The question of suicide.

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Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade; who died of suicide in June 2018.

Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 6/15/18

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I am hesitant to go where I’m going. I am doing so despite such misgiving because I believe that the questions I’m about to pose are worth asking.

The subject is suicide – brought to the fore by the recent back-to-back suicides of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. These two are germane to this discussion only to the extent that their deaths remind us that suicide is on the rise — up 30 percent since 1999. For persons under age 35, suicide is now the number two cause of death behind accidental injury. High school counselors today are now trained to look for behaviors in high school kids that might signal a risk of suicide. Such was unthinkable in my day.

Suicide is every bit as complicated as it is tragic. I have no answers. But I do have questions.

Why do we, in the wealthiest, healthiest, most prosperous society in history see so many of our fellow humans driven to such despair as to take their own lives? Has anyone done any research on the correlation between the increase in suicide and the concurrent decline in church and synagogue attendance? Has anyone taken the trouble to examine the religious beliefs and practices of suicide victims and tabulate that data against the population as a whole? That’s a long way of asking, are suicide victims more likely or less likely to be persons of active religious faith?

Is it possible that the communal worship of God that used to begin in childhood for the vast majority of American kids provided a kind of “vaccination” against suicide?

That proposition seems reasonable to me. I was taught from childhood that the God of the Jewish and Christian Bible is a loving Father. I, and all the kids I grew up with, were taught that our Heavenly Father cares for us and watches over us and either shields us from suffering or gives us strength to bear it. We were taught that whatever trials, heartaches and troubles come our way, it’s going to work out in the end.

I grew up believing that. I still believe it even though I can’t prove it. That’s why it’s called ‘faith.’

Many, particularly those on the Left, dismiss religious faith as nothing more than ignorant superstition. So just for discussion, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say they’re right – that belief in a loving, caring, fatherly God is all humbug.

It seems nevertheless to be useful humbug. If belief, even misplaced belief, in a merciful God keeps overwhelming despair at bay, how is that belief a bad thing? If faith shines light into otherwise impenetrable darkness – and saves a life – how is that faith anything but ineffably good?

When you see increasing numbers of apparently prosperous people taking their own lives, you have to believe that something or things have gone terribly wrong. It’s worth asking if a declining faith in the God of our fathers might be one of those things.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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6 Responses

  1. Buddy Saunders says:

    Paul, you did the right thing in addressing the issue of increasing suicides within our culture. And you are right. Our falling away from religion–Christianity, to be specific–lies at the core of the problem. But will that be considered? No more than violence in popular culture as a contributing factor in real life violence. On the one hand, popular culture, even at its most violent and odious, is the sacred cow we flinch at blaming for anything, and on the other hand, our secular elites–when they aren’t busy offing themselves–lecture that religion is both false and dangerous to the health of a secular society.

    But just the opposite is true, as would be revealed by any reliable examination of suicide patterns among believers and non-believers.

    A religion of hope and redemption, even if it were untrue, would still have tremendous value to believers. I share your faith as many do, but even if such faith were wholly misplaced and religion a total fiction, it would still be a necessary fiction, one that, absent from our lives, opens the door to more fatal error than any agnosticism or atheism can hope to stave off.

  2. Richard Anderson says:

    Since our very founding as The United States of America [1776] and before, all throughout our early American history from the time of The Jamestown Settlement [1607] and The Pilgrims [1620] our grand nation has recognized God in the public square as “the Author” of Life, and Liberty. We are unique [American Exceptionalism] among all the nations on Earth in that “We” are a Constitutional Republic “under God” established in Freedom, the freedom of all our citizens, for all that is righteous and good.

    However, as of late, in some precincts of our society, our country has gotten away from our Christian heritage and thus our roots, to our national detriment, as evidenced by your excellent column above. But we can get back to our founding precepts by bringing God back into the public square and sphere of society where he belongs.

    To me, it is an Honor and gives my Life meaning that I know Christ as my Savior. God gives us strength and love for Life and we must show those benefits of our Faith to others by example in as best we can.

    God offers all that is beautiful, and kind, and loving toward our fellows and, that, is a benefit to us all as a society that no amount of money or any government program can replicate.

    May God always bless The United States of America and all our people.

