A re-look at a faithful pilgrimage: 12-9/10-17
The urban nature of Christianity: 12-12-17

How clergy can help stop suicide: 12-11-17


A few weeks ago, the senior pastor of our congregation preached this terrific sermon about what it means to be a man today.

In it, he mentioned that most suicides are committed by men and lots of them have to do with guns.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, for instance, notes here that men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women and that white males accounted for 70 percent of the suicides in 2015. Beyond that, firearms are used in about half of all suicides, and firearms are the primary tool used by men. And, of course, guns are much more likely to produce death than other methods of suicide.

Which leads me to share this piece from Religion & Politics about a minister's efforts to prevent suicide and to minister to those who are tempted to commit it or who try but fail.

Since 1994, the story reports, the Rev. Rob Schenck has led the evangelical ministry Faith and Action on Capitol Hill: "A series of gun-related incidents over the past decade profoundly altered the trajectory of Schenck‚Äôs vocation. Until 2014, Schenck was perhaps best known as a prominent anti-abortion activist and for his work with Operation Rescue. Over the years, he began to see opposing gun violence as part and parcel of his pro-life work. It struck him how closely linked suicide was to gun violence. The latest available CDC figures reveal that suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 34, and nearly half of all suicides occur by firearms."

There have been efforts, including here in Kansas City, to help equip members of the clergy to recognize signs of depression in congregants, especially in those nearing the end of their lives, and to help such people get help. But that effort here lasted just a few years.

It may be time to find new ways to help religious leaders get the training they need to recognize in their parishioners the signs that may lead toward suicide. It's one of the most pro-life things that could be done.

(Right after I wrote this post I learned that the pastors of my own congregation, Second Presbyterian Church, have a sermon series planned for January about this very topic. It's called "Let's Talk: Honest Conversations about Emotional Wounds, Faith and Mental Illness." If you're interested, our services are at 8:15 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. Or by the next day a video of the sermon is posted on the church's website under the "Worship" tab.)

(The graphic here today is from this site on religion and suicide.)

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In the midst of all the serious news slamming us hourly, are you ready for a little satire? Me, too. Fortunately, The Onion brings it to us with this story, in which God is quoted as revealing that, in truth, Jerusalem is only the 87th most sacred city on the planet, even behind Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My guess is that Topeka still is way, way below all of those places.

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Pope-caringPope Francis and the Caring Society, edited by Robert W. Whaples. Pope Francis, in various encyclicals, talks and interviews, has said a lot about how Christians are to understand economics and weave its mysteries into a life of faith. Not all economists have agreed with everything he's said, nor have all theologians. But Frances, formed by his life in South America and his Catholic faith, has used his prophetic voice to stand for and with the poor and needy of the world and to critique economies that have helped to keep the poor in poverty. This interesting volume from the Independent Institute gathers together essays from several writers to, in turn, critique the pope's own critique. It's a lively conversation and a reminder that no single view of economics or theology holds all the truth. For instance, is Francis right, as Whaples writes in the introduction, "that wealth and abundant consumer goods and services are dangerous. . ."? The pope takes both criticism and praise in this book. And that balance advances the conversation and the understanding.

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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column -- focusing on a needed Christian response to all the sexual assault scandals we're hearing and reading about -- now is online here.


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