Archive | September, 2014

Young Life Pushed My Son to Suicide: An Update

22 Sep

About one year ago, Mechanic Dude stopped by and began to share his story.  A story that ends in tragedy…suicide.  You can read MD’s account of it here. But  beyond the tragedy of his son’s death, was the frustration he felt towards Young Life and the role he feels it played in his son’s decision to take his own life.  The reactions here on the Christian Agnostic and Young Life Watch have been mixed. Some Young Life folks have expressed sympathy, others have expressed a mix of sympathy towards MD but do not understand how he can blame Young Life.  But beyond that, a few have come in guns blazing and accused MD of making up the whole story, in an orchestrated effort to “take down” Young Life. The comment that pushed me to actually confirm MD’s story was this comment:

I have been around Young Life for more than a decade now and this story just absolutely DOES NOT line up with this organization. I have met people on every level of the organization, from the president and national board of trustees all the way down to the local area staff and volunteers, and none of this falls in line with Young Life. Here are my issues… Why is it that NOWHERE on the internet can you find a story about a teen committing suicide on a school property in or even near Reno, NV in 2007? Something like this would have had TONS of press. These days you should be able to substantiate that sort of account online. Yet i haven’t been able to do so at all. Why is it that when i called the Reno police dept., they have no record of this happening on any school property in the city or county? But even if that is me being calloused or insensitive, here is the other issue- THERE IS NO SUCH YOUNG LIFE CAMP IN LAKE TAHOE. Young Life doesn’t own any camp property in Lake Tahoe, or Nevada for that matter. There is not even another non-YL camp called “The Lake Tahoe Camp” in Nevada that maybe Young Life may had used. The author of this story either made this place up, or seriously got some facts incorrect. It sounds like, to me, someone is on a vendetta to attack the Young Life organization and is willing to fabricate a story and manipulate the emotions of others to succeed in their vendetta. And it sounds like the moderator of this website, along with many readers, have fallen for his every word. christianagnostic- for years now i have read your blog and comments on this site. While i disagree with your stance and position, I have generally found you (while in my opinion biased and one-sided) thoughtful and careful on what you both write yourself and allow on this site. Clearly you have always had an agenda, but have gone about that respectfully. I have appreciated your thought and care when publishing. But if you seriously are going to continue to allow this on your site, I believe you have lost your credibility, as the facts in these allegations are completely not true. I’d give you a pass on not researching things yourself because your emotions likely got wrapped up in this story (understandably). But now you know- Young Life doesn’t even own a camp there, so this just ridiculous, and the rest of the story should be taken with a grain of salt. I have been to Young Life camps for literally dozens of weeks of summer, and camp properties around the country over the last 10 years. I have seen many kids become Christians, and MANY MORE choose to not be Christians. NEVER in my life have i seen any kid reprimanded or treated poorly for not choosing to be a christian. These staff people would have been FIRED IMMEDIATELY, as it goes directly against Young life’s policies. Are you kidding me? This is absolutely absurd. This story just proves to me how easy it is to get on the internet and just write something, and ANYONE will believe it, regardless of how true it really is. I have seen people’s responses saying they will not have their kids involved in Young life because of THIS story. If they don’t want them involved because they don’t like Young Life’s methods, that is one thing, and i can respect that. But this is libel. Anybody (someone hurt by YL in the past, someone anti-religion, etc) could get on this site and completely fabricate a story and everyone will believe it. CA- you preach against young life’s deceitful tactics. if you want your site to be one of integrity and credibility, you should really research stories before you republish them yourself. But if it is your mission to beat up and damage an organization by any means necessary, including lies and deceit, then i guess by all means carry on.

To be honest, I was a little shocked at the vehement insistence that this story was a “fabrication”  based on a “vendetta”.  But none the less,  MD responded that he would be more than willing to confirm his story with me in private, so I could say with confidence that this is no fiction and that this is a real Father who is grieving a real son. I have to say, that I felt wrong about making MD prove his story to me.  I’ve never made other folks who state “I’ve been a YL area Director,  I am a current Young Life leader, etc….”  have to prove these claims.  Why make MD do it?  But after a long break from the blog, I was able to converse with MD off the blog and he provided just enough information for me to confirm for myself, that his story is true.

Here’s what I learned after about 10 minutes on the internet: MD’s son was a minor (17) when he committed suicide on the campus of his High School.  Some of the postings I found on-line were fellow classmates of his son and they describe essentially the same details that MD describes about his son.  He was bright, well-liked, and the sort of person that no one could believe he would ever do such a thing. For all those who believe that MD’st story is a fiction, you are wrong. It is not a fiction, it really happened and I’d appreciate it if you’d show a little respect and sympathy for a man who has lost a child in the most horrible way you can imagine. I think most of us will understand if your experience of Young Life is different than his….but he is entitled to say what he feels about Young Life,  just as you are free to disagree with what is said.  But it’s time to move past the petty arguments of whether this event actually occurred .

