Content Warning: Disturbing Material
“After careful consideration I’ve decided to share a piece of literature that I came into possession of about 3 years ago entitled, “Suicide Ethics”, written by Dennis McCallum (head elder of the Xenos college group and co-founder of Xenos) and emailed out to the entirety of the college group, both students and leaders, in response to the suicides of not one, but two students who were members of Xenos. The email was sent about a month following the suicide of a high school student preceded by the suicide of a college student about a month prior. The email received so much backlash by leaders and students alike that McCallum was forced to “revise” it. The version I am sharing today is the revised version as I unfortunately could not locate the original in my email backlog. However, this version is almost identical to the original version with the addition of the most of the content leading into his main suicide admonitions. While there have been ongoing complaints about the controlling nature of this organization by former members and/or family members of congregants for years now, most of the evidence has been anecdotal in nature. It is my hope that in sharing this piece of literature penned by the head elder and co-founder of Xenos, that people can see and read for themselves about the culture of toxic shame that is at the heart of Xenos. I have been hesitant to share this for years now as I know the repercussions it may hold for the church’s reputation and the livelihood of the current leadership. However, the controlling nature and spiritual abuse of this organization has reached such a point that I can’t knowingly stand by any longer. Please know that what I share is not done out of hatred or with intentions of the destruction of this organization. On the contrary, it is my great hope that it will call attention to how toxic the sin-focused culture has become and possibly instill change; I hope sincerely that the church will seek to heal from the fear, control and shame culture that has become its core and choose instead to embrace a culture of love, peace, compassion and most of all, Grace.”
From an Anonymous Source
By Dennis McCallum
“During the past few years, Xenos student workers have withstood an unprecedented number of students contemplating suicide. We have also witnessed several actual attempts at suicide, including two successful attempts resulting in death. This frequency of suicidal thinking and acting out is in marked contrast to earlier decades. We are not alone in seeing a major increase in suicidal thinking. According to a 2016 PBS survey of research entitled, “Suicide Replaces Homicide as Second-Leading Cause of Death Among U.S. Teenagers,” this phenomenon is nationwide.
When trying to protect students from suicide, we have worked out plans that emphasize putting potential victims in touch with health care professionals, rather than trying to handle these cases ourselves. We also require disclosure to parents when the potential victim is a minor. Aside from these measures, we continue to offer emotional support, friendship, instruction, and counsel in the hope of avoiding death. We also remain committed to ministering God's compassion to the family members of those who commit suicide.
This paper is not for use in treatment of suicidal people. This is a position paper that could help prevent some from ever turning to suicidal thinking in the first place. For a paper on how to work with suicidal people, see Joe Botti’s paper on working those contemplating suicide.
In addition to therapy, we need to consider ethical (moral) dimensions of suicide. In our eagerness to help, we may come to view suicidal thinking more like a disease or a condition that happens to people, and mysteriously controls them. While depression and compulsions do have chemical imbalance as a factor, we do not want to lose sight of the sinful factor as well. Most people want to separate these two and either put depressed people in the disease camp or sinful camp. We as a church want to hold the truth of both positions. We want to have compassion and patience with the chemical factor and the confidence in God's promise and power to expect depressed people to choose positive steps towards healing. Only in cases of psychoses or the most extreme conditions involving complete loss of self control would suicide become a non-moral tragedy. (Consider that no prominent psychotherapeutic approach in use today has a category for sin. This makes it unlikely that our view as Bible believing Christians is going to coincide exactly with any secular approach). We want our students to understand that turning to suicide is horrific and wrong.
Consider these moral points on suicide:
Committing suicide is a serious sin, according to biblical teaching. We need to make sure our students know this. Suicide is so serious and so evil it easily out-ranks most other sins in prioritized ethical teaching. Even the most serious sins mentioned in scripture, like sexual immorality, drugs, or acts of violence are not as bad as suicide. This truth is in stark contrast to the way our culture romanticizes and excuses suicide (Romeo and Juliet, death metal, always referring to people as victims, never as agents, etc.).
Suicide is murder. In this case, the perpetrator and the victim are one and the same. Although the perpetrator in suicide murders him or herself, it’s still murder. Paul said, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). According to this passage, Jesus paid a terrible price to rescue us and we therefore belong to him. He gives us our lives and our bodies on loan as a temporary stewardship. He never gave anyone permission to kill their body, but rather to glorify God with it. Students need to know that when they contemplate suicide, they are really contemplating murder.
Suicide is like giving God the finger. Everything in your life, including things you may consider negative and painful, have been allowed by God. He knows exactly what you need to grow spiritually, and we have his promise that no trial in our lives is too much for us to bear (1 Cor. 10:13). One who decides to end his or her life implicitly denies this truth, and such unbelief is highly displeasing to God. Teenage students commonly experience wide swings in emotion, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. But those who trust in God and continue into adulthood nearly always see these problems alleviated.
Suicide is cruel. Suicide is like giving all your friends and family the finger—permanently. No matter how much your friends and family love you, none of them ever get the chance to help because you’re dead. Suicide cuts off all help and leaves everyone suffering. It’s not unusual for people bent on killing themselves to leave punishing notes, calculated to cause even more pain. Under claims of helplessness and despair often lie resentment, anger, and the desire to punish and torment others.
Suicide is foolish. Ending one’s life is a short term solution to a long term problem. Instead of having the patience and perseverance to solve his or her problems in God’s time and God’s way, suicide is an immediate and irreversible cop-out.
Suicide is intensely selfish. At the bottom line, one committing suicide considers his or her feelings more important than anyone else’s.
Finally, committing suicide is following the call of Satan. Jesus said of Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He also said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Satan sees your death as his final victory over you. He has forever removed you from the place of being able to contribute to the spiritual struggle going on.
No matter how bad a student’s problems might look, suicide is never the right response. If someone is determined to kill him or herself, we may not be able to stop them, though we have to try. But we want all of our students to know that if they move toward suicide in their thinking, they are contemplating, not an easy escape from life’s problems, but a desperately evil act in direct defiance of God’s will.
While we don’t believe that suicide is unforgivable (like Roman Catholics do) we do recognize that it is irreparable. The dead student gives up forever his or her chance to be a part of the struggle for God in this world. Instead, that student gives the evil one a resounding victory over the people of God, strongly suggesting to the nonbelieving world that following Jesus is dangerous and might lead to death. Dead students give up forever the chance to be healed later in life, and instead their action suggests that Jesus cannot heal people’s problems. Dead students give up the chance to have a successful, loving family. Nothing but regret follows a suicide, from the victim and from everyone else.”