Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Why Do Some American Christians Resent Joel Osteen So Much?

Theological Reflections from a Kenyan Ex-Christian Called Onyango Oloo











Joel Osteen has quickly become a leading voice for a new generation of ministers. After becoming Senior Pastor in October of 1999, Lakewood Church has more than quadrupled its weekly attendance and is one of America's most diverse churches. According to Forbes.com and Outreach magazine Lakewood is the largest and fastest growing congregation in America with over 28,000 in attendance each weekend.
Joel Osteen can be seen via his weekly television broadcast on numerous national cable networks, including Discovery, USA Network, ABC Family, Black Entertainment Television (BET), Trinity Broadcasting and the Daystar Television Network. Joel can also be seen internationally in over 100 nations including CNBC Europe, Vision Canada, CNBC Australia and Middle East Television. Joel's program is also carried on prominent local network affiliates in the Top 30 markets in America. Recent Nielsen Media Research rated Joel Osteen's broadcast as the #1 inspirational program nationally, based on average television viewers per market.
Joel's recent book, "Your Best Life Now" has quickly become a national bestseller. It is available on-line or everywhere books are sold. Joel and Victoria Osteen are also taking God's message of unconditional love and unending hope to capacity crowds in arenas all across America. In 2005 Joel and Victoria will visit 15 cities including Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.

SOURCE.

WE BELIEVE…the entire Bible is inspired by God, without error and the authority on which we base our faith, conduct and doctrine.
WE BELIEVE…in one God who exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to this earth as Savior of the world.
WE BELIEVE…Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins. We believe Jesus rose from the dead and is coming again. We believe that eternal salvation is found only by placing our faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross.
WE BELIEVE…water baptism is a symbol of the cleansing power of the blood of Christ and an outward testimony to our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
WE BELIEVE…in the regular taking of Communion as an act of remembering what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross.
WE BELIEVE…every believer should be in a growing relationship with Jesus by obeying God’s Word, yielding to the Holy Spirit and by being conformed to the image of Christ.
WE BELIEVE…as children of God, we are overcomers and more than conquerors and God intends for each of us to experience the abundant life He has in store for us.

SOURCE.

The Word of Faith movement or word-faith theology developed in the latter half of the 20th century in mainly Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. Its beginnings trace back to an early twentieth century evangelical pastor, E.W. Kenyon (1867-1948), who preached that God would award financial and other gifts if the faithful would ask. Kenyon coined the phrase, "What I confess, I possess." Kenneth E. Hagin is often credited with being the father of the modern Word of Faith movement, using a four-part formula he claimed to have received from Jesus: "Say it; do it; receive it; tell it." Proponents of the doctrine include Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Marilyn Hickey, among others. They teach that Christians must claim the grace God has promised them, whether in material goods, health, social position, or roles within the church. Detractors, such as Ron J. Bigalke Jr., Norman Geisler, Hank Hanegraaff, Dave Hunt, and Roger Oakland, denounce word-faith theology as aberrant and contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Hanegraaff, among the others, claims that this teaching goes against God's sovereignty and his prerogative to grant or deny what the praying one asks for.Word of Faith theologists counter that they believe the Bible is God's will and they are having faith in His Word.Detractors and proponents alike acknowledge that word-faith theology finds echoes in the "prosperity gospel" often preached on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Dear Readers, let me kick off with a "confession":

I do watch, listen and learn from North America's televangelists quite frequently, believe it or not.

Call me STUPID, but I happen to hold the view that anyone who commands the attention of millions of television viewing strangers every week with any kind of message is someone who deserves some very close attention because there must be a reason why he or she has that kind of power over the minds of people they will probably not ever meet.

I watch these televised Christian broadcasts for another reason- millions of Kenyans count themselves as among the adherents of Christianity, with a growing number calling themselves "Born Again" members of the charismatic, evangelical and pentecostal brand/branches of Christianity.

The third reason why I not only watch, but go further to STUDY the messages, methods and intentions of Christian televangelists is because President George W. Bush is a self-confessed Born Again Christian and by far the largest and most visible pin up star for the global Christian Fundamentalist movement.

The fourth reason I follow these broadcasts is because my fiancee happens to be a passionate Born Again former Catholic who is an avid fan of these same broadcasts.

