I’ve read two “Christian” items today that seemed to both come from completely different worlds. The first of the two was this bit from Richard Rohr’s book “Everything Belongs”:

Inherent Unmarketability
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 you’ve read my blog at all in the past, then you know that I’m 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 Joel’s sensible message!”

I’ve never been so close to ruining my computer keyboard with recently eaten p.b. and j. and red wine.

Maybe it’s 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 Osteen’s church when the shit hits the fan, God isn’t involved. But when that magical money appears so you can pay your cable bill, God’s all over that one and has it covered.

Oh well. Here’s 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.


11 thoughts on “Poop.

  1. Zach, if you would just stop watching Food TV and Batman, you’d stop criticizing everything and we could just all be happy American christians.

  2. I laughed at least three times as I read this post. Well written Zach, and of course you KNOW how I feel about all this business (literally) in the Church. A Gospel that doesn’t reference the crucified Christ is no Gospel at all.

    *[apologies for the duplicate comment; accidentally hit ENTER before I typed anything.]

  3. Wow. I just got done watching an abc news special about him after I got home from work tonight … same things, basically. Well with waterfalls in Joel’s church and Pope Benedict spending his time bashing the latest “Harry Potter” book, I don’t know why more people aren’t taking the Christian faith seriously.

  4. They’re only a 30 minute drive from me. The attitude/theology of many of the churchians and sadly even most Christians in this area can be summed up in the statements you just quoted. It is hard to find people that I think are real and present around here. It makes me frustrated, sad, intimidated, and scared at the same time. This is one of the main reasons we were compelled to start The Inner Sanctum, and now what it is becoming. I hope that organic Christianity and *being the Church eventually outgrows conventional churchianity.

    I imagine that there are many pastors out there who aspire to be like Olsteen.

  5. Besides the obvious markings of misdirected “religion” (didn’t M. Luther already address this once upon a time?), isn’t it a sad day when a congregation grows to 30,000 members and it appears no church planting is occuring? But then again, we wouldn’t necessarily want that kind a church seeded. How awkward.

  6. Regarding your statement: “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.

    One of my favorite passages on this issue is 1 Timothy 6:5 which says that those who teach that godliness is a means of financial gain are men of depraved minds who are deprived of the truth.

  7. $95 million in renovations? My first ever mission trip was to Houston 12 years ago – I have a feeling their mass homeless population hasn’t depreciated much since then. But maybe my priorities are in the wrong place…

  8. I have watched him on tv several times. I don’t see how anyone can continue going to that church. I have never heard anything that would help me in my walk with God. It’s exactly what was said, his messages are a series of anecdotes. Sad.

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