Below is our first published piece from a submission by a reader! This week is Sarah’s Pick. It is a non-fiction, opinion piece by Rachel. Please note that the opinions and views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or views of UpWriteLadies.
The reason I picked this piece is because it is a well-written, well-reasoned, passionate argument. From it’s opening paragraph to the closing, it’s a griping read whether you agree with the view or not. It’s a strong view, for sure, but strong opinions make for good discussion, and I’m sure this piece will lead to lots of discussion!
THE PROBLEM WITH PREACHERS
I’ve got a confession to get off my chest. Few people know this about me, and I am afraid I will fall out of favor in many Christian circles if they knew the truth. I don’t like Joel Osteen. Or pretty much any Christian preacher who is rich and famous for being a Christian preacher. I know, I know, I’m just a close-minded simpleton who must be jealous of their success, and if I could just get on their bandwagon surely I would feel better about myself (the power of I am!?) and I would be able to harness all of the blessings God is obviously waiting to bestow upon my life.
But the problem is, I already have blessings from God. Even though I’m poor, and living in debt, and recognize that I am actually not that awesome of a person. Even though I think frequently about how bad of a sinner I am and recognize that I am a selfish, arrogant person. God still has blessed me with the greatest gift of all – His Son who died to forgive my sins. He has not said to wait until I feel good about myself, or really to think about myself much at all. The most important thing is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) which has nothing to do with loving yourself. Granted, the “love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 39) is vaguely about loving yourself, but more in a “you already know you love yourself so love others just as much” kind of way.
I know I struggle with a dichotomy of judgment – am I just judging these people, which I am not supposed to do? Or am I being wary of a potential false prophet? How is it that Jesus, the prophets, the apostles, they all were allowed to call people out on sin but we are now in a day and age that even mentioning sin means we are judging people and are personally subjected to God’s judgment for this? I recently heard a sermon at my church discussing the idea of judgment and how we should NOT be judging non-Christians to a Christian standard, but we should be looking at ourselves within the church and keeping each other accountable. So go ahead and call me judgmental, but I think we should hold pastors of mega churches to a Biblical standard.
I must admit, I feel a little bit like a heretic when I tell someone I’m not a huge fan of a famous, popular Christian. I see the look of confusion, or is it disgust, contort their face subconsciously. Is it because I am too much of a cynic to believe someone rich and famous could really be living right? Surely Jesus did not say that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God” (oh wait, that is His exact words – Matthew 19:24).
Joel Osteen is not someone I have given much thought to, because I just write-off anyone who preaches a “feel good” message as an inspirational speaker, not a pastor. But then I realized he is actually supposed to be a pastor and when he’s on TV it’s probably a broadcast of him preaching his Sunday sermon at his church. Except he is not preaching. At least, not how I understand the job of a pastor. He will not call people sinners, he will not talk about the importance of recognizing our depravity and the need to turn to our Savior for forgiveness and change. To be a pastor there is no requirement to do the visual illustration showing how repentance means turning 180 degrees away from sin and watching a pastor walk in one direction then literally turn completely around and walk in a different direction. No, you can be a pastor without the illustration. But has Joel Osteen ever done a single illustration relating to our sins and need for a Savior? Does he explain to people that in order to get these supposed blessings from God you probably have to be “on the team” so to speak, and explain how to become a Christian?
The best I can tell, Joel Osteen’s sermons are nothing more than uplifting language, making us feel like we can accomplish ANYTHING if we just believe. Which is nice sentiment. But believe in what? In ourselves? In an all-powerful genie god that will give us whatever we desire? It is hard to dislike someone when their words are sweet honey telling you that despite past failures something good is on your horizon. But alas, I do dislike him. I can’t stand listening to him talk. I can’t stand looking at his books that do little more than make people feel good about themselves and line his pockets with cash. Lots of cash.
God calls us to something greater than ourselves. One verse that inspirational preachers like Joel Osteen and other “feel-good-ers” like to turn to is Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Yes, God did say that, but when is the last time you’ve heard someone uplifting with that verse explain the context? Do they mention that God was actually talking to an ENTIRE NATION and not a single person, much less talking to YOU? Do they mention that this promise was given before a SEVENTY YEAR stint in exile? Most, if not all, of the people alive when the words were written were not alive when the exile ended. Jeremiah 29:11 is about looking forward to God’s redemption not about your personal selfish journey through life. It is about the bigger picture of furthering God’s kingdom, not advancing your career. When will we stop living so firmly in this present life, being coddled by “pastors” like Joel Osteen telling us that we are great, we are amazing, we just need to change our views of ourselves and we can reach a better life.
None of this bothered me so much until I looked a little more into Joel Osteen. I discovered his newest best-selling book is called “The power of I AM: Two words that will change your life today.” Joel Osteen, I did not dislike you so much until you had the nerve, the gall, to take the name of God Moses was given in the desert “I AM” and turned it into a book title which in no way represents this God. This book is about changing how you think not recognizing the great I AM that I AM. You have lost any lingering respect I could have, and I hope that you can realize your own depravity and sin in time to change your message to one of repentance followed by truly seeking after the life God wants. It is good to want to become better, to want to live your best life. But that should not a pastor’s complete message week after week, book after book. Joel Osteen is like the sweet talking door-to-door salesman who makes you feel good about yourself, convinces you how smart you are, then somehow that convinces you to purchase his product and make him rich. I’ve never liked sweet talking door-to-door salesmen.
So there, I have let out my secret. I hope I haven’t offended anyone and made them think less of me. Oh wait, except if being concerned that people are preaching a false message instead of the true message of God’s love and salvation means you dislike me, then go ahead. I’d rather you hate my message than try to milk things down to the point none of us know the truth.
Rachel was born and raised in the small town of Bennington, VT. She then moved with her husband and three children a stone’s throw south to the even smaller town of Pownal. Rachel studies nutrition policy at Tufts University and it especially interested in maternal and children’ nutrition. She enjoys cooking, and has a strange desire to cook every time the kitchen is finally clean.