These four reasons may sound very perplexing to people who already know that I am an ATHEIST with very outspoken Marxist-Leninist convictions.

Please, dear reader do NOT die of shock hearing from a so called "communist godless infidel" like Onyango Oloo.With all due respect, I do NOT NEED your permission to delve into matters theological.

I may even argue that if we went head to head, toe to toe with some of those hecklers who like to flash their unread Bibles in my face, I could probably run rings around them because unlike some of them, I have actually spent close to thirty five years studying the Holy Bible and several other Christian theological texts and interacting with hundreds of living and breathing sincere Christians. I would hope that comments to this essay will focus more on the actual content of the essay rather than the ideological background of the writer.

Anywayz.

Last night(Sunday, July 3, 2005)I battled my decades-long insomnia by flipping through a couple of televison channels. Believe it or not, when I happened to stumble across a midnight reprise of a June 20, 2005 Larry King interview with Joel Osteen, I was transfixed. A few days ago I had been watching one of those televised sermons with Joel with a few thoughts meandering through the inner part of my skull. Whatever the case, I not only watched the interview from start to finish-not changing the channel even between commercial breaks. The interview was so fascinating that I watched it a second time from 3 am to 4 am. If you missed the encounter, you can visit this link to view a full transcript of the show.

I formed a certain opinion about Joel Osteen that I will share with my readers by and by, but gosh, wasn't I blown away by the HATRED, the RESENTMENT and SHEER ENVIOUS BILE that I later gleaned online as a data mined for this digital essay?

And the fury, hatred, resentment and sheer envious bile was NOT coming from atheists and communists like myself, or people from other faiths like Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists.

No. All that wivu, udaku, unafiki, usabasi and masengenyano was coming from Joel Osteen's own co-religionists- other CHRISTIANS who are convinced that Joel is at best a tepid Christian and at worst a False Prophet!

How wacky can some Bible thumpers get?

The pastor of the fastest growing Christian congregation; a man who regularly sells out arenas like Madison Square Garden is an object of scorn, ridicule and fire and brimstone condemnations from so called fundamentalist Christians?

That alone made me want to redouble my efforts in researching for this intervention.

Let me back up a little.

Apart from the biographical information on Joel Osteen at the very beginning of this essay, it is perhaps important to know that Joel comes from the Word of Faith stream of evangalical Christians described above. Click here to find out more about the Christian Charistmatic movement and this other link to explore the concepts of on which the Full Gospel churches are based on.

To bolster the Larry King conversation with Joel Osteen, here is a link to an earlier Washington Post interview while if you go over here you will find another interview with Beliefnet.com.

Now let us present the evidence of CHRISTIAN critiques of Joel Osteen. Below is a partial reproduction of the Larry King episode with embedded comments from fulminating Christians with very strong opinions against Joel Osteen:
Larry King: "Because we've had ministers on who said, your record don't count. You either believe in Christ or you don't. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don't no matter what you've done in your life, you ain't."
Joel Osteen: "Yeah, I don't know. There's probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if you're a believer in God, you're going to have some good works. I think it's a cop-out to say I'm a Christian but I don't ever do anything..."
Larry King: "What if you're Jewish or Muslim, you don't accept Christ at all?"
Joel Osteen: "You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know..."
Larry King: "If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They're wrong, aren't they?"
Joel Osteen: "Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person's heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don't know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don't know. I've seen their sincerity. So I don't know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus."
(Joel Osteen, "Larry King live," Aired June 20, 2005)
(Note from anti-Osteen Christian critic): Joel Osteen has just denied his calling as a pastor and a minister of Christ. A man that cannot bring himself to say that Jesus is the only way to heaven should resign from the ministry (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Acts 4:12).

Larry King: "But don't you think if people don't believe as you believe, they're somehow condemned?"
Joel Osteen: "You know, I think that happens in our society. But I try not to do that. I tell people all the time, preached a couple Sundays about it. I'm for everybody. You may not agree with me, but to me it's not my job to try to straighten everybody out. The Gospel called the good news. My message is a message of hope, that's God's for you. You can live a good life no matter what's happened to you. And so I don't know. I know there is condemnation but I don't feel that's my place."
(Joel Osteen, "Larry King live," Aired June 20, 2005)
(Note from anti-Osteen Christian critic): Joel Osteen again has called Jesus a liar: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil," John 3:18-19.

