Bay Area comedian Robin Williams continues to be in the news for his suicide. His friend Rob Schneider pointed out to The Independent on Sunday, Aug. 17 that one of the side effects of the Parkinson's disease medication is suicide.
There is no doubt Williams will be missed for many of the pictured roles that show his range. His loss has elicited days of international shock, so how odd is it that Schneider—not exactly known for playing to the cerebral—would be the first major voice to make a connection to medical side effects?
Then again, most of those long-winded, small-print-like footnotes in all of those pharmaceutical ads we see on television have death as a possible side effect. Drug revenue suggests that between our hypochondria and the clever nature of those ads, those worries are not as important to the American consumer as the condition the pill treats. If side effects do not get in the way of erectile dysfunction or weight-loss medication, why would they in dealing with Parkinson's Disease?
The reasons for his tragic suicide are issues for his family, doctors and God. That does not stop society from seeking to define their relationship with each other.
Former KISS star Gene Simmons suggested people suffering from depression should kill themselves. This should surprise no one, nor should his retraction and apology. Diff'rent Strokes actor Todd Bridges at one point called suicide a selfish act, something he later was very remorseful about in another Independent article attributing his comments to having been hurt when his friend committed suicide without reaching out to him.
How sincere these apologies are or how much their actions can be attributed to their own experiences is between those people and God. It is not our place to judge them, as anyone objectively examining themselves knows they have said offensive things in circumstances, whether they were not dumb enough to declare them to the world or just not famous enough to have anyone care.
It was in fact a judgmental attitude that got Simmons and Bridges in trouble. How would it be good to then judge them?
What we all must do is learn what can be learned from it or otherwise seek to give this tragedy purpose. Christian Post did a great piece on Aug. 12 about how Jesus Christ would have handled someone battling life-long depression. It looks at the lessons Christianity can learn from his death and how to minister to someone like Williams.
Perhaps the above poorly-chosen comments bring the entire picture into focus. If we are not going to judge someone's relationship with God in life, why do some Christians feel the need to judge it in death?
The most important thing we can do is address the long-held belief that suicide is a condemnable sin. People suffering from depression may not be able to handle one more weight on their shoulders, so that threat may not save anyone. In fact, many do not even think their soul is worth saving.
For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay on men's shoulders; but they will not move them with one of their fingers. (Matthew 23:4, NKJV)
If one can die some time later from a physical wound, why not an emotional one? Whatever its origin, depression is as much a medical condition as arthritis, complete with limitations, pain and a mixture of good and bad days that can be manageable with the right treatment.
Besides, there is only one condemnable sin in the Bible—blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31). Scriptures are open to interpretation—most Christians no longer believe that they justify slavery or even forbid interracial marriage—and no one can honestly be sure they know just where that line is. Who knows what new revelations God will give us to increase our understanding of salvation issues?
For now it is best to not think we know how a last chance to accept Him is offered. Any repentance even at the moment of death is enough for a forgiving God poorly represented by judgments of His people unqualified to make them. We should pray Williams found the peace in the next life that he could not in gaining the respect of millions or getting billions of laughs, because it is more Christian to want everyone saved than to declare someone losing the battle with depression is not.