Thursday, February 03, 2005

Joel Osteen: do not read on a full stomach

My mates over at Boar’s Head Tavern are having a field day outing Joel Osteen. (No, he's not gay ... he's, well, read on ...)

In case you haven’t heard of the guy, he’s the pastor of Houston’s Lakewood Church, the largest in the US with a membership larger than many small towns. (25K at last count.) He’s also making the folks at Amazon rich with his book, Your Best Life Now, which includes endorsements from everyone from Pat Robertson to Cashflow … excuse me … Creflo Dollar.

I had to see what all the excitement was about. I streamed one of Osteen’s monologues … excuse me … sermons from his church’s Web site. I could stand only about five minutes. Then I read an excerpt from chapter one of his book.

It’s worst than we thought, maties. This guy makes me sick. I mean, really, really sick.

He opens his tome with a story about a guy who realizes his "mediocre" thinking is the only thing standing between him and a swanky bungalow on a hillside in Hawaii. He then goes on to say that God wants us to chuck that mediocre thinking and start dreaming big, darnit! (Great … and while we’re at it, God, give me whiter teeth, a tighter butt and firmer boobs, too.)

Speaking of teeth, butt and boobs, we then hear the story of Miss America Tara Holland, who was able to finally win the crown after "reprogramming her mind" and ridding herself of the "hurtful memories of losing." (Oh, puhleez. I once competed in a prelim to the Miss Alabama Pageant. I didn’t even make the top 10, and would you believe I got over it pretty quickly? Amazing, huh?)

Let me say that I have nothing personal against people with big houses or the winners of beauty pageants, and I don’t think God does either. But let’s get back to Mr. Osteen …

Then he relates the story about how his wife’s "speaking words of faith and victory" eventually got the happy couple out of the slum they were living in. (" … an extremely old house that had experienced some foundation problems, preventing all of our doors on the inside from closing properly." Oh, the tragedy!)

"God has so much more in store for you, too," he says. "Start making room for it in your thinking. Conceive it on the inside. Start seeing yourself rising to a new level, doing something of significance, living in that home of your dreams.

"If you look carefully, you will see that God has been trying to encourage you. He's allowed people to cross your path who are far more successful than you are, who have much stronger marriages, who are enjoying His favor in marvelous ways."

Are you gagging now? Shall I pass out the Pepto?

Hey … I’m all for people enjoying the fruits of their success, dreaming big and having goals, even material ones. What I am friggin’ nauseated over is Mr. Osteen’s insistence that God’s favor equals "bigger, better" and "more, more, more."

If anything, I’m trying to trim down my life, buy less stuff, get rid of the clutter and crap, spend more time with my loved ones, spend more time with God, give away my money and time. And if God makes me wealthy or influential in the process, fabulous.

Or … maybe not. Have you checked out the lives of the rich ‘n’ famous lately? Not a pretty sight. (Think: Paris Hilton) I just read a column that says CEOs are suffering from debilitating depression at a significant rate. This quote says it all:

According to a report in Psychology Today magazine, corporate executives — and especially entrepreneurs — may be even more vulnerable to depression than other people. And yet their stories are shrouded in silence because the cultural mythology around success forbids such feelings of weakness. How can someone so wealthy feel so empty?

Again, this is not a rant against the rich. Lord knows we need good CEOs in this world as much as we need good garbage collectors. No, I’m not going to get all simplistic and say that money is evil and there is inherent virtue in being poor.

But people with big houses and titles have not necessarily made it in the eyes of God. When the preacher of America’s largest church starts saying they have, we have a big, big, big problem.

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