Larry King: "Is -- have you always believed?"
Joel Osteen: "I have always believed. I grew up, you know, my parents were a good Christian people. They showed us love in the home. My parents were the same in the pulpit as they were at home. I think that's where a lot of preachers' kids get off base sometimes. Because they don't see the same things at both places. But I've always believed. I saw it through my parents. And I just grew up believing."
(Joel Osteen, "Larry King live," Aired June 20, 2005)
(Note from anti-Osteen Christian criticJoel says, "I've always believed." That's impossible! There has to have been a time in your life when you made a decision to repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your savior. If we take Joel Osteen's words to millions of viewers of the Larry King show at face value it is impossible for him to even be a Christian!

Larry King: "You don't call them sinners?"
Joel Osteen: "I don't."
Larry King: "Is that a word you don't use?"
Joel Osteen: "I don't use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don't. But most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don't go down the road of condemning."
(Joel Osteen, "Larry King live," Aired June 20, 2005)
(Note from anti-Osteen Christian critic: Wow! If you're a Christian--these unbiblical statements from the pastor of America's largest church should cause us all to fall to our knees in prayer for the Church of Christ and the shepherds that are supposed to protect and warn the sheep about men that preach a different gospel.

"At the biggest church in the country, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Pastor Joel Osteen preaches to some 25,000 people each week -- and sin is not on the menu. Osteen said his goal is to "give people a boost for the week."
"I think for years there's been a lot of hellfire and damnation. You go to church to figure out what you're doing wrong and you leave feeling bad like you're not going to make it," Osteen said. "We believe in focusing on the goodness of God."
...Osteen defends Lakewood's ways, saying the lively and inclusive atmosphere is attracting a whole new generation of parishioners."
..."It's not a churchy feel," Osteen, 40, said. "We don't have crosses up there. We believe in all that, but I like to take the barriers down that have kept people from coming. A lot of people who come now are people that haven't been to church in 20 to 30 years."

("Religion Gets Supersized at Megachurches," Tuesday, February 03, 2004. By Amy C. Sims. Fox News)

"Your Best Life Now (Warner, $19.99) has a therapeutic tone common in inspirational Christian books today. Osteen addresses the readers as victims, not victimizers, and ministers to their wounds and self-esteem. He talks of "faults" and "imperfections," not sin. Repentance is downplayed.
"I don't believe in beating people down," Osteen said in a telephone interview. "Most people know what they're doing wrong. I tell them there's hope and if they live their life honoring God, there are going to be blessings. But they've got to obey God's word."

("Star pastor is a testament to power of positive preaching," By Jim Remsen. Inquirer Faith Life Editor. Posted on Wed, Jun. 29, 2005)

Larry King: "How about issues that the church has feelings about? Abortion? Same-sex marriages?"
Joel Osteen: "Yeah. You know what, Larry? I don't go there. I just ..."
Larry King: "You have thoughts, though."
Joel Osteen: "I have thoughts. I just, you know, I don't think that a same-sex marriage is the way God intended it to be. I don't think abortion is the best. I think there are other, you know, a better way to live your life. But I'm not going to condemn those people. I tell them all the time our church is open for everybody."
(Joel Osteen, "Larry King live," Aired June 20, 2005)

SOURCE.

In response to this backlash, Joel Osteen himself posted this rejoinder on his own website.

Listent to this anti-Osteen Christian crusader:

