ABOVE PHOTO: Pastor Joel Osteen (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
(Or, how Pastor Joel Osteen and his Hurricane Harvey conduct show why we need to retire the phrase “prosperity gospel”.)
By Denise Clay
Right now, the Lakewood Church in Houston is filling up with some of the people who have displaced by the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey.
Five bus loads of people pulled up in front of the megachurch led by Pastor Joel Osteen on Tuesday afternoon. Hundreds of thousands of Texans have been displaced by the storm that has killed 30 people, as of press time, including a first responder, and flooded out highways.
Now, depending on who you talk to, the multimillionaire pastor opened the church to Harvey victims on Tuesday because (a) the flooding in the church’s parking lot was resolved or (b) he was tired of being dogged on Twitter for his apparent hypocrisy.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Don Iloff, a spokesman for the church, said that the church was instructed to let people in if they came to the door.
But they couldn’t just throw the doors open due to safety concerns, Iloff said. Rainfall from Harvey almost spilled over the church’s floodgate, he said.
“It’s not our unwillingness, it’s just practicality. It’s been a safety issue for us,” Iloff said, “Lakewood Church has a heart for this city.”
Osteen himself took to Twitter to let Houstonians know he was in their corner.
“Victoria and I care deeply about our fellow Houstonians,” he said. “ Lakewood’s doors are open and we are receiving anyone who needs shelter.”
But even before he came to his own defense, Osteen’s parishioners and fans did, posting pictures on Twitter of a flooded church. Now, I don’t know where that was in proximity to the room where the air mattresses were, but I’m going to have to call “shenanigans on that.”
In fact, a whole lot of people are saying “I don’t believe you. You need more people…” to Osteen and company right now.
Let’s be honest here. Despite the fact that he reminds me more of the motivational speaker character that Tom Cruise played in the movie “Magnolia”, Joel Osteen is, technically, a pastor.
Between his television appearances, books and podcasts, Osteen, like Bishop T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar and others, preaches what’s known as the “Prosperity Gospel”, meaning that if you go to church, pray, and let these folks take a Shop-Vac to your wallet, God will bless you.
Osteen has gotten paid in full for spreading this gospel. He and his wife Victoria are worth $50 million, which is no small change.
It’s also why more than a few folks are calling him a fraud.
Because there are few things that get on my nerves more than people who go around talking about their religious bonafides while following none of the tenets, it struck me as odd that a church wasn’t opening it’s doors.
It especially struck me as odd that it was a church that owed a significant part of its income to the community that was crying out for help.
About 50 people are currently hanging out in the church, which is also acting as a distribution point for diapers (both baby and adult) and food.
But it shouldn’t have taken a dragging by the Twitterverse to get you to act like you had some compassion.
Pastor Osteen is going to have some explaining to do to not only his parishioners in Houston, but also the international following that’s looking at how he conducted himself prior to Tuesday.
If they don’t like what they hear, it might be the first shot across the bough of a phrase that never should have gotten traction: “prosperity gospel.”
Anyone whose ever actually read the Bible could tell you that.
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