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
[twitter-follow screen_name='EricCNNBelief']

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)
  1. mickeygib

    CNN can't you find someone more deserving to champion ? Instead of promoting a con-man, you could find genuinely good people who could promote a good cause with the kind of celebrity that you are giving this purveyor of the supernatural. Please stop referring to Mr. Warren as America's pastor. He does not represent me nor millions of other Americans. Many of us are fed up with his type.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • frankiedel

      "you could find genuinely good people who could promote a good cause" .... mick, you are the definition of ignorance as you obviously have no clue the work that this man does both in his community and overseas. I'm guessing you have a difficult time getting off your computer let alone helping your neighbor. Do a little research before you shoot your mouth off.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Yeah, it's great how a representative of his organization gave false information about gays to the leaders of Uganda, compelling them to create laws that made being gay punishable by prison and death. Great work, Ricky. Nice hero, frankie. Are you a Hitler fan, too?

        September 17, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
        • frankiedel

          Please present your credible proof to support your claims and please don't be ignorant enough to compare whatever fantasy you want to contrive in your head with the holocaust.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
        • tallulah13


          September 17, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • lanceburch

      What type do you mean? This guy happens to pastor a large church. He does not take a salary at all and has repaid to the church every dime that it ever paid him. Of the royalties of his books and other income, he gives 90 percent of it away. He lives off of the other ten percent. He has partnered with churches in Africa to take on the AIDS epidemic long before it was cool to do so. He is genuine and humble.

      Do some research on the guy. Maybe you were thinking of someone else.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
      • tallulah13

        Of course, his way of stopping AIDs is to have gays killed. At least in Uganda. What a peach.

        September 17, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
        • frankiedel

          'Of course' you have proof to support your claim, right?

          September 17, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
        • lanceburch

          Link it to a credible source... or just admit that you have contrived the facts.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
        • tallulah13

          and again:

          September 17, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  2. Daniel Franzgrote

    I can empathize with the Warrens and am very sorry for your loss. I too am a suicide survivor. Piers, Please Google "Catherine Weiland Chicago" to understand. My condolences to the entire Warren family.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Athy

      "Suicide survivor"? Hm.

      September 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  3. Troy

    Religion IS mental illness.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • susan

      Please think before you write this kind of thing. I am not a church goer but I know plenty of people who are and they are all good people. :Your comment is very demeaning.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
      • mickeygib

        Religion deserves all of the " demeaning " it can get.

        September 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
        • You're Almost There


          September 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • haha

      My neighbor says h*mos@xuality is a mental illness, too.

      You both are wrong.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  4. vinster76

    as a former atheist, I do understand the vitriol and hatred from non-believers, regardless of how vicious that vitriol may be. I do understand it, But let me just say this: many of you have claimed there is not existence, or proof God exists...Well, get ready, cuz I'm about to clear it all up for you, ok? Here goes......now don't spew your hatred on me once I give you the answer, I don't need to hear that......Ok, you're supposed to be the intellectual, open-minded intelligentsia among us so don't let me down with hatred.....Ok? Good... Here goes.....The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the evidence of God....Ok, I didn't say you would like it, ok? In fact, the name of Jesus generates hatred not seen anywhere else on earth. But that's ok.....That same hate put Him on a cross a couple thousand years ago, so I think his shoulders can handle your feeble mouthings of disgust at the Name that is above all names.......Glad we cleared that up............Good nite!

    September 17, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Kathy Tuffy

      The resurrection of Jesus is not a fact. There is little if any evidence from a historical perspective, and only Christians who share the faith believe it is true. So, you are attempting to prove that there is a God by asking us to take it on faith. Not the strongest kind of argument, frankly.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
      • susan

        I One cannot see, smell, or hear electricity but we know it is there.

        September 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
        • Athy

          Actually, you can during a thunderstorm.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
        • cybermonkeytech

          It can be seen (sparks), heard (arcs), and felt (shocks). You could argue it can be smelled, by the ozone smell it can cause. Poor example.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
      • vinster76

        Kathy: you are wrong about flimsy evidence for the resurrection. Sorry, I know it interferes with what you have been told, but the evidence is actually there if you search for it. One of the greatest archeologists once claimed, " the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the best attested facts in history". Again, I understand why that may be a burden for non-believers, I myself was once one.....I did some studying about my tireless doubts (I was an agnostic) from some of the smartest believers in the world (and they are out there). I have come to the opposite conclusion......If you are searching for any relief from the lonely, cold, desolate belief in atheism, it is out there.....good luck to you.

