Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A (Sort Of) Defense Of Joel Osteen

Mark this down because you won't see those words again. I don't feel a need to defend Joel Osteen as a brother in Christ, because he pretty clearly is not, but the attacks on him have a different motivation.

A lot of people, including me, poked at Joel Osteen because "his church" in Houston didn't open up to shelter people. My point was that Osteen was a heretic and a false teacher long before Hurricane Harvey but the reality of the story behind Lakewood church, including Twitter attacks and videos from guys who are pretty clearly homosexual and have an ulterior motive, is a little more complex.

Lakewood "Church" is just a giant auditorium. In a report that gets to the real story better than some angry ranting on Twitter, you read the following:
And considering that Houston officials had set up shelters throughout the city — including a massive location at the George R. Brown Convention Center just five miles from Lakewood — Iloff said that the church had planned to host people in the event that those locations were full or at capacity.
“We had warning with this storm, so they set up shelters around the city … that convention center is 5 or 6 times bigger [than Lakewood],” he told Faithwire. “They set that up with everything from the cots, food, triage.”
Iloff also noted that, while Lakewood was more than willing to make-do and house people, unlike the convention center, Lakewood has “no showers” and no kitchen, making the church more of an emergency shelter than anything else. Initially, the church waited to hear from city officials and planned to respond if needed.
So the city already has emergency shelters and Lakewood was willing to serve as an overflow. It isn't like there isn't historical evidence of what happens when you try to house people in mass somewhere that is not properly equipped.

This is the description of the Superdome in New Orleans in August of 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina, from a story in the New York Times, Superdome: Haven QuicklyBecomes an Ordeal.
They had flocked to the arena seeking sanctuary from the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina. But understaffed, undersupplied and without air-conditioning or even much lighting, the domed stadium quickly became a sweltering and surreal vault, a place of overflowing toilets and no showers. Food and water, blankets and sheets, were in short supply. And the dome's reluctant residents exchanged horror stories, including reports, which could not be confirmed by the authorities, of a suicide and of rapes.
By Wednesday the stink was staggering. Heaps of rotting garbage in bulging white plastic bags baked under a blazing Louisiana sun on the main entry plaza, choking new arrivals as they made their way into the stadium after being plucked off rooftops and balconies.
The odor billowing from toilets was even fouler. Trash spilled across corridors and aisles, slippery with smelly mud and scraps of food.
Even a "church" like Lakewood is not equipped to handle even 500 displaced people. No kitchens, no showers, an staff untrained in dealing with medical issues and possible criminal behavior, it isn't really an ideal place to house people or even a suitable place except in case of emergency. Obviously when you have a building that cost tens of millions of dollars and is lavishly outfitted, you don't want hordes of people messing it up. That is a lesson for a different day, when your "church" is treated like a religious museum instead of a Kingdom outpost, that is a problem and one that is true at Lakewood, in fancy cathedrals and in many orthodox Christian churches alike.

There is an important message here. Even having a completely neutered "Gospel" is not going to insulate you from social media attacks by people with blue check marks and rainbow flags in their Twitter profile. Make no mistake, the guys tweeting and posting videos in the parking lot of Lakewood don't give a fig about the false teaching of Lakewood because they aren't there on every Sunday when heresy is being proclaimed from the stage. They simply see this as an easy way to paint "Christians" as hypocrites to provide cover for their own wanton sin and rebellion against God.

Again let me be clear. Joel Osteen is not a Christian as far as I can tell. He is a false teacher and espouses "another gospel" of the same severity as that anathematized by Paul in his letter to the Galatians. But the attacks on him by many people are aimed not at him but at genuine Christians being lumped in with him. While the church in America is mobilizing via volunteer and financial donations in a huge way, there are still those that will wag an accusing finger at Christians as well as religious non-Christians like Osteen and the Mormons and claim they are not doing their part. It is an obvious lie and one we should expect but a lie repeated often enough serves the dishonest better than the truth. By all means call out Joel Osteen for his heretical teaching but be careful about siding with unbelievers in your attack because often the real target is you.

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