"This Joel Osteen, a young man who stumbled into his father's shoes, now is the most successful pastor in America, and will soon be a best selling author, seen and heard around the world standing in a pulpit, preaching pragmatic positive thinking, pure and simple, out of an open Bible. He will represent evangelicalism with his big smile and a message that would make Screwtape shout "Amen! Preach it brother."
This is where evangelicalism has come to in 2005. This is what the heirs of the Reformation have come to accept as acceptable. This is what can be endorsed and advertised to evangelicals and be sure to sell millions of copies.It makes me angry and I want to do something.I have a simple question.Is this going to happen with the silence of evangelicals, or will someone speak up? Will Osteen continue his arc to fame and leadership with little or no comment from those in evangelicalism who have the responsiblity of discernment? Are we going to sit still and just shake our heads, or might we do more?I wonder how many of our churches are already populated by Osteen fans. How many deacons, elders, teachers and worship leaders are enamored with the adorable Osteen and his positive message? How many young people are going to be pointed to Osteen as a true shepherd of Jesus Christ? I know a lot of people in my world are lining up for the Osteen message as if he were just another version of Rick Warren. He's not. He's not one of us.Make no mistake about this: Osteen isn't confused about Jesus like many of the prosperity preachers you hear on TBN. Osteen is intentionally avoiding irrtiating language about sin because he wants to keep it positive every week. He is not just avoiding mentioning Jesus, the cross and the Gospel just because he is seeker sensitive. Joel Osteen is preaching the no-Gospel, no-Jesus message because it's filling the church with thousands of people who want to hear it. Osteen will ignore his critics because the common people are voting every week- in book sales, ratings numbers and attendance- for his message."

Michael Spencer
SOURCE.


How about this other guy:

"Joel Osteen has absolutely no biblical training or experience to be a pastor. Charismatic pulpits are filled with people who feel “called” to the pastorate and that is enough for them and those who follow them. They attempt to build congregations on the “strength” of their calling. Some charismatic leaders may go on to some unaccredited “Bible School” for a year or two, none (which encompasses a large group of ministers) that we were ever acquainted with attended any legitimate seminary.Would you allow a surgeon to operate on you because he felt “called” to be a surgeon as a child, but never went on to medical school? Or would you allow someone to build your house who firmly believed God had called him to be an architect yet had never gone on to college to study architectural design? Of course not, it would be the height of foolishness!Yet millions of professing Christians are more than willing to follow a man (or woman) who says “God” has called them and has supernaturally equipped them to be ministers. These especially anointed men and women have no need to study Church history, hermeneutics, systematic theology and struggle through Greek and Hebrew as other ministers do. They hear directly from God (this is especially true for the sign-gift pastors, most seeker-sensitive churches are led by seminary educated individuals).So my first main concern is that we have a man in the pulpit of the largest congregation in America, being beamed around the world that has no biblical education or training for the vocation he says he has! To me we have a clear case of the blind leading the blind (read Luke 6:39) with the end result being masses of people falling into the ditch of spiritual ignorance, abuse and/or extremism...Osteen’s upbeat style is deliberate and authentic. ‘Make church relevant,’ he says. ‘Give them something to be able to take away. I find today people are not looking for theology. There’s a place for it, [But] in your everyday life you need to know how to live.That statement is loaded with seeker-sensitive “code.” My wife and I left a North American Baptist church of over 1,000 members which had as its acronym “GPARS” which stood for: (1) Grace; (2) People; (3) Authenticity; (4) Relevance and (5) Small groups. Of course Osteen’s “style” is upbeat, would you expect negativity from a positive confession devotee? No! Deliberate, absolutely, he really believes much of the WOF nonsense his father taught him all his life, not to mention whatever offbeat spirituality he may have gleaned from his two years at Oral Roberts University. Authentic? Without a doubt! What you see is what you get. Joel Osteen is a man without any biblical education but an admitted talent for marketing. To be a success in marketing you have to know where people itch and scratch it. Or, you have to create a desire in them by creating a hunger for something they currently do not have nor formerly knew they needed. All commercials can be condensed down to one of these two truths.
So to become a mega-church a pastor has to make church relevant. He has to give the people what they want, something that soothes that spiritual itch. In order to be a “success” (i.e. large masses of people and money) pastors must preach unchallenging messages that uplift rather than convict. He must pander to the lowest common denominator and make sure that whatever is taught does not offend anymore at anytime."
Rev. Robert S. Liichow

If you visit this link you will be showered by a plethora of passionate love and violent hate messages about the same subject, Joel Osteen.

While this other blog entry is more sympathetic to Lakewood Church pastor.

Apart from the previous link,we find out,by coming to this other blog that many Christian bloggers have given Joel a lot of attention.

Joel Osteen has been called a New Age Christian Lite mass marketer of "prosperity worship." His theological credentials have been questioned and he has been raked over the coals by fellow Christians who at the very least should be celebrating his enormoous success in building a very sizable following across the United States and hundreds of countries around the world.

