September 17th, 2013
08:40 AM ET

Rick Warren opens up about son's suicide in exclusive interview

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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Lake Forest, California (CNN) - Rick and Kay Warren stood outside their son's home, sobbing in each other's arms.

They knew.

They had talked Matthew, 27, off the ledge many times. But not this time.

A nod from a police officer who inspected Matthew's house confirmed their worst fears.

“I just hit the ground,” Kay Warren said.

On April 5, Matthew Warren killed himself with a gun after a lifelong battle with mental illness.

“The day that I had feared might happen one day, since he had been born, and the day that I had prayed would never happen … happened,” Rick Warren told CNN's Piers Morgan in an exclusive interview.

For the first time since Matthew Warren's death on April 5, Rick and Kay Warren are speaking out about his troubled life, how the tragedy changed their faith and their new mission to draw attention to mental illness.

The full interview aired Tuesday night on CNN’s "Piers Morgan Live" at 9 pm ET.

In 1980, Rick and Kay Warren founded Saddleback Church,  now one of the largest in America, in Orange County, California. Twelve years later, Warren published "The Purpose Driven Life," a runaway best-seller that catapulted the pastor into stardom.

At the same time, though, their son Matthew Warren struggled with borderline personality disorder and deep depression for much of his life, the Warrens told CNN.

He had a loving family and access to mental health care, but not even that could spare him, they said.

Matthew was a young man with a "tender heart and tortured mind," Rick Warren said.

“If love could have kept my child alive, he'd be alive today, because he was incredibly loved,” he added.

The Warrens also spoke during the interview about how their son's death has affected their Christian faith.

GALLERY: Rick Warren over the years

“I never questioned my faith in God; I questioned God’s plan,” Rick Warren said. “God isn’t to blame for my son’s death. My son took his life. It was his choice.”

Slightly more than half of Americans - 53% - think that churches should do more to prevent suicide in America, according to a new poll by LifeWay Research, a Christian company based in Nashville.

Evangelicals and other Americans appear to disagree, however, about using religion to overcome mental illness, according to the LifeWay poll, which surveyed some 1,000 Americans and was released on Monday.

Nearly half of evangelicals, 48%, say that people with serious mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can be cured by Bible study and prayer alone. Sixty percent of Americans overall disagree.

The Warrens want to spread the word that even though their story had a tragic ending, “there’s hope,” Kay Warren said during the interview with CNN.

“It’s so important that people know, no matter how desperate their despair, there is hope, and not to give up.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Death

soundoff (1,210 Responses)

    He was probably a closet gay who killed himself after a lifetime of being ridiculed by his parents.

    September 20, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Jennifer

      I believe they are reshowing the interview today at 6:00 Pacific Time. It would be a great opportunity to listen and find out if your comment is justified or not.

      September 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  2. tea party god is ted cruz

    Religious nuts call this a suicide, the rest of us call it karma. You reap what you sow, rick warren. Enjoy bring your son

    September 19, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Gort1

      What a phony! He couldnt save his own son, what can he do for the rest of us? Nothing but take money and live like a king! gross!

      September 20, 2013 at 7:21 am |
      • Jennifer

        Did you watch the full interview? Have you ever been personally affected by suicide? From your comment, I would bet your answer is "no". Until you have, don't try to even understand what can or can't be done to prevent suicides from happening.

        September 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  3. tea party god is ted cruz

    I wonder if Ricky was a pedo. Most men of god seem to be

    September 19, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
  4. Huw Thomas

    His son was a vessel of wrath predetermined unto destruction. As a blind leader of the blind, so is Warren the father.

    September 19, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • Willy Kitheka

      Thomas, WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE? And to post a comment like that in a public blog, REALLY? Shame on you!

      September 20, 2013 at 3:04 am |
      • Huw Thomas


        I have been called out of darkness into glorious light. That means I have a duty to judge all things. To discern between what is true and what is false and to expose the works of darkness. I shall continue to do my duty.

        September 24, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  5. Jim

    Jesus is the way, the truth, and the Life.

    saveusa (dot) us

    September 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Athy

      Jesus is dead and will never return. Wake up and smell the truth. It's quite refreshing.

      September 18, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • M.A.P.

      @Jim – when you jesus freaks start talking like that it repells intelligent people. Can't you say anything that doesn't sound like your a brainwashed psychopath from 200AD?

      September 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
      • Dippy

        You're, not your.

        September 22, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
    • Michele

      “The day that I had feared might happen one day, since he had been born, and the day that I had prayed would never happen … happened,”

      Maybe he should have stopped praying and focused all that attention on actually doing something about helping his son. Action speaks louder than words. They failed their son.

