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Suicidal Theology

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“You have to get married. I have to get married. If I don’t get married this time then I will never get married. You have to get married. I have to get married. Stop. This isn’t the person I want to be with. It doesn’t matter. Do you love me? I have chosen her for you. Do you want to go to hell? Get married immediately! If you hadn’t seen her naked you could move on…but now you have to get married immediately. I love you and want what is best for you. You are a filthy creature and have no idea where you would be without me.”

 

Informed by my theology, the conversations between God and I cycled so rapidly in my mind that I struggled to grasp reality. I was very sick and slipping faster and faster into depression. I grasped for God. Unfortunately, the God I grasped for pushed me deeper and deeper into despair.

 

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was not a helpful place for those struggling with diseases of the mind. Believing that sin was the cause of most mental illness, people kept telling me to cling to Jesus and pray my way through what was happening. I tried and it almost killed me.

 

When I heard earlier this week that Sugar Land Baptist Church pastor and former President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Rev. Phil Lineberger committed suicide, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was our suicidal theology that killed him. We valorize suffering to the point that seeking help is considered weak. Jesus valiantly went to the cross and so should we. There is beauty in suffering. Dark nights of the soul are where we find God. The Psalmist was as depressed as anyone and was a person after God’s own heart. I have heard all of these suicidal theological constructs my entire life. I know they are lethal for some. We have to do better.

 

If we keep on theologizing suffering as divine, we will continue to lose people to suicide. Would Jesus have gone to the cross if he had been on antidepressants? I don’t know. I do know that suffering is not the main point of our faith. Jesus is. If following God makes you suicidal, I encourage you to follow something else and you will find Jesus there. Suicidal theology needs to die not us.

 

Amen.

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