Osteen, Houston and American Christianity

Happy Friday! For the most part, Fridays are happy days for everyone. Unfortunately for the people of Houston, Texas, it’s just another day without clean water, hot food, or basic sanitary supplies. All the major shelters in the city welcomed refugees seeking asylum from the devastating Hurricane Harvey. The most noted makeshift shelter being the famous Lakewood Church, the Houston-based mega church pastored by the toothy, multi-million dollar man Joel Osteen.

He most recently came under fire for not opening the doors of his 10,000 seater megachurch to Houston’s homeless soon enough; waiting until many of the city-based shelters were already full. In an interview given by Osteen to The Today Show and ABC News he says enthusiastically that “The doors of the church were always open”, and he was waiting on an”okay” of sort from the city to open officially its doors and welcome the citizens of Houston. He also explained that the building was not yet properly stocked with supplies to accommodate so many people, also that the church has a history of flooding, and he and his staff were simply taking precautions before being quick to open their doors. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the major backlash Osteen received from social media and mainstream news (which spawned hilariously savage Twitter memes!) Many criticizing Osteen’s lack of concern  for his fellow Houstonians,many calling him out for living in a multi-million dollar home and running a 17,000 seat mega church but still having “no room in the inn”. Many people on Twitter have been calling him a “fake Christian” and criticizing his prosperity gospel. As angry as many people in America are about Osteen supposed lack of Biblical hospitality, this also raises interesting points about how people view American Christianity. Here’s what I’m talking about:

American Christianity is for the 1%

Honestly, the prosperity gospel only really resonates with those who are already “prosperous”. The prosperity gospel is the message stating that serving God and tithing will guarantee wealth and health from heaven; also, that wealth and prosperity are signs of God’s favor.  Notice that the only preachers who live by this “gospel” are the ones living in million dollar homes with million dollar book deals. Now, there are stories in the Bible of God showing favor to faithful followers through wealth, land conquests, and good health, but this by no means is the “rule” for Christian living. Pastors who live lavish lifestyles are by no means sinning simply by being wealthy or successful; but the Gospel is the most life-changing story that starts and ends with Jesus, earthly prosperity has nothing to do with it.

201501_066_prosper_art

American Christianity is for the White

Christians will tell you that the Gospel is the good news for everyone, and they are correct, but how well many self-proclaimed Christians in America is something else entirely. Evangelical Christianity is known for being for nothing and against everything. I mean, when was the last time any church was spotlighted for doing something besides protesting the existence of gay people or denouncing the Kardashians? Yes, news stations pick and choose what they highlight for intentionally bias reasons, but when was the last time your church or a church in your neighborhood was active in the community defending black lives or speaking against the Muslim ban or helping women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse? The church really only seems to raise its voice when it comes to issues that cannot be controlled such as natural disasters or illnesses.

Social issues, particularly regarding race and color, are either swept under the rug or never addressed at all. This gives people of color the impression that the church, and God, don’t really believe the oppression that exists is unjust or evil. The gospel we preach discourages speaking against unjust laws and says allegiance to country is allegiance to God. The American Gospel requires very little social consciousness and little conviction about the negative effects of slavery and racism that still carry today. American Christianity is the perfect religion for the conservative, socially unaware, white American. No guilt, no conviction, no action, no problem.

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