth is qualified to separate the true believers from sincere seekers still in process, or those fallen away. Those estimations are way above our pay grade 🙂

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