A Response 

Without trying to speak for MD, let me try and clear up some of the questions that were raised in the comment above:

  Why is it that NOWHERE on the internet can you find a story about a teen committing suicide on a school property in or even near Reno, NV in 2007? Something like this would have had TONS of press. These days you should be able to substantiate that sort of account online. Yet i haven’t been able to do so at all.

Well you can, but you’d probably have to know who you were looking for, and since MD does not wish to splash his family’s name all over the internet, then it may be hard for you to find any info online.  Also, suicides do not get a ton of press…I mean, yes-if you were already famous-then it will get lots of press.  But in my own recent experience, I know families who have lost son’s to suicide-guess what-no press, no articles, no nothing.  They were minors, so if the police were involved, the child’s name would not be released to the public or the press.  Your assumption that this sort of information would be all over the internet is incorrect.

Why is it that when i called the Reno police dept., they have no record of this happening on any school property in the city or county?

I really don’t know for sure, but it is my understanding that you can not request a police report over the phone.  And again, you’d have to know which incident or investigation you were looking for, in most cases.  You can click here to see what it usually takes to receive a copy of a police report.

THERE IS NO SUCH YOUNG LIFE CAMP IN LAKE TAHOE

Actually, there is a YL camp in Soda Springs, CA.  When I lived in Norther CA, we would have referred to this whole area as the Lake Tahoe area.  Soda Springs, Truckee, Emigrants Gap, Donner’s Pass, are all within a short drive of the actual west side of the Lake and would qualify as part of the Lake Tahoe area.  Even Reno’s airport is named the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.    Besides all that, Young Life does sometime rent facilities it doesn’t own.  In my own experience, YL would rent a facility in Harvey Cedars NJ and we also held some YL weekends at hotels in the Baltimore Inner Harbor area.

christianagnostic- for years now i have read your blog and comments on this site. While i disagree with your stance and position, I have generally found you (while in my opinion biased and one-sided) thoughtful and careful on what you both write yourself and allow on this site. Clearly you have always had an agenda, but have gone about that respectfully. I have appreciated your thought and care when publishing. But if you seriously are going to continue to allow this on your site, I believe you have lost your credibility, as the facts in these allegations are completely not true. I’d give you a pass on not researching things yourself because your emotions likely got wrapped up in this story (understandably). But now you know- Young Life doesn’t even own a camp there, so this just ridiculous, and the rest of the story should be taken with a grain of salt.

Well this comment feels like a back handed compliment.  I appreciate this person taking the time to read my blog for years and the compliment that you find me thoughtful and careful.  As for biased,  I am not sure what to say.  My experiences and opinions are my own, but I also allow anyone who differs with me to do so.  If I were completely biased, I wouldn’t allow you or anyone else who disagreed with me to comment.   You may want to ask yourself, how much of your own emotions and bias come into your allegation that MD’s story is not true.

I have been to Young Life camps for literally dozens of weeks of summer, and camp properties around the country over the last 10 years. I have seen many kids become Christians, and MANY MORE choose to not be Christians. NEVER in my life have i seen any kid reprimanded or treated poorly for not choosing to be a christian. These staff people would have been FIRED IMMEDIATELY, as it goes directly against Young life’s policies. Are you kidding me? This is absolutely absurd.

I am glad to hear that this is your experience.  In most of my own time in Young Life,  I saw pretty much the same thing….but not always.  I did witness some pretty hostile reprimanding at a Young Life camp on more than one occasion.  I’ve even seen some pretty unkind arguments between leaders and area directors at some others.  Just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

After all,  I’ve never witnessed YL leaders sexting teens, but it has happened.  I’ve never known leaders that were having sex with one of their YL kids, but it has happened at Timberwolf and Castaway.

Suffice to say, experiences of Young Life can be very different from person to person. I just plain tire at the accusations that I am out to get Young Life, or that MD’s story is the reason some kid doesn’t get to go to camp.  I am out to share my story and to allow others to share their stories as well.  If a parent reads this site and then decides that their kid isn’t going to camp or Young Life-then you haven’t earned the right to be heard.

Lastly, if you read something here that you disagree with-by all means-feel free to post your feelings about it.  I may or may not have to time to respond, and others may or may not agree with you.

But please do me a favor…play nice.

Especially with those who are sharing stories of abuse and suicide.  It’s just a common courtesy to show some respect for those who are hurting and grieving.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, or even believe them…but please remember that there’s enough pain and tragedy in this life.   Can we not add to it by beating up on those who are already beaten down?