When the church won’t step up

English: United States Army Suicide Prevention...

United States Army Suicide Prevention Poster

While depression and suicide have their societal causes, my first response to reading an editorial in the online version of The Japan Times is that preventing suicide is not the role of government. The politically sarcastic side of me wants to know how government can cure a problem that it has a large role in causing?

My initial reaction to Japan’s large suicide rate was one of surprise. But as I read the article the answers became clearer. Then my questions and thoughts began to turn to this country and my own sphere of influence. Look at what The Japan Times writes:

“Japanese society is facing a crisis. Although the number of suicides in 2011 was about 1,000 less than in 2010, an increasing number of people aged 15 to 39 killed themselves because they could not find work.”

Here in America the real unemployment rate is somewhere north of 15% — that’s the number the U.S. Department of Labor attaches to those who are totally unemployed plus those working only part-time who continue to seek full-time employment (that includes those working as little as one hour a week).

Statistically speaking, in a church of 350 people on any given Sunday morning, at least 53 people are not earning a paycheck or are earning too little in which to feed themselves and pay bills.

What are we doing to help these people financially and socially?

While The Japan Times reports that America’s suicide rate is half that of Japan’s, it should still be a concern to many people; if nowhere else, depression and suicide should be a much larger concern in America’s churches than it is. Instead, I think it’s one of those taboo topics that we simply don’t talk about, even when it happens within the church.

My purpose is not to draw distinctions or parallels between the Japanese and American cultures insofar as religion is concerned. My purpose is to use the aforementioned editorial as a prompt for thought and a call for discussion and action in our churches.

I think we can agree that depression and suicide have their societal causes. Divorce, loss of a job, the death of a spouse and bullying are just a few of the instances we can cite as the cause of depression and suicide. In fact, I witnessed in one church the aftermath of a teenage suicide that was the result of bullying and some even uglier allegations of abuse. Again I ask: what is the church doing to help people cope, and in some cases, stop the incidences of bullying and divorce within our local communities? What are we doing to help people through the loss of a job, whether that’s to provide sustenance and comfort during unemployment, or to help them find gainful employment? How is the church working to curb the high rate of suicide among America’s military members?

Solving depression and suicide is not the role of government. Sad to say many cultures, including our own, have bought into the notion that government’s role is much larger than originally intended and should therefore be involved in the social issues of divorce, depression and suicide.

It’s time the church stepped up and began to tackle the larger issues that affect our society. It’s not government’s job: it’s ours as Christians!

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