I must interrupt my blog series on my book Right Texts, Wrong Meanings, just to address something. I heard over the internet tonight that Joel Osteen has left his post and left his faith. Even if this is a hoax, I think it creates a topic worth thinking about. Right off the bat, I see a lot of rejoicing and smirking among smug Christians. I don’t know any of the details and have not earned any right to judge Osteen spiritually. I certainly do not agree with his preaching and theology, but here’s the thing. If he did leave the faith, I don’t think we should rejoice over the fall of a man
Christians tend to rejoice quite a lot over the fall of those whom they do not agree with. I think that is always a tendency to do that. We don’t have to agree with him, but we don’t have to rejoice. This leads me to a deeper question.
A lot of people are angry at Osteen not because he preaches what some consider New Age heresy, but because he dresses well, speaks well and makes loads of money off his books. Before we rejoice and point our collective accusing finger at Osteen, we need to ask whose fault this is.
I would say that with one finger pointing forward, all the other fingers are pointing straight back at us. Why do we get angry at Osteen for making the money, if there’s no market for his stuff? WE are the ones with the problem, not just Osteen. The market made Osteen, and not the other way around. The kind of congregation sometimes causes the kind of church and preachers. How often do I, as a seminary professor, face palm myself when I teach certain students from certain churches who are, without exceptions, ill-equipped for seminary and ministry training (or any kind of Christian intellectual learning)? I lost count.
So this is a hoax. Why do people spend so much time blackening people’s names on the internet by creating lies without doing equal amount of good and speaking truth. IF he enjoys his success and we don’t agree, then we need to think why (other than “he’s got the people’s ear with the easy gospel”) he’s more successful than most “evangelical” churches.
Osteen’s problem is OUR problem, not his. So, before we rejoice and point fingers at his congregation at Lakewood Church and shout, “Suckers!”, we are better off thinking about how we ended up where we are, and where we should be going.