Dear Pastor Osteen,
I know you received a lot of flak across social media on Sunday and Monday for allegedly not opening up your Houston Thunder Dome, er, I mean megachurch, to victims displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Well, let’s be honest. It’s more than that. You’ve taken quite the beating. It’s been brutal to behold. The savage, bloodthirsty Internet trolls have come crawling out of every corner of the cyber world, eager and ready to devour what’s left of your reputation. Some folks were even tweeting photos of your books — which they had previously purchased with their own money — and now tossed into trashcans, saying that they didn’t want to be associated with you at all, labeling you as a heretic and a fraud. (Personally, I don’t think they ever should have bought the books in the first place, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) Even the satirical Christian news site The Babylon Bee ripped into you with its own witty and exaggerated take on the situation.
I certainly don’t envy the position you’ve suddenly found yourself in. My dad is the senior pastor of a local south Alabama church and I’m sure the last thing he would want to have to deal with is negative PR and endless online vitriol about himself or any of our various ministries.
Also, I know that you, Victoria and your staff have all passionately denied the accusations, claiming that it would’ve been dangerous to use Lakewood as a shelter since parts of the building were flooded (despite some Twitter users posting photos suggesting otherwise.) In any case, I’ll take you at you guys at your word. I’ve never met you and I’ve never been to your church. We don’t agree on much of anything theologically or even philosophically, but I was happy to see reports that your staff was at least providing air mattresses by Monday evening for victims who needed a place to sleep. I guess that’s better than nothing. Moreover, I know that Lakewood spokesman Don Iloff later told The Washington Post: “We were never closed. This is crazy. People are saying we’ve locked the church. The church has been open from the beginning, but it’s not designated as a shelter.” And I’ve seen additional reports that you’ll be opening up as a command center for local police and as a distribution center for emergency food and supplies.
Alright, so that’s all fair enough. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
Besides, I think there's a couple of bigger issues at hand to address than whether or not you immediately opened your church’s 16,900-seat arena auditorium to countless flood victims (or your 17,000 square foot mansion for that matter.)
First, and most importantly, “religious leaders” such as yourself — particularly those who have amassed huge followings and are constantly in the public eye and the media spotlight — will be scrutinized to no end. Surely you’re aware of this by now. And not only this, but all pastors — true, biblical pastors — should be walking the straight and the narrow, preaching uncorrupted versions of the Gospel and be held to the highest standards possible. Unfortunately, this is where I and many others believe that you fall short and where we have a problem with the absurd “brand” of Christianity that you teach. It’s a false version. It’s a worldly version. It’s a heretical version. It’s a fraudulent and phony version of the real thing. You’ve taken the true Gospel and warped it to fit what your cultish followers want to hear, rather than telling them what Jesus truly said and meant.
And, even worse, you’ve amassed millions of dollars in personal wealth by doing it, scamming the thousands of people who look to you as their leader and shepherd — a sin far worse in my opinion than not hopping into a pontoon boat to rescue storm victims (as great as that would have been for you to do.) After all, these are eternal souls we’re talking about and it could very well mean the difference between Heaven and Hell for some of them.
It’s sad and I honestly feel sorry for you.
Now, to be clear, no pastor is perfect. They’re human just like the rest of us. They make mistakes. They struggle. They need prayer and encouragement. But James was very direct when he wrote that Biblical teachers would be held to higher standards and receive “heavier judgement” or “greater condemnation” than those believers who are not in positions of church leadership and authority. And this should honestly terrify you, Mr. Osteen. It should humble you. It should cause you to question whether or not this whole Prosperity Gospel shtick is legit and Biblical. (Hint: It’s not.) It should cause you to question whether your entire interpretation of Scripture is even remotely accurate. (Hint: It’s not.) It should cause you to question what God will have to say to you when you meet Him face-to-face on Judgement Day. (Hint: It won’t be good.)
Second, if you can’t meet the Biblical requirements and God-ordained standards for pastorship, then you should probably consider stepping aside and handing the role off to someone who can. Of course, I suspect that your ego, your abysmal misinterpretations of Scripture and your lust for wealth and power probably won’t allow you to do this, but I just thought that I would toss the suggestion out there anyway.
See, the “higher standard” that I’m more concerned about here has nothing to do with whether or not you opened up Lakewood five seconds after Hurricane Harvey started ravaging its way through Houston.
I’m far more concerned with whether or not your message meets The Highest Standard — the standard of God.
So far, I’ve see no evidence that it does.
Josh Givens: the simple-minded pastor's kid, blogger, writer and truth aficionado
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