Ive read two Christian items today that seemed to both come from completely different worlds. The first of the two was this bit from Richard Rohrs book Everything Belongs:
How do you make attractive that which is not?
How do you sell emptiness, vulnerability, and nonsuccess?
How do you talk descent when everything is about ascent?
How can you possibly market letting go in a capitalist culture?
How do you present Jesus to a Promethean mind?
How do you talk about dying to a church trying to appear perfect?
This is not going to work. (admiting this might be my first step)
The second item of the two I read was this.
Both of these items are obviously very different representations of what it looks like to follow Jesus. If you youve read my blog at all in the past, then you know that Im a huge Joel Osteen fan. How can anyone not like a guy who has such great teeth and fantastic hair? As I read this New York Times piece there were several quotes from the writer and those who were interviewed that really struck me. Here are a few:
-“With the waterfalls,” she said, “this really feels like a sanctuary.”
-After $95 million in renovations, including two waterfalls and enough carpeting to cover nine football fields, the arena now belongs to a charismatic church with a congregation of 30,000, revenues of $55 million last year and a television audience in the millions.
-Joel Osteen, the pastor, exhorted a packed house of black, white and Latino worshipers, some of whom arrived three hours early. “What a sight this is. You guys look like victors, not victims,” he said, to a round of applause.
-God, Mr. Osteen preaches, does not want to see people suffering and poor; he wants them to be healthy, wealthy and wise.
.congregants praised Mr. Osteen for his practical messages
-With the book’s success, Mr. Osteen said he has forgone his $200,000 salary from the church this year.
- especially as a result of tithing, which Mr. Osteen tells them will bring even greater rewards.
- .Mr. Osteen makes the Bible “intelligible,” ..
-Mr. Osteen begins each sermon with a joke and follows with anecdotes from his own life, about how through faith he received a house, a parking space, a happy marriage. There is no time to ruminate on theological puzzles, like why God allows people to suffer.
-Walter Gonzalez, 28, said that since he started tithing, he had more money left after paying his bills.
-“The principles in the Bible will work for anybody,” he said. “If you give, you will be blessed. I talk about things for everyday life. I don’t get deep and theological.”
-“Did it feel like church?” he said. “Yes, in a bigger, more extravagant way. No more little storefronts – this is the new face of church.”
And this little portion of the article pretty much sums up the whole attitude of the leadership and the congregation:
“The idea of suffering as a Christian virtue is not part of his worldview,” said Lynn Mitchell, director of religious studies at the University of Houston. “Some call it Christianity Lite – you get all the benefits, but don’t pay attention to the fact that Jesus called for suffering. He doesn’t tackle many of the problems of the world.”
But many among his congregants said he tackled their problems. Mario Cervantes, 38,
said that the church had taught him to name the things he wanted, and that he would receive them. “The Bible says, speak those things that aren’t as if they are,” Mr. Cervantes said.
In short, Who gives a shit about suffering and injustice elsewhere, at least I got MY SHIT sorted thanks to Joels sensible message!
Ive never been so close to ruining my computer keyboard with recently eaten p.b. and j. and red wine.
Maybe its just me and my weird deep theological thoughts but I remember a good amount of the followers of Jesus in the N.T. ended up with a little missing head problem. I also find it highly un-nerving that Osteen is quick to relate financial blessing with being faithful to the God, but is at a loss when asked to explain the actual suffering of those in his congregation. Apparently at Osteens church when the shit hits the fan, God isnt involved. But when that magical money appears so you can pay your cable bill, Gods all over that one and has it covered.
Oh well. Heres to vacant arenas and treating God like a damn B of A.
P.S. If after you read that NYT article and you need to take a bit of a shower, treat yourself to “Everything Belongs” by Richard Rohr.