      September 23, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
      • storm

        Prayer works very well when we trust God, do His will and not ours and live by His rules. God's ways are higher than man's ways. Since God make heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in creation, His instruction would naturally be superior to ours, therefore when we make claims we have special blueprints for how man should live- we arrogantly step out in rebellion. why would God honor that kind of pride?

        September 23, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
      • Ronald

        They did not fail there son. I have been personally involved with relatives that suffer from the same type of disorder. It can be exhausting and it can occupy all of your time and resources. In the end, you cannot control what a person is going to do. The only answer is psychiatric hospitalization, and that is often a temporary solution. It is difficult to hospitalize someone that does not want to be hospitalized. If you are lucky enough to hospitalize them, it is often just a temporary fix. In the end, you cannot be there for them 24/7. If they want to die, they will die. You maybe able to prevent it temporarily, but they will find a way to finish themselves. The surviving family members have to realize that there is nothing that they could have done differently.

        September 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
        • storm

          I think what's making this issue so compelling is the fact that the man who killed himself is the son of a well known self described "Christian" so doesn't it beg the question, how could this happen? What went wrong if the man's father is supposedly trusting in God? Did God fail? No way. It is satan who destroys lives and has been given the power to take a human life. Didn't Jesus say He came to give us life more abundantly if we walk with Him?? If we read and understand God's word we know that God always honors His word 100% for those who walk uprightly. But God has also told us he will turn away from those who rely on their own power, ideas and philosophies. NOBODY has a better "blueprint" for living for human beings than God! He is the creator and the author of life itself. When so called godly people do not walk in accordance with God's word, And do not stand on the promises of God, it is written:

          John 15:5 – I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
          2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
          Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arro­gancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate (KJV

          September 26, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  6. Hellen Cue

    What a sadness¡¡¡ Porque tanto ateismo??? yo pensé que ustedes conocian al Dios vivo y verdadero.....yo soy testigo de que Dios es real por lo que Jesucristo hizo por mi y porque provengo de una familia con enfermedades mentales y en la adolescencia yo ya lo padecía, pero oré a Dios con todo mi corazón y fe y EL ME SANO, no tengo mas depresion ni ningun trastorno desde hace 20 años, JESUCRISTO SALVA Y SANA pero sólo si hay FE.

    September 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • WhatuntheWorls

      Su dios es tan poderoso que puede curar la ended mesas pero no evitar que suceda? Sufrimiento por gusto?

      No me suena que es un dios que ama al ser humano si lo permita sufrir. Y que me dices de todos los demas que so curo? Purp cuento con fuente en la ignorancia.

      September 18, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  7. another one bites the dust

    Allahu akhbar! Allahu akhbar! Another evangelical down. And by his own hand. Too many more to go! Keep preaching your faith healing bible cures!

    September 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • 616

      Wow, you are a twit.

      September 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  8. another one bites the dust

    No difference between warren, Jeff's, or bin laden

    September 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  9. Ken Roberts

    The fool has said in his heart there is no GOD. Read the book of Proverbs, what an amazing book of "wisdom". The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Seek Him and find Him like the Warrens and the millions of people down through the centuries and today in many parts of the world have.

    September 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • WhatintheWorld

      You mean the millions who were forced, under pain of death or torture, to pledge their faith in a sky fairy? I am certain that a fairly large portion did not believe but could not express those beliefs freely until very recently. That is what belief in god hath wrought.

      You direct me to a book written about god by believers as proof that there is a good? Circular and self-serving. Thanks, I'll pass.

      September 18, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Alliance)

      "When a Christian reaches for their book to reference a quote... you know they are about to lie their ass off..." ~LET

      September 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm |

      Ken, read about what Christians did to Hypatia because she wouldn't convert to Christianity. And she only lives in history because she was a famous mathematician. Who knows how many long-forgotten others suffered a similar fate because of their non-christian beliefs. Just google Hypatia and enjoy.

      September 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      A fool says in his mind there is god, and I need to worship him, since there is no evidence at all that (he) exists.

      September 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • doobzz

      " Read the book of Proverbs, what an amazing book of "wisdom". "

      Truer words were never typed. And by that I mean that the quotation marks you used are completely appropriate.

      September 18, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Hello

      Read Caesar's Messiah by .Joseph Atwill and learn who created the christian myth and why

      September 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
  10. B Mead

    The story of Abraham says it best. Here's a guy willing to off his son to prove his faith to Gawd. So, whats the kid supposed to think about this? Gee dad, you tell me you love me one minute but in the next you have no qualms about killing me to prove something? How do you think that makes me feel? Like most theocracies christians have a built in method to alienate the children telling them that there's a bogyman up there they need to love more than than them. Its not surprising religeous folk are just plain nuts, their childhoods have been ruined having played second fiddle to a boogyman.

