Behind his beautiful baby-blues and well sculpted hair Joel Osteen has moved from being a TV evangelist to a New York Times best-selling author and what some people might describe him as America’s Pastor. At anytime of the day you can find his televised church services airing on channels from ABC Family to the local Fox affiliate. He sells out baseball stadiums for his speaking tours and his books quickly move to the best-seller lists. Joel Osteen’s message is one of God’s love and that God’s love will provide you with wealth, health, and prosperity.
For full disclosure, my boss is very critical of Osteen, and as a result his cynicism may have rubbed off on me.
If you have been living under a rock or do not have basic cable, Osteen’s church meets in an old basketball arena and he has a new book released approximately every 2 weeks. His preaching and writing dilutes the gospels to the point that God can be viewed as a genie in a bottle, and you gotta rub Him the right way. With this view of God and Christ, atonement theory goes out the window, which for Christians poses a dangerous slippery-slope.
There’s a new book out, The Osteenification of American Christianity. The author, Hank Hanegraaff, is calling out Osteen and the way in which his scriptural interpretation turns God from being our creator and sustainer into a means to our end. Pastors like Osteen and Joseph Prince are creating a sub-culture within the American religious field that is dangerous and leading to the decline and secularization of American church. The prosperity gospel is great until you are in the shallow end of the pool.
“If you are healthy and wealthy, words created that reality. However, if you find yourself in dire financial straits, contract cancer, or, God forbid, die an early death, your words are the prime suspect.”
I dispise this form of Christianity and think that it is a large part of the nones’ (those not claiming any religious affliation in American) rapid growth throughout the United States.
For Joel, God’s blessing is very different from the blessings described by Christ in His teachings. As Jason put it, “God’s blessing takes the form a parking spot, providentially open and free just for you- yes, that’s actually an example in his book.” This is a huge difference from what Christ might say, again I will defer to Jason, “God’s blessing takes the form of you taking on the sort of life where Christ will never one day have to ask you: ‘When I was hungry and/or thirsty, where the hell were you?’ And yes, that’s literally an example in JC’s book.”
The danger of the diluting of the Gospel in the way Joel has done is that the cross is removed from the equation along with the need to serving others in the way that Christ served. Think about it, according to the Gospel of Joel, does the washing of this disciples feet by Jesus make any sense?