Are you a Christian who wishes to attend the next Osteen events in Anaheim, California this coming Thursday and Friday(July 7th and 8th)? Well, first of all, click here to see if there are any tickets left.

Do you wanna be hooked up with one of Joel Osteen's Streaming Faith online sermons? Well, do the needful when you get here....

Do you want to get your hands on Osteen's best seller, Your Best Life Now? Here is how to order.

Do you live in Texas? Are you wondering how you can get to the Lakewood Church? Click here for directions to the venue. But first ask yourself if you will be able to get in...

To an ex-Christian and present Communist like Onyango Oloo, the Joel Osteen phenomenon is fascinating on a number of levels.

It attests to the growth in the evangelical brand of Christianity which is giving a fresh burst of energy to that world religion. When I came to Canada in 1988, I was quite shocked that many Church buildings- especially their basements were used more by secular community and social justice groups as BEER HALLS and DANCING CLUBS on the weekends because hardly anyone was attending those church services anymore and the various churches, strapped for cash, rented out their facilities to ANYONE who could pay them. Many are the revolutionary plots executed by zealots of the PLO, FMLN, Sandinistas, ANC, SACP, Mwakenya, UWAKE, IRA, New People's Army(armed wing of the Filipino communists) and a menagerie of other socialist and left-wing groups in venues such as the St. Paul Trinity Church just west of Spadina and Bloor in Toronto in the 1980s and 1990s; the very first Kenyan human rights event(the majority of the attendees were Kenyan Muslims who formed the bulk of the asylum seekers in Canada at that time) that I participated in helping to organize happened from 6 p.m to 2 am on Sunday, December 8, 1989 at the Anglican Church just south of Jones and Gerard in the east end of this city(Toronto) for those with long memories such as mine.

We could all see that major Christian denominations like the Catholics, the Anglicans etc were in major decline.

What was interesting back then was that it was the newcomers, the refugees, the asylum seekers and so called "New Canadians" who provided a boost in contemporary Canadian christianity with their ethno-specific churches which were housed in storefronts, basements and even people's homes. I remember that the Swahili Baptist church was the first Kenyan specific church in Toronto(over at Roncesvales and Dundas); the Rwandese had their own church at Parliament and Gerard and later on in the early 2000s, members of the newly arrived Kenyan Adventist community(many of them being former delegates to the huge SDA gathering at the Sky Dome from '99 who remained behind to claim refugee status) were to start their own church services in places like...I was going to say the old (Catholic) Sacred Heart church on Sherbourne and Carlton, but I am NOT sure of my facts on that one...But I remember distinctly that the Kenyan(and African) Catholic faithful led by people like the Kiswahili speaking Canadian Father Michael and our very own Mrs. Fraciah Muriuki launched their services at the our Lady of Assumption Cathedral way over at Bathurst and Eglinton. I remember attending an ecumenical service for the Nairobi Bomb Blast victims at that location in August 1998.

Given what I have just alluded to above, it would have appeared to be a NO BRAINER for most Christians that the spectacle of a pastor filling an ENTIRE STADIUM with up to 30,000 worshipers EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND should be a cause for Christians to celebrate, not to carp, whine, whimper or gnash their teeth.

My own take on Joel Osteen is very simple:

If I was still a Christian, I would be MORE COMFORTABLE listening to a pastor like Joel rather than a deranged demagogue like Jerry Falwell or a Pharisee HYPOCRITE like Pat Robertson who preaches the pro-death anti-abortion credo in the United States while endorsing it when it comes to his Chinese business partners.

There is something about Joel Osteen that reminds me of my own late mother-a Kenyan woman who was a devout and devoted Born Again Christian-who never pressurized, harangued or otherwise tried to cajole us to attend Church on Sundays. Unlike some of her Born Again friends(I could, if I wanted, name some of her high profile pals, but perhaps their offspring, siblings and sidekicks are eyeballing this blog entry as we speak)she never asked any of her children to become "Saved"(four out of the eight did, with the writer of these lines, the actual "holy joe" of the bunch being one of the surprising hold outs).

