Lost in all the mainstream media coverage of Robin Williams‘ death is the usual internal mutterings among Christian commentators about whether or not he was a believer.
An article on Charisma News speculates:
Dr. Ted Baehr, founder of Movieguide, spent time with the late Robin Williams on press junkets for movies — and he shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with the comedian who committed suicide.
“Once, Dr. Baehr shared Jesus Christ with Robin because they both grew up with a few similar parental beliefs,” Movieguide reports. “Robin had, at one point, accepted Jesus Christ in one of the recovery programs, but he was always searching and never quite finding.”
Earlier this week, Charisma News ran a piece called “Did Robin Williams Know Jesus Christ?” In it, Bryan Fischer wrote:
“The one thing we do not know is whether Robin Williams did business with God in his dying moments. While his mother was a Christian Scientist (a counterfeit form of religion that is neither Christian nor scientific), his father was an Episcopalian, so it is certainly possible that Williams heard the gospel in his formative years and may have remembered it all his life.”
Christian culture is centered on a narrative of from-this-to-that, the conversion or salvation narrative. I was once this, but now I am that. I was a sinner, God saved me dramatically, he can do the same for you. It’s a social currency that leaves good Christian kids without a dark past feeling lost and inadequate at times.
This narrative is so universal to Christian cultural understanding of life experiences that it becomes the first thing Christians are inclined to project on those outside of their world. For me, growing up, I knew little about the personal lives of my extended family members, but I definitely knew whether or not my parents had “shared the gospel” with them and whether or not they were “born again.”
And given the evangelizing trope of “do you know where you’ll go if you die tomorrow?” that is so dominant in Christian “outreach” training, it’s only natural that this is the question they’re obsessing over — even if it’s so remote and foreign to the actual issues at hand of his legacy as a comedian, the real corrosive disease nature of depression, and the harsh moral dilemma suicide tends to pose.
It’s interesting to observe that evangelical Christianity has drifted in its focus from the historical (Catholic) question regarding suicide: whether or not suicide is a mortal sin that can undo one’s salvation. By posing the question about a conversion experience, it seems that evangelical Christianity has concluded that suicide is not unforgivable, after all, as long as there was a conversion somewhere near the end.