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COLUMN: Joel Osteen's farcical religion



In the past week, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. If the case is the same as with most natural disasters, the most impoverished communities will have the hardest time recovering.

NPR said Sept. 1 that FEMA expected around 30,000 people to need shelter and over 450,000 to need flood victim assistance. Hurricane Harvey dropped over 2 feet of rain in mere hours, displacing thousands. 

Where was Joel Osteen, the most famous Christian in Texas? The answer is sitting in his $10.5 million dollar home. And his megachurch was virtually unaffected by the flood. 

When Hurricane Harvey devastated the homes of thousands and the arena ran out of cots for those now homeless, Lakeview Church was empty with its lights off and doors locked. Joel Osteen refused to open his church as a shelter. 

If Osteen is reading the same Bible as other Christians, he missed out on 1 Peter 3:8, which encourages people to “be like-minded, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

Osteen and supporters defended him by saying in an interview that he refused to open the church for “safety reasons” and others posted pictures of the church’s flooding, but it was in the basement, and only about a foot of water damage as shown in the photos. 

Osteen also went on to say that the state never requested he offer his church as a shelter – yet the mosques and synagogues that were open received no such requests either. They simply followed the teachings of their God and showed compassion and benevolence. 

Osteen paid $13 million in cash up front to rent out the Houston Compaq Center for the next 50 years. His church rakes in over 57,000 attendees every week and approximately $8.5 billion tax-exempt dollars a year. He also teaches “prosperity gospel,” a branch of Christianity that says if you follow God’s teachings, you can increase personal wealth. 

But this almost wholly contradicts many messages in the Bible I’ve read. What happened to “caring for the least of these”? Big religion is no stranger to skewing the message of their God. Some sects of Christianity have become a capitalist scheme, and Osteen is not excluded from that. 

The New Testament, in Luke, says that Christians should “sell their possessions and give to the needy.” In the Old Testament, Hebrews 13:5 says that Christians should “keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have.” 

So the Prosperity Gospel is incongruent with most of the Bible's teachings. Osteen's actions — or lack thereof — paint him as a televangelist who has no intention of seeking morality, but money instead. Osteen is a sorry excuse for a devout Christian and needs to be called out for it. 

As Joel says in his services, “you will never change what you tolerate.” I think we all should stop tolerating Joel Osteen. 

anneande@indiana.edu

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