Watching Joel Osteen

Paul Harvey

And hey, while we're on the subject of smooth-talking prosperity gospelers (see the post on Creflo Dollar below) make sure to check out Arlene Michele Sanchez-Walsh's latest at Patheos, "Watching Joel Osteen." A little excerpt:

Why do people like Joel? Why do Latinos/as really seem to like him? What is it about him?  Let me take a guess–Joel offers a “soft” prosperity wrapped in the genteel therapeutic remnants his father’s zealous Pentecostalism. . . .  He genuinely seems happy, content, and sees his mission as preaching a beatific vision of joy—but not simply an ethereal vision–but a temporal vision where you win–all the time. For people whose collective historical experiences in the evangelical/Pentecostal church has been marked largely by division, de facto segregation, and disempowerment–Joel seems like a guy who’d never think of uttering a negative or hurtful word–and by extension–seems to offer the inclusive warm hospitable environment many African Americans and Latinos/as have been looking for for decades. . . . 

 I am looking at Joel as the “end of Pentecostalism” as we know it–he’s effectively burnished off the hard edges, he’s elevated it beyond its legalistic tendencies, and continued its unmooring from its emphasis on a hierarchy of spiritual gifts–Joel is the perfect 21st century bookend to Pentecostalism’s century as a global phenomenon. So, Mark Driscoll, and a host of other evangelicals don’t like him–I am willing to say that such negativity doesn’t wipe the smile off Joel’s face–and neither does it seem to deter the millions of people who find spiritual solace at Lakewood.


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