Thursday, December 12, 2013

The "wisdom" of Joel Osteen...

Yesterday, a Facebook friend re-posted Joel Osteen's status…

Nothing in life has happened to you. It’s happened for you. Every disappointment. Every wrong. Even every closed door has helped make you into who you are.

I thought about it and wrote, "But what if you're a jerk?"  My Facebook friend said it was a good point and invited me to go write a blog about it.  I'm not dumb, of course.  She was really telling me to "buzz off".  But since I am a firm believer in giving people what they ask for, here's my post about Joel Osteen.

To be honest, I don't find Osteen all that offensive.  I know a lot of people are turned off by his "prosperity gospel", which he claims is not really prosperity gospel.  He and his wife are good motivational speakers and they inspire people.  They are also entertaining.  

That being said, I don't see the Osteens as religious leaders.  I think they are motivational speakers.  I highly doubt the toothy smiled Osteen and his wife know many of the people who attend their huge Lakewood Church.  I doubt Osteen does weddings, funerals, or hospital visits.  He raises money, sure, and he is a good pitchman for the church.  But he's not what I'd call a pastor.  I doubt he offers counseling sessions or runs spiritual groups… or hell, even shows up at fellowship activities arranged by his church.  

Joel Osteen is pretty good at not being offensive.  That's a real talent, especially when you're involved in the potentially volatile world of religion.  He knows what to say that will make people feel good about themselves and the world.  That's not a bad thing.  But… it's not really religion.  That may not be a bad thing, either.

I did think the above status update was pretty funny, though.  Not everyone is a great person.  All the failures in your life can help turn you into an asshole.  I mean, yes, it's your choice to be an asshole…  but it's also your choice to be a positive, resilient, and productive person.  And likewise, Osteen's thoughts can work either way.  

I think sometimes Osteen puts stuff out there that people take at face value and don't really think too much about.  Indeed, that seems to be the way of religion.  How many times are people told to put their doubts and questions "on the shelf" and not try too hard to figure out God's ways?  God's ways are mysterious… sometimes even to Himself, as Randy Newman famously wrote in his song "Relax, Enjoy Yourself" from his musical, Faust...

James Taylor sings the part of God… that was inspired casting!

Just have faith and pay your tithing… and you will prosper.  Or so they tell you in many churches.  Maybe that has worked out for a lot of people, otherwise why would people keep doing it?  I will say that in Bill's case, leaving organized religion made him healthier and wealthier.  He no longer struggles with his finances, although that could change next year when he retires.  In all actuality, I think he will be fine.  He's a lot better prepared to leave the Army this time than he was in 1995, when he temporarily got off active duty.  Yes, he's older and the economy sucks, but he has a master's degree, computer security certifications, and a hell of a lot more experience and contacts than he did back then. He's also married to someone who doesn't put him down all the time and no longer has small children depending on him.  And he's not Mormon anymore, so he doesn't pay tithing and doesn't spend his limited free time doing church shit.

Some might argue that the church can be a source of goodwill and contacts… but it can also be the source of much stress and expectations that make life harder than it has to be.  Joel Osteen attempts to soften those realities and a lot of people respond to it.  I can see why they do.  I don't mind his program, though I don't pay a lot of attention to what he says.  And I also don't think that people who share his "wisdom" are always very wise.

But at least he's not like these guys…

And his music is not as cheesy as Ernest Angley's is...



  1. Gotta love the prosperity gospel concept. It certainly brings prosperity for the on-screen proponents.


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