Four days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon and on the day that the citizens of Watertown, Massachusetts, spent locked down in their homes as their city was searched for the second suspect, Joel Osteen was interviewed on HuffPost Live.
In it, he was asked how he would comfort the family of the slain Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer. He replied: “There’s not a lot to say to them, except to pray for them. I’ve been in situations like that…and a lot of times you just sit there with them and weep with them. You let them know they’re going to make it through, but I don’t know if words ever can be the right thing. Except that, you know what, there is the hope of heaven. Be strong. Remember the good.”
To be fair, Joel Osteen was put somewhat on the spot. He didn’t know the faith of either the officer or his family and so could not really speak with certainty as to what he would say to them. What is interesting, though, is that throughout the rest of the interview neither the name of Jesus Christ nor His work of redemption was mentioned—not once in over nine minutes!
This is the popular form of religion in the United States these days, a religion that is commonly labeled “Christianity,” but that is anything but. Evidence for this can be found in both the popularity and the message of Joel Osteen.
In a sermon (which was coincidentally preached on Rogate Sunday when the focus is on prayer), he said: “When God sees you showing your dependency on Him like that (when you constantly pray and thank Him for His blessings)…that’s what’ll cause Him to make your life easier.”
Wow. Want more? Here you go: “If you’ll acknowledge God before you get to the mall, He’ll find you the best deals. If you’ll acknowledge God before you get to the gym, He’ll give you a better workout. If you’ll acknowledge God before you go into that meeting—(say for) ten seconds under your breath: ‘God give me Your favor. I need your blessing.’—that meeting will go better. Jesus put it this way: (John 15:5) ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’”
In this “sermon,” yes, Jesus’ name was mentioned…four times, but never in the sense of being the world’s Redeemer. Of course, to speak about Jesus as a Savior, he needed to have mentioned our need for a Savior first. But he didn’t, unless you need someone to save you from standing in a long line at the grocery store.
And this is really the kind of savior this seemingly new and improved (really, old and damnable) kind of religion claims as its own. One who will pave the way (make the crooked way straight???) for you to have a good life now, never once mentioning the death you must face in time and eternity on account of your sins (Genesis 3:6: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate [emphasis added]). And because neither sin nor its consequences are mentioned, so also the life Jesus lived and the death He suffered to take your sin and guilt away are left out as well.
Those who preach like Osteen seek popularity at the expense of the truth. They “give the people what they want” and benefit greatly from it. Our Lord, though, calls us by His Word, not to success in this life, but to faithfulness, a faithfulness that He provides and strengthens by His Gospel and Sacraments.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).