        September 17, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
        • tallulah13

          The evidence isn't flimsy, it's nonexistent. There is not a single reputable source even for the life of Christ, much less he "resurrection."

          If you actually have evidence, please provide it. The world has been waiting for 2000 years.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
      • I think therefore I am an Athiest

        God must have BO by now. Geez all those years and with the resurrection and all. I wouldn't think that he would be a deodorant user. Really people....lose the religion and live a real life!

        September 18, 2013 at 3:51 am |
    • a believer

      you may enjoy C.S. Lewis's experience of conversion as well:


      I hope you find it helpful.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
      • tallulah13

        I have my own story of conversion, thanks. I used to think I was a christian, then I realized that what I had was nothing more than a cultural habit. When I examined what and why I believed, I was rather sad that I had wasted so much time believing in religious nonsense perpetuated by priests and pastors who had a vested interest in maintaining belief. There is not a shred of evidence to support the existence of any god, not even the christian god.

        September 17, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
        • frankiedel

          The Good News is that Jesus seeks for that one lost sheep ... I have confidence you'll rediscover what you feel you've lost. Christ truly loves you, knows you and just asks for you to surrender to his call. I honestly will pray for you and to this end.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
        • Commenter


          1. How about if you let this Jesus do the enlightening job then? All we hear is hammering and yammering from you.

          2. A shepherd keeps his sheep for a couple of reasons:
          - Profit from their wool and from their skins & flesh at slaughter.
          - A yummy dinner.
          The guy who thought up that analogy was silly.

          September 17, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
        • frankiedel


          Jesus says, 'Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear' ... I pray your ears and eyes would be opened and that you'd accept His truth.

          September 17, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Frankie, I'll ask you the same thing I asked vinnie before he scarpered off in defeat: Prove it. Provide evidence that your god actually exists. The world has been waiting for 2000 years.

          September 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Troy

      You mean the resurrection that is exactly like the Egyptian resurrection of Osiris?


      September 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
      • AE

        "Osiris was murdered and his body was then dismembered and scattered. Later, his body pieces were recovered and rejoined, and he was rejuvenated. Osiris then journeyed to the underworld, where he became the lord of the dead. He did NOT resurrect with a glorified body and walk with men on earth, as did Jesus. He was not alive again, as was Jesus, but was instead a “dead” god who never returned among the living"


        September 17, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          So the writers of the bible had a bit of imagination and changed the story a little bit. Neither are supported by evidence.

          September 17, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
        • AE

          Native Americans had stories involving a virgin birth and resurrections.

          September 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
      • vinster76

        CS Lewis was an expert on mythology so I think he would have been the first to acknowledge any attempts at confusion between myth, and the resurrection of Christ......the two are not related......

        September 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
        • tallulah13

          Prove it, vinnie. You just keep making hollow claims. What's your proof? Lets see some links to peer reviewed papers and verified sources. You christians make a lot of claims, but when it comes time to back them up, all you ever have is hearsay and special feelings.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  5. children of Israel

    Even Judas hanged himself, that is suicide. Do you feel sorrow for him for betraying his own brother. *Matthew 13:55 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? *James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. *Romans 11:1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. *1st Samuel 10:20 And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken. *Psalm 105:6 O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen. *John 13:18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: (Genesis 27:29)

    September 17, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  6. Jakkfrost

    He bought the gun online illegally and the parents knew about it. Hmm that sounds like a crime to me.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • interesting

      He was 27.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  7. Name*john

    "The fool has said in his heart that there is no God". I see we have a few on here.