As I watched the Larry King interview last night my mind went back to a conversation I was having with Mwandawiro Mghanga one late September weekday morning on the Thika Road around Roysambu in 2003. The Wundanyi MP(and a life-long Communist comrade of mine) was relaying to me and one other person in his double-cabin pick up that drove him to parliament something a Kenyan female preacher had told him about the resurgence in Christianity in Kenya in the last ten or fifteen years. She was telling Mwandawiro that the preachers had tapped on to something that politicians and activists had completely missed when it came to the average Kenyan mwananchi. She told Ndugu "MM" that the preachers(especially the lunch time, open air wahubiri) gave the ordinary people something concrete hopeful and optimistic to hold on to when all the news on television was baleful, bleak and gut-wrenching. When activists pointed out social ills like unemployment, HIV/AIDS, corruption, repression etc, the preachers promised a BETTER LIFE in HEAVEN; when the newspaper headlines screamed about domestic abuse, incest and murder, the wahubiri emphasized the Love of Jesus Christ, a chance for a new beginning and a compassionate community of fellow believers; in other words, these street preachers and pastors of the new fangled churches gave hope to the hopeless, faith to faithless, optimism for the pessimists and joy to the joyless. Why then, she asked my good buddy Mwandawiro, were the politicians shocked to find that more and more people were turning to religion while at the same time more and more people were turned off by mainstream politics and its rogues' gallery of lying, thieving, fornicating politickrians?

Hearing it from Mwandawiro(whose own mother and younger brother are also Born Again Christians) provided a reality check to long time Marxist-Leninists like Onyango Oloo who had been familiar with Comrade Karl's dictum about religion being the "opium of the masses." Many people, including alleged "socialists" keep mouthing this dictum.

How many actually grasp what Marx was struggling to say?

Here is what Karl Marx actually said in context:

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man.

Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man's state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves around man so long as he does not revolve around himself.
Karl Marx,A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, 1844.

And here is what Vladimir Lenin said about religion:

Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion as was the materialism of the eighteenth-century Encyclopaedists or the materialism of Feuerbach. This is beyond doubt. But the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels goes further than the Encyclopaedists and Feuerbach, for it applies the materialist philosophy to the domain of history, to the domain of the social sciences. We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism. But Marxism is not a materialism which has stopped at the ABC. Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion, and in order to do so we must explain the source of faith and religion among the masses in a materialist way. The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching, and it must not be reduced to such preaching. It must be linked up with the concrete practice of the class movement, which aims at eliminating the social roots of religion. Why does religion retain its hold on the backward sections of the town proletariat, on broad sections of the semi-proletariat, and on the mass of the peasantry? Because of the ignorance of the people, replies the bourgeois progressist, the radical or the bourgeois materialist. And so: “Down with religion and long live atheism; the dissemination of atheist views is our chief task!” The Marxist says that this is not true, that it is a superficial view, the view of narrow bourgeois uplifters. It does not explain the roots of religion profoundly enough; it explains them, not in a materialist but in an idealist way. In modern capitalist countries these roots are mainly social. The deepest root of religion today is the socially downtrodden condition of the working masses and their apparently complete helplessness in face of the blind forces of capitalism, which every day and every hour inflicts upon ordinary working people the most horrible suffering and the most savage torment, a thousand times more severe than those inflicted by extra-ordinary events, such as wars, earthquakes, etc. “Fear made the gods.” Fear of the blind force of capital—blind because it cannot be foreseen by the masses of the people—a force which at every step in the life of the proletarian and small proprietor threatens to inflict, and does inflict “sudden”, “unexpected”, “accidental” ruin, destruction, pauperism, prostitution, death from starvation—such is the root of modern religion which the materialist must bear in mind first and foremost, if he does not want to remain an infant-school materialist. No educational book can eradicate religion from the minds of masses who are crushed by capitalist hard labour, and who are at the mercy of the blind destructive forces of capitalism, until those masses themselves learn to fight this root of religion, fight the rule of capital in all its forms, in a united, organised, planned and conscious way. Lenin,The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion

To the rabid, anti-Communist "true believers" who have never read their Bibles and other scriptures, I urge you to STUDY religion and theology FIRST before you dash and rush here to BARK, BRAY and MEOW at me, OK?

Here is a good place for YOU to start on your religious quest-if and only if you fit the description of the preceding paragraph.

Back to Joel Osteen.

