First Take: Vitriol infests Warren family grief
Thousands are responding to Pastor Rick Warren’s grief with compassion but others use the moment to attack him and his Christian message.
Pastor Rick Warren, the best-known name in American evangelism after Rev. Billy Graham, lost his 27-year-old son, Matthew, to suicide this week.
Uncounted strangers have joined the 20,000 congregants who worship at the megachurch network “Pastor Rick” built in Southern California, Warren’s nearly 1 million Twitter followers and hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers in flooding social media with consolation and prayer.
But a shocking number are taking this moment of media attention to lash out at Warren on the digital tom-toms. The attacks are aimed at him personally and at his Christian message
Some unbelievers want to assure Rick and Kay Warren, his wife and Matthew’s bereaved mother, that there’s no heaven where they’ll meet their son again.
You can find, among hundreds of comments on USA TODAY’s news story on Matthew’s death, comments such as the Cincinnati poster who says, “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.”
Some rush to add pain to the Warrens’ world because, in their view, he did not show sufficient compassion for the unremitting pain suffered by gay youths rejected by parents and peers. They were outraged when Warren took a political stand for Prop 8, which overturned legal same-sex marriage in California in 2008 and is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Others have appointed themselves 140-character theologians in a debate over whether someone once saved can lose his or her salvation if suicide is against God’s law. These posters, rather than waiting for Judgment Day, have ruled for hell.
But Bruce Kwiatkowski of the University of Toledo posted on Facebook: “I appreciate what Pastor Ronald Cole said about the subject of Christian suicide. He said the Lord will say, ‘We weren’t expecting you yet…’ ”
John Schuurman observed on Facebook that celebrity culture makes everyone “fair game” and the anonymity afforded by social media that allows people to “send out hate flames without any consequence.”
There are, however, people who won’t let the vitriol unleashed on social media infect the little corners of the world under their own name.
John H. Armstrong fought back on Facebook, saying, “I just blocked someone that I do not know from my wall for saying that Rick Warren’s son went to hell. What is it with people being so sure that they know God’s final judgment? I fear for people like this. This man added that Rick Warren was being judged for being a ‘false prophet.’ Pathetic, cruel and reckless all come to mind. If I’ve seen the evidence of a false prophet this comes close.”
A day ago, Warren tweeted to his 943,000+ followers: “We pray ‘Thy WILL be done on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN’ since in heaven God’s Will is done #always On earth, it’s done rarely.”
Mario’s note: Disgusting, inhuman, unimaginable and enraging that anyone can possibly attack Rick and Kay Warren as they cope with the ultimate loss. The report you just read shows how far we have fallen as a species. It can be so disheartening to hear such hatred. Even on our Facebook page, a preacher no less, called this “God’s judgment for teaching the heresy of the Purpose Driven Life.” I could not block such theological filth fast enough.
How strange for believers to join in this unspeakable cruelty with atheists. Yet it shows me how much fanatical religion and atheism can have in common. Neither one has a code of ethics, just an amoral, kneejerk reaction to anything they find disagreeable. In both cases the hurt in their words is sociopathic in its indifference. In both cases the message is “nobody cares about your problem.”
Thank God that the tidal wave of support and love for the Warrens far outweighs the cruel unfeeling statements of a few misguided individuals but their existence and their gall in saying such vile things is a tragic commentary on our times.