    September 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Kathy Tuffy

      If there is a God who could end suffering and chooses not to, then I choose not to worship that God, because I would end suffering if I had that power.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
      • susan

        And I would say you have no comprehension of what it is all about

        September 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
      • vinster76

        Kathy: I made the point earlier, and I will make it again for the final time. If you knew the Word of God, you would know it is not God's intention that he be the great Santa to all of us here, that he kiss all our boo boos, and we will never know sorrow, suffering, loss or pain....His Great Mission was the Incarnation of Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ so mankind, in all it's sin and depravity, (which, by the way, has not abated one iota since man has appeared on the earth) could be reconciled to Him through one sacrifice for all time....That's it, there is NO other reason, and no other way to God.........all roads go THROUGH Jesus.....

        September 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
      • AE

        Christianity definitely is not a suffering avoidance program. It is clear we will go through suffering in this world, and God goes through it with us. God suffered and endured. So can I.

        September 17, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • susan

      More than a few

      September 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • tallulah13

      As far as I can tell, the fool is the one who believes in a god that cannot be proven to exist. An even bigger fool is the one that quotes the book that tells them to believe in that god, as if that book was anything other than propaganda used to bolster the faith in their made-up god.

      September 17, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
      • dmj

        Just like your name implies "over dramatic"!!!!!

        September 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  8. JLBachs

    I listen to Rick's show Daily Hope almost every day. He encourages me. My life would be less than what it is without hearing him. One thing that I've heard time and time again from him is whatever bad thing has happened to a person, consider it as though it had happened to you. Think about the grief he and his wife must have. How can you turn this into a circus? Grieve with him, pray for him, and love him. Isn't that what you would want people to do for you?

    September 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Athy

      Frankly, no. It won't help me, and it wastes their time.

      September 17, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
  9. annier

    If rick warren was my dad, i'd kill myself, too. a great big bag of fame-seeking D. OUCHE.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • interesting

      "Due to the success of his book sales, in 2005 Warren returned his 25 years of salary to the church and discontinued taking a salary. He says he and his wife became "reverse ti-thers", giving away 90% of their income and living off 10%"


      September 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
      • mickeygib

        Ever hear of voodoo economics, or fuzzy math ?

        September 17, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
      • nlg

        SInce his book has sold over 40 million copies at the average of $11 each, he shouldn't accept a salary for pastoring. If you add in the seven other books he has written along with the Celebrate Recovery Program starter kit that he splits with John Baker....I'd say he does quite well. This is akin to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which represents about 6% of their worth. The fact that he leaked this "selfless act" to the press speaks volumes about possible motivations and character......Don't you think? The only display of anger that Jesus showed was directed towards the money changers at the temple; people making money for themselves using God's name to do it. Try again when making a case for this guy.

        September 17, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • susan

      Unworthy remark from one who speaks without thinking.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  10. Jim Steele

    My condolences to the Warrens for the loss of their son, and to any other parent, whether they be Christian, Muslim, Agnostic or Atheist. I hope no one has to know that pain.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Wassup

      Thank you for your thoughtful compassionate post.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • thebraveatheist

      My best wishes to Pastor Warren and his family. I can't believe some of the trolls on this board! This is not about religion, it is about a poor young man who took his own life and how the grieving parents are dealing with it. Whatever gets them through gets them through. I have a 20 year old daughter and if she ended her life I think that I would have to be committed, so I'd say that the Warrens are a pretty strong couple and actually walk the walk as well as talk.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
      • mickeygib

        Our parents make us what we are. I suspect his religious nut parents screwed up the wiring in his brain. They are so delusional that they probably don't even see that they are responsible for what happened.

        September 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  11. omeany

    My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one especially to suicide.

    I do wish the church as a whole would acknowledge that the concept of hell is borrowed from much older religions and used over the centuries as a way to keep the flock in line.

    Sadly, when Christian parents that lose a child must also grapple with the concept of a child spending eternity in hell. This is not true and just extra cruelty needlessly heaped on them at a time when they need to be assured of God's love..

    September 17, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Um...if you can't take God at His word when it comes to Hell, how can you take His word when it comes to love? We cannot pick and choose what we like in the Scriptures-He has revealed Himself to be overflowing in grace and mercy–yet He is also just in all that He does. Hell isn't a concept friend.

      September 17, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Heaven and Hell. Just your imagination.

        September 17, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
        • mickeygib

          Amen !!

          September 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
  12. God is my Source

    I weep for the lost who are posting here. May God help them.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Athy

      There is no god so they'll have to help themselves.