  3. Linda E. Montrose says:

    Paul, what you touched on is just the tip of the iceberg. Faith is something that makes people strong. It gives people hope. It gives them direction…a moral compass. Without this we are but leaves in the wind being blown in every direction. Which you can see in our everyday life. It is no mistake that what we are seeing today is a direct result of the hate and bitterness that surrounds us trying to pull us down. It is no mistake that the decline in faith, not just religion,is the main result in the violence we see every day in the news. Not only here, but world wide. It doesn’t take long for evil to take root and grow as weeds when faith is broken. This is why from the beginning, as now, breaking faith in God, our Savior, is paramount to those who want nothing more than to have power over all. A broken society is easy to control. It is very clear to see if you are familiar with history by either reading the Bible or learning about it in school or handed down by those who have lived it. The Bible is the most valuable history book on this earth and it shows exactly how history does indeed repeat itself. Everything, past and present are on the pages within it’s cover, all you have to do is open it and read it to see that. Our FUTURE, however, is ours to work out. FAITH is what sent explorers across uncharted seas to find new worlds. FAITH is what determined the fate of this Country, as FAITH will bring us through in this time which evil is running rampant, as can be seen in the gang violence and terrorist attacks on innocents. The lack of faith gives evil a foothold. Like a neglected garden can not grow fruit when taken over by weeds.

  4. Linda E. Montrose says:

    Just want to add that as the subject of this was suicide, a subject people do not like to discuss. What drives a person to suicide is not necessarily the lack of FAITH. Sometimes circumstances of life become too overwhelming for that person to try and go on. Since people, in general, do not like to talk about such matters as suicide, a person who is contemplating it doesn’t discuss it or if they do are met with things such as…”Oh, you don’t mean that”. You can’t reach in someone’s mind and know what it is driving them to that point. People of faith DO commit suicide despite everything. You can’t say every person who does or even thinks about it is mentally ill because that is not always the case.It may be something as “simple” as boredom with life or as complex as being overwhelmed with the problems in their life. Most of the time, it is a mystery taken to the grave, we in life will never figure out. Certainly, the lack of religion in one’s life can contribute to the rise in suicide because the moral compass in our lives is not there. As I said, even people of faith commit suicide, so the lack of it in your life is not a given you will or you won’t. It is an individual choice one makes…right or wrong.

  5. R. Eagleman says:

    A difficult subject indeed, but one that should be discussed. Paul’s monologue and the responses are very well expressed and make a lot of sense; not much to add. It is almost impossible to analyze how we got here as a society, and to put a finger on the main reason for this decline in our nation’s faith, and consequently its morality. I would propose that the general acceptance that our constitution forbids religion in the public square, due to separation of church and state is a major factor. Actually,our constitution forbids the government from establishing a religion, which is one of the main reasons that our founding fathers fled the tyrannical governmental religion of England. Almost all of these authors of our constitution were devout Christians, and were trying to make sure that this country did not fall into the same tyranny. Over the years, this misinterpretation has led to all sorts of prohibitions, such as prayer in public schools and other important Christian traditions. The assault is constant and continues to erode the very foundation of “one nation under God”; therefore the low regard for human life, whether suicide or abortion, becomes more acceptable. I hope that President Trump’s executive order to cancel the Johnson Amendment will now allow preachers to actually preach without fear of losing tax-exempt status. This could be a step in the right direction; just another reason to support our president.

  6. Nemo says:

    My wife is suffering from deep depression, memories of sexual abuse as a child that she kept hidden have surfaced due to stress and change. She has admitted to thoughts of suicide. At the moment she is resisting counseling and questions whether God really cares. But through all this God has been with us, with me as her husband, guiding, giving strength and comfort. From this I can face the storms and challenges, gently showing her the way from what God has revealed to me, showing her that God DOES care..
    My prayers are no longer rote, dull recitations, a want list but CRIES to Him for help.
    I understand the true meaning of the word “meekness” now, it’s NOT an unmanly, resignation to fate, a passive, reluctant submission but an active deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are only a part of a larger picture, is sometimes hard to comprehend but that God is in control of and has a purpose for.
    Believing in God, depending on Him, all odds change, all expectations change. All outcomes become dependent on Him and are not limited to what I can rationalize.
    Yes, there are trials, days when I don’t think i can manage another step but that’s when i take it to Him in prayer. And when i do the peace He promised, that passes all my understanding comes through. She has said that she hopes to find the same peace I have.
    No it won’t be solved tomorrow, next week, next month…but with God’s help and the grace His Son insured, there is HOPE.

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