Social Media Embraces, Attacks Warren Family

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(CNN) -- In the hours after learning the Rev. Rick Warren's son had killed himself, Beth Moore says she was swept with conflicting waves of emotion.

Moore didn't know Warren or his wife, Kay, personally. But as someone who had ministered to women on Warren's Saddleback Church campus several years ago, she felt a strong connection to the couple.

In a post on her Living Proof Ministries blog about Matthew Warren's suicide, Moore first explained her anger at the "satanic force" that would prey on weak children. Then she walks her readers through her struggle to understand suicide.

But most compelling is her frustration in trying to understand "trash talk" on social media from Christians attacking the Warrens, in addition to hateful posts from non-Christians.

For some reason, these people felt compelled to blame Warren for the death of his 27-year-old son or defend their position that suicide is an unforgiveable sin and therefore Matthew Warren would never be received in heaven. Hardly comforting thoughts for grieving parents.

Such posts don't seem to be flooding Warren's social media accounts. But Moore, who founded Living Proof Ministries and has written several books and Bible study courses aimed at teaching women about living a Christian life, was not alone in her frustration.

"Repulsed and embarrassed the way some professing-Christians are reacting to the tragedy in Rick Warren's family," tweeted @Dhdyer. "A tree is known by its fruit."

Even @HuffPostRelig tweeted, "If you are hating on @RickWarren in this horrible time you should be ashamed of yourself."

The day after his son's death, Warren tweeted and posted to his Facebook page the following message: "We pray 'Thy WILL be done on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN' since in heaven God's Will is done #always. On Earth, it's done rarely."

Over the weekend, Warren's Facebook page and Twitter feed were filled with thousands of supportive comments, many from people who shared their own emotional stories of losing someone to suicide. While some people referenced "hateful" comments directed at the family, they were not immediately evident on either site.

But negative messages are out there. Despite the success of Saddleback and book sales for "The Purpose Driven Life," Warren is far from a universally loved figure, in particular because of his anti-gay messages.

Twitter user Jeffrey Christian (@JeffreyChrist) describes himself as a "partnered, faithful friend" living in New York. On Saturday he posted, "Dear Rick Warren: now U know the 'anguished grief' parents of gay teen suicides feel after listening 2 U and UR ilk's anti-gay hate speech."

@LadyLNorth, who describes herself as a tea party supporter from Kansas and conservative mother of three boys, replied, "Can u not show some humanity & contain ur hate 4 even 1 day? A family lost a son. Show some class if compassion is beyond u."

@JeffreyChrist responded: "@LadyLNorth No hate here. ... And I hope his son is finally at peace. I'm not reveling in anyone's pain."

On the CNN.com story about Matthew Warren's death, more than 3,000 comments were posted.

"Christians are without question, the most HATE FILLED BIGOTED HYPOCRITES on the planet! Google it!" wrote urnemisis.

"You are right," wrote a user who chose not to register a name. "We are hypocrites. We are human. Christianity has become about us instead of about Christ. Many 'Christians' are filled with hate and are bigots. Have you ever stopped to think that perhaps the 'Christians' who act that way are not really Christians at all? Christian means 'Like Christ' and Jesus is not like that."

Which was exactly the sentiment Moore was wrestling with as she described taking a walk in the woods and crying angry tears.

"Life is hard enough without hatefulness rife in the Body of Christ," she wrote.

"I'm sick of the bullying. The mud-slinging and the meanness. I'm sick of careless, idle words thrown out there in the public square and professing believers in Christ standing on the necks of their own brothers and sisters to sound smart and superior. As if it's not enough that we are surrounded in this culture by Christian haters, we've got to have our own hater-Christians. It's insane."

On Tuesday, Warren posted to his Facebook page, "You're most like Jesus when you pray for those who hurt you, 'Father forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing.' "

Dorrine Mendoza, CNN

Greg Kabel

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