Far from being a charlatan, new age prosperity salesman, I hold the opinion that Joel perhaps more than any other contemporary preacher in America is veering closer and closer to the original message of the actual Jesus Christ who was a very humble dude who upset the high priests of organized religion, refused to condemn sinners, hang out with hookers and other shady underworld characters and was not impressed very much by wealth. The irony of course, when it comes to Joel Osteen is that he is a humble guy who does not mind living in a million dollar mansion and charging ten, fifteen,twenty, forty five dollars for the chance to hear him speak.

Is that a contradiction?

Of course it is.

We Marxists believe that "contradiction" the way WE understand and use the term is key to understanding reality.

Joel Osteen is caught up in the contradicition of preaching a Christian fundamentalist message clothed in hip,contemporary, cosmopolitan, egalitarian garb using the tried and tested mass marketing techniques of big business within a corporate capitalist milieu. He will make millions of dollars even as he customizes Christ's message for the cynical, apolitical and discouraged masses of the twenty-first century. In order to distinguish himself from the Pat Robertsons, Jimmy Swaggarts and Jerry Falwells of this world, he has to replicate their methods of televangelizing- even if he eschews peddling religious shlock via his broadcast.

The bigger question is how long will Joel Osteen remain socially relevant? I mean here he is reaching out to millions, trying to bypass the fire and brimstone of the Billy Grahams while remaining essentially a gullible creationist who believes literally in each and every word written in the Bible. How long will his increasingly sophisticated audiences ignore the cutting edge scientific and technological break-throughs of the 21st Century? Sooner or later Joel Osteen will have to jump off that fence he is sitting on to declare whether or not he supports a woman's right to choose, stem cell research and other contentious matters.

In the meantime, he will remain a thorn in the flesh of organized Christian religion- whether it is the old school Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Southern Baptists or the new school charismatic pentecostal upstarts.

As a Kenyan who grew up in the Christian tradition to become a Marxist-Leninist as a young adult over twenty five years ago, I see the rise of Joel Osteen as a wake up call for believers and non-believers alike.

What are your own views, dear reader?

Onyango Oloo
Toronto

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr oloo,as you had stumbled upon the Larry king show accidently i stumbled upon this website when trying to gather info about joelosteen.
I appreciate for your detailed research & unbaised views on this person.
I have listed to joel few times in the GOD TV show.He definetely has a power to make people situp and take notice.I come from a orthodox hindu background trying to understand christianity as i find many aspects of this religion interesting yet paradoxical.
I believe the philosophy of any religion is to make a person live a better life with a positive outlook and seek higher values.
(correct me if wrong)If the most important job of a pastor is to comfort people and make them feel good.JOELOSTEEN is doing exactly that.
Its definetly not easy to make an impact a person thousands of miles who in his race,culture so different.
I always believe embracing a religion should happen for the love of the religion's ideologies rather than out of fear of going to hell.
This is exactly where i have a different view as opposed to my christian friends who believe salvation can happen only when you are born again.

I can be a hindu and still follow Ten commandments.Will i go to hell even then ..............!!!!!!!!!

Regards
Mahesh Gopalakrishnan

Anonymous said...

I liked your well thought out article and found it very informing. Marx was
right that religion is an opiate of the people. Look at all the religions yet they all can't be right. Still they persist. If you read the New Testament again you find Jesus was against religiosity and the hypocrisy it creates. Jesus did say that no one comes to the father but through Him, setting Himself apart from all other forms of religion. He also said if you love Him the world will hate you and this was true even when Christianity was the state religion. How many honest followers of Christ died at the hands of the "Christian" church
because they would not compromise truth. He being a Jew, died at the hands of the temple, setting the precedent. Pastors like Joel are addressed in the 1 chapter book of Jude about apostates. Being a former atheist and now a born again I understand your feelings. In answer to "anonymous 1", no one has kept the 10 commandments. The first commandment is to have no other gods
before Him. If you are a Hindu you've broken the first one already.
Just seek truth.

The Armchair Theologian said...

Wow. Interesting post. I stumbled across this blog too and had an interesting read. Lots of thought and research going into this, and you definitely have an aggressive opinion. You said:

"I hold the opinion that Joel perhaps more than any other contemporary preacher in America is veering closer and closer to the original message of the actual Jesus Christ who was a very humble dude who upset the high priests of organized religion, refused to condemn sinners, hang out with hookers and other shady underworld characters and was not impressed very much by wealth."

