Thursday, January 10, 2008

Joel Osteen is a Flake

It has taken a while to get back into the swing with the Oregon trip for xmas and my Buckeyes laying another egg in the National Championship Game. But I've been catching up on my reading and I just read this article about Joel Osteen's new book on the Slate. I've seen him before but I've paid as much attention to him as any other mega church preacher, which is next to nil. I was interested now because my Dad's new girl friend gave him a copy of the book to read. Dad has always been a Christian and gone to church, but his new lady is way churchy. So I was a bit concerned about Joel's message. From what I can gather other than being a ridiculous cheesedick there isn't much to worry about in his message.

It sounds like his message, in this book at least, is a mix between a generic self improvement book and The Secret. He suggests that God wants us to have good posture and to learn to smile on purpose. Which while it seems silly God would care isn't bad advice for anyone. Even I, as a person who slouches and usually has a scowl on his face, would have a hard time arguing with these points. What is rather disturbing to me is how active God is in helping Joel just because he is a good positive person.

For it turns out that the divine hand turns up everywhere, at least in Joel Osteen's life. God upgrades his reservations to first class on a long international flight; God spares his car in a water-planing wipeout on the Houston interstate; God allows Osteen and his wife/co-pastor, Victoria, to flip a property "for twice as much as we paid for it" in a once-sketchy Houston neighborhood; God swings a critical vote on the Houston zoning board to permit Lakewood to move to its mammoth Compaq Center digs—and God even saw fit 35 years earlier to ensure the engineer who designed the ramps leading to the Compaq Center provided easy parking access for Lakewood.
This is the line of thinking that really bothers me about Christians. Good things that happen in our life are not due to hard work, smarts, determination, or even luck they are all examples of God working his magic in their lives. They act as though they are powerless to change their life without the help of an outside influence. Many Christians sell themselves short, which maybe should be a surprise when the basis of their religion is that we are all sinful evil beings from birth. Call me a crazy optimist, but in most cases people have all they need within themselves.

The other obvious problem with the idea of God working so intimately with everyday things in your life is what about the bad things that happen. Did your aunt die in a car crash because she wasn't positive about God? Why does God not care about starving children all over the world, but helps Joel Osteen flip a house for a huge profit? If we give God the credit for the good, how does he not take the blame for the bad, or get a shrug for the mundane?

Dad's lady friend is all about God working in her life. In fact, "God brought her and dad together. It is truly God working in their lives." Which is fine if they believe it, but I could have sworn it was that brought them together. Oh well, to each their own, until they start asking about Nora being baptized/going to church I can leave it alone. And as far as mega church preachers for my Dad to follow, he could do a lot worse than Joel I suppose. Anyone have any thoughts on Joel?


Rachel said...

I hate him. And I'm a Christian. Know that there are some of us with something between our ears besides cheese.

Anonymous said...

Your point about Christians selling themselves short is a good one. They are conditioned to do so.

At least Osteen is preaching fairly positive self-help stuff rather than hate-the-gays stuff. I don't like him, but he doesn't bother me as much as some other RR people.

BTW: I'm adding you to my blogroll.

sabrina said...

Hmmmm... image in my head now..

Angel: "God, we're having some serious issues in the Middle East. We really should do something about it now, I think the situation is only going to get worse. Also, how close are we on that cure for cancer. I know a lot of people on earth could use it."

God: "Don't bother me now. I am designing ramps to make it easier for people to park. In just 35 short years this will be the site of a big church and my main man Joel will be leading it. I'll get to that middle east and cancer stuff later."

heather said...

Yeah, I'm not a fan of his either, and you'd probably decsribe me as "way churchy". The whole prosperity doctrine thing is so passe, and I just can't handle the whole "name it claim it" mess. Sigh.

Football Broker said...

Osteen's doctrine and teachings are quite non-Christian mot of the time. The "prosperity Gospel" in particular has no place in Christianity, since it cannot be defended using the Bible. The bottom line is this: Does a person stand on faith in Christ and Christ alone for their salvation? Osteen may not. For reference, check his comments he made on the Larry King Live show on CNN in 2005. Didn't sound very Christian to me.

The bottom line is that there are issues in the Bible that people can legitimately take different sides on. However, so long as a person puts their trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation, they are saved. Period.

karen said...

To each his/her own.

Chris said...

Football Broker is correct.
God does NOT want Christians to live comfortable lives. The majority of megachurches teach the "Health and Wealth gospel" (explains why their congregation is so large), which is COMPLETELY against how a Christian is supposed to live. Personally, I'm offended that they claim to be teaching the gospel because if Christian life is supposed to be easy, then the disciples and apostles would not have died so horribly. In fact, Jesus (who is supposed to have set the example for Christian life) would not have died as He did. One Christian is not representative of all Christians.

Though, I do agree that Christians are prone to selling themselves short. Claiming that all Christians are like that is a bit extreme though..

Anyway, if you're truly open to finding out why a God would allow such obviously bad things such as world hunger to occur (and there is a rational reason), please visit

It's a website where Dr. William Lane Craig, a leading apologeticist, answers on all sorts of similar questions, hopefully you'll find it enlightening.

(just so you know, you'll have to register to access his material. You wont receive any emails from him aside from a monthly newsletter about what he's been up to. The material on his website is well worth the extra email though)

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with this.

I am not only an atheist, but I pride myself on being a secular humanist. It's amazing how many people think you are strange because you spout the old "can't we all get along" line, and believe people should help each other without monetary gain.

I have always asked Christians why God supposedly protected their husband in Iraq, yet he let 20 million Jews die in concentration camps. Or why Jesus helped you get through a divorce, but let's a devout old lady get hit by a bus.

I really dislike the idealogy that every last thing from their kid learnng to tie his shoes to finding a dime in the's all JESUS!

I also loved your use of the word "cheesedick".