(Photo : courtesy Saddleback Valley Community Church)
(Photo : Reuters)
The apparent suicide on Friday of Matthew Warren, the 27-year old son of Rev. Rick Warren, the high-profile leader of the Saddleback Valley Community mega-church in Southern California, has already proven a polarizing event --- with thousands responding to the Warren family with sympathy and support, but others using the opportunity to criticize the popular evangelical Christian and his message.
Numerous new visitors, USA Today reports, joined the church's typical 20,000 Sunday service congregants this morning, while "Pastor Rick's" nearly 1 million Twitter followers and hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers offered personal condolences.
Meanwhile, a good many people lashed out at Warren and his family, some suggesting Pastor Warren and his wife (and Matthew's mother) Kay won't see their son again in heaven, either because, as many believe, those who kill themselves are not allowed into heaven, or because there is no such thing as heaven.
Said one USA Today poster from Cincinnati: "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...abandon primitive superstitions and accept the universe for what it is - a place that is utterly indifferent to us."
Another poster at NBCNews.com, asserted "the Warren Family is finally paying for all the Hate Speech that Rick bellows out on a regular basis. Maybe denigrating millions of people from your filthy pulpit isn't what your cult god wants you to do?"
Pastor Warren took a political stand for California's Proposition 8, which overturned legal same-sex marriage in 2008 and is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
There were as well a notable number of observers who, though not in agreement with Warren's faith, publicly decried the assaulting opinions being hurled at the pastor and his family.
"As an atheist, I agree with almost nothing Rick Warren believes, but he has lost a child and anything other than genuine sympathy and empathy for his loss seems, to me, to be beneath human dignity," wrote one poster at the Los Angeles Times website. "I am sure he is not (and should not be) reading these comments, but if he is or does, I hope he knows that even people with different views of the world can have empathy for him and his family at this time."
The Orange County Sheriff-Coroner's Department reported first-responders found Matthew Warren dead of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday, in his home in Mission Viejo, Calif.
A department spokesman said the estimated time of death was 10 a.m. Friday morning, according to a report by NBC News.
The sheriff's department had initially been called to the home at about 5:15 p.m. that afternoon.
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.
In an email sent to church staff Saturday morning, Pastor Warren said his youngest son, who had suffered depression throughout his life, had committed suicide.
"Despite the best healthcare available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled," the statement said. "No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now."