I've been around many "religious" types for years, and I've heard hundreds of statements that all started with the phrase "the original message of the actual Jesus Christ was..." and everyone always says something different.

Everyone agrees that the message of Jesus contained something about hope and love...

...but love for WHO and hope for WHAT?

Everyone has opinions about Christ, but not a lot of people actual have a clue what he actually said about things.

I mean, what did Jesus say about sin? (and thereby people WHO sin...i.e. "sinners")

Who did he claim to be?

What was his message?

What did he say about the Pharisees?

Why were the Pharisees so mad?

Why did they kill him?

Why did he have to die?

What in the world did his death accomplish?

What's the BAD news that makes the good news "the good news"?

What is "the good news" that Chrisitans are supposed to share?

The answers to these questions, and several others, are of the utmost importance; they define what you understand the Bible to be teaching.

Some people hate Joel Osteen because he's popular...

Some hate him because he's making money and keeping it...

Some hate him because he uses the "wrong" version of the bible...

But some don't like Joel because they're convinced that his answers to those questions are NOT the answers provided by the Bible. They're convinced that he has a different, and thereby false, version of Christianity that he's selling to the masses.

IF he's incorrect, then I can understand why they're not celebrating him.

IF he's a word faith teacher, teaching that the death of Christ guarantees health and wealth for everyone who prays some sort of prayer, then he is certainly incorrect and people SHOULD be speaking up against him because he's deceiving everyone who hears him.

I would suggest that the "Olsteen haters" may have a case, IF his answers to those questions don't correspond with the Bible.

Michelle W. said...

Hello. I also stumbled upon your blog as I was researching Joel Osteen and his wife...with the latest in the drama of the airplane scandal. I, too, was trying to understand how he came to be and how he manages to be ...so "Joel" about everything. I am in no way, shape, or form remotely as educated as you are in the matters in which you write about. For your in depth analysis, I am amazed and I read it through to the end trying to remember the little bit of theology I had in college. You certainly have a gift--as well as a gift for speaking to the "normal" folks like me who are not so well versed in theology. I appreciated your blog. I actually cried while reading it, but I am not sure what made me cry about it, except that it gave me hope that other people are at least discussing the option of "Jesus"...if you know what I mean. I have been struggling with my faith for many years, having grown up with very dysfunctional parents, but yet having a Southern Baptist Minister Grandfather. It has only been recently that I have been looking for answers. I, too, have wandered upon Joel Osteen and have watched him in awe....trying to understand how he is even possible. I am younger than the Billy Graham era, but I am familiar with the Falwell and Robertson type evangelists...and I get hives thinking about the crap that comes out of their mouths while they claim to be Christians. I have to admit, when I think of what a Christian would say and sound like...it really does sound a lot like Joel Osteen. I think he is a phenomenon...but I am also very skeptical of anyone...especially if they are leading thousands upon thousands of people. I don't know...

Maybe the answer is very simple...the old adage "more flies with sugar"??? Opening the door so that at some point in the future people will be more susceptible to hearing the hard core word of God that everyone is criticizing him for not talking about....maybe he has a plan and he wants to develop a relationship before springing the "bad" news on people???? The news that HEY...Jesus died for you and if you don't get your crap together and acknowledge this happened and recognize that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light....well, than you are going to hell??? Does this make sense?

It's not that he doesn't mention these things...it's just that he does it in a way that is comparable to the fine print of a contract...or the fast speaking last ten seconds of the commercial for winning the big prize that includes the words..."all rules apply...and subject to....null and void if"

I like him. He does give hope when everyone else is preaching the end of times and doom. Any Christian anywhere knows the "end of times" will come....but the end of times is not going to matter if there is not a hope in the world that can drag people out of bed to LIVE for something.

I am not as educated as you are, like I said, but maybe it is just too simple for people to grasp. The man is you...he is me...he the poor...he is the rich....and MAYBE he really believes that in hope all things are possible.

Even the salvation of the masses.

Anonymous said...

for more on: "Church & Ministry Scandals" - see Oral Roberts Scandal on Website Traffic Marketing - 10/08/07 - 11/07/08