      September 17, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
      • You're Almost There

        So original.

        September 17, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • doobzz

      I weep for overcooked fettuccine. May the FSM help them all.

      September 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I have GPS, I'm never lost... Praise science!...

      September 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  13. Deven

    I think Church needs to do more. I use to be bullied in Middle School because of my Speech Impediment and ADHD. My belief in god is what kept me strong and away from suicidal. Bullying is a horrible thing. A bully doesn't recognize that when they bully someone they are ripping that person apart Emotionally. Trust me I know how hard being bullied can be. I went threw hell when I was being bullied.

    I personally think one way of stopping bullying in America is for schools to teach kids how bad bullying is and what it does to someone emotionally.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • Dippy

      Through, not threw. And don't capitalize common nouns. You get C-.

      September 17, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  14. mason

    Matthew may have been sane but was mentally tortured by having to listen to the irrational nonsense his monotheistic parents espoused. That could drive a person to suicide.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  15. clutch762

    Piers Morgan needs to go back to strip mall journalism school and learn how to report things objectively.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • QS

      Every single religious person on this planet needs to learn how to objectively employ logic and reason in their lives.

      September 17, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
      • AE

        There are religious people who demonstrate a great understanding of logic and reason. It doesn't seem to be the determining factor between being an atheist, agnostic or theist.

        September 17, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
        • QS

          If they believe in an omnipotent being of any kind, I cannot agree that they demonstrate logic or reason.

          September 17, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Agreed (except where you imply that an agnostic isn't also either atheist or theist). But, I think intelligent people should consider that intellect seems to dampen fundamentalism and does not advance any form of god belief over any other. It's not like all the scientists who do believe in god believe in the same one.

          September 17, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
        • AE

          "If they believe in an omnipotent being of any kind, I cannot agree that they demonstrate logic or reason."

          If they have experiences in their life that reveal God, it would be logical and reasonable for them to believe in God.

          September 17, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  16. Pi

    I think the important thing to ask here is: did Piers Morgan actually let Mr. Warren get in a word or two? Because in every interview I've seen this clown conduct, it's the "Piers Likes to Talk Over His Guests Show"...

    September 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  17. Carolina Rock

    Here's the real news:

    "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. "

    I love Jesus, and I am a Christian, but I want nothing to do with most "Evangelicals". They are the proverbial bull in the China shop, ultimately doing much more harm with their ignorant beliefs, than any good they ascribe to.

    The brain, like any other organ can fail. It doesn't take a believe in modern medical science to realize. Just common sense.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • QS

      I'm sorry, but this is hilarious to me.

      Religious people who share the same beliefs, just to a different degree, stating that those other people who believe what they believe are the ones with ignorant beliefs, not them!

      September 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
      • Carolina Rock

        I can see a big difference between...

        an atheist who is tolerant, and not antagonistic towards Chritisians, or other believers


        an atheist who hates everyone who doesn't believe the same way they do.

        Self-righteousness is not just the property of religous folk it seems...


        September 17, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
        • ALBERT


          September 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
        • Dippy

          Don't shout, man. We can hear just fine.

          September 17, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
  18. Name*Chedar

    Consciousness reigns not God. Therefore, our life evolved in consciousness one of the 5 Skandas we are made up with that operates our daily life. Without being able to handle ones consciousness, tragedy is inevitable.

    September 17, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Jill

      Name@Chedar, remember, never pass up an opportunity to watch an elephant paint Mozart.

      September 17, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • Athy

      Translator please. Anybody out there speak gibberish?

      September 17, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  19. MN

    The suicide of this person was HIS choice and not his parents!

    September 17, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
  20. Matt

    Wow. a lot of sick, evil people posting here.

    We will pray for you.

    September 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      Matt: Can you be any more of a condescending cvnt?

      September 17, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Gordo

      Matt, as usual, we'll think for you.

      September 17, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • QS

      What for, to stroke your already bloated religious ego and make yourself feel powerful and important?

      September 17, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Elizabeth


      September 17, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
    • doobzz

      Wow, a lot of arrogant, condescending assholes here, thinking anyone cares about them talking to themselves on behalf of others.

      September 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
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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.