    September 18, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  11. Realist


    {{{{{{ ahem, clears throat }}}}}

    Your http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ...

    ... and thank goodness because he emanates from ...

    ... The http://www.EVILbible.com


    September 18, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Realist


      {{{{{{ ahem, clears throat }}}}}

      Your http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ...

      ... and thank goodness because he emanates from ...

      ... The http://www.EVILbible.com


      September 18, 2013 at 11:45 am |
      • Realist


        {{{{{{ ahem, clears throat }}}}}

        Your http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ...

        ... and thank goodness because he emanates from ...

        ... The http://www.EVILbible.com


        September 18, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  12. Michael Davis

    God has been given such a bad rap. That is part of the reason for my wanting to start a church. You guys can go on for lengths about prove it, disprove it, and it really doesn't matter. Take all the religious psychobabble, throw a lot of common sense at it, if it sticks, and it works in your head, file it away for future reference. If it doesn't make sense to you, then it probably doesn't make sense to a lot of people. Trash it and go on. This will be a unique experience for everyone. All I am saying is lets get together on the things we can agree on and show it to the world. At least you're thinking....and to me that proves you want to believe. But we have to give you something to believe in... Life is wonderful and horrible at the same time. Give Spirit the chance and it will prove itself over and over again.

    September 18, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Alliance)

      You have brains in your head.
      You have feet in your shoes.
      You can steer yourself
      any direction you choose.
      You're on your own.
      And you know what you know.
      And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go....
      – Dr. Seuss, (Oh! The Places You'll Go!)

      September 18, 2013 at 10:40 am |
      • Michael Davis

        I agree totally...yet I'm not an atheist. Love the book.

        September 18, 2013 at 10:42 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          @Michael – the LAST thing this world needs is another church... Please found a school instead...

          September 18, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • Realist


      {{{{{{ ahem, clears throat }}}}}

      Your http://www.GODisIMAGINARY.com ...

      ... and thank goodness because he emanates from ...

      ... The http://www.EVILbible.com


      September 18, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      We already got together on the things we can agree on at Nicea. Stop being an instigator.

      September 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
      • Michael Davis

        Really? You're ready to discredit all other faiths? Keep believing your man inspired rules and regulations. God is not for Christians only....sorry to disappoint you in your narrow vision. Instigator? Laughable. Pray that you come to understand Gods Love for everyone. Not just those of the Christian faith.

        September 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Who said God loves only Christians?

          September 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
        • Michael Davis

          Your reference to Nicea insinuated that....Nicene Creed basically judge agrees on the rank and order of the Christian faith from what I gather. If I am wrong, please enlighten me.

          September 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • Bill Deacon

          Not sure I can enlighten you but yeah, you're wrong.

          September 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
        • Michael Davis

          Great reply Bill, get your facts straight before you try to derail others. If anyone is an instigator in these debates it's you. Pray for understanding.

          September 19, 2013 at 9:29 am |
        • doobzz

          Michael, don't bother with Bill Deacon. He's a known liar and Roman Catholic apologist. He's a bit put out because there haven't been enough pope stories lately.

          His big thing is making excuses for the RCC's continued conspiracy to cover up peodphilia in its clergy, what he terms a "judgement call".

          September 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
        • Michael Davis

          Thanks for the update...he doesnt seem to have even the facts of his own faith in line.

          September 19, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • dmj

      Amen and Amen

      September 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
      • another one bites the dust

        Allahu akhbar!

        September 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Sam

    All these millionaire pastors and their billion dollar a year revenue churches. Its a sham. It is no different than a politician, greedy businessman. His product is religion and he is selling it extremely well. I personally don't know Rick Warren, but I very well know his breed. Sham people like him exist in every religion. Just look at his choice of words. It is a full PR machine at work. Children of such a family always have a tough time growing up because they see a lot of duplicity, lies, illusions, hypocrisy up close. Very close. Go to a small poor church or temple or whatever. That is where I find real comfort of spirituality.Living a highly materialistic life, greed for luxuries and real spirituality just do not mix well- my two cents.

    September 18, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  14. doctore0

    Selling false hope.. .swimming in money. How can they live with themselves

    September 18, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  15. Cynthia

    I do not agree! I am religious! I also live with bipolar 2 disorder and I believe that there is a very good chance that my life will end in suicide. It does not matter how religious a person is, I wish it did! This is a brain disorder!

    September 18, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Sea Otter (Leader of Allied Atheist Alliance)

      :(... "I believe that there is a very good chance that my life will end in suicide"... 🙁

      September 18, 2013 at 10:36 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.