-To Save A Life
I'm officially getting mixed messages in a very bad way in the last few days. Anyone that knows me in real life knows that I'm not a fan of Joel Osteen. Not his theology, nor his preaching style, nor his wife's hedonistic claims of who we're really worshiping when we're worshiping God ("You're not really worshiping God, though that's one way to think of it, you're really worshiping yourselves."), etc.
Then I found out Joel's church got shut down when Hurricane Harvey struck. Excuse me? He's reputed to have the biggest church in the whole nation. Some have said in the world. Why close it? Then I found reports that the building was flooded.
Cue the shame. I didn't expect that. Coupled with the claims were pictures from church members of the hallways filled waist high with floodwaters. Yeah, that will be a definite health hazard. Today, however, I'm finding a far different story. There's multiple Facebook live videos of people walking around Lakewood Baptist Church, showing the hallways and exterior. The parking garage. All "inaccessible" parts were dry. No traffic around for half a mile around the building yet the roads were clear of water.
Something's not right.
I look up Osteen's ministry page.
Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I have many friends who are excellent Christians that also happen to be fans of Osteen. If any of them reads this post, I'm sure I'll get flack, but I'm posting it anyway. Especially considering Osteen posts Scripture on status updates, which I check to see if he got the context right (for once), yet invariably never seems to (a post on Proverbs 20 comes to mind and how his update was very much different from the whole theme and feel of the chapter).
One post this weekend sadly informs that the church will be closed due to flooding. The next... shows many people ("hundreds upon hundreds," according to Osteen) inside the halls and rooms, set up around volunteer tables, helping each other out, Osteen thanking them for coming out and showing heart.
It's great that they're doing that, but I'm left with a seriously bad problem. Or perhaps Joel Osteen is. How can the church be flooded (which got supported claims from church members and staff with twitter pics, calling out "haters and hypocrites" for bashing Joel for not opening the church in the first place) then suddenly be dry enough for what looks like thousands of people to be helping out?
Don't get me wrong, it's a duty for Christians in the Bible to help each other out. I believe that's mandatory in times of travesty and crisis. What's weird is the situation and timing.
In one Facebook live video, it was joked that the rugs would probably cost thousands of dollars to get cleaned and dried, right after making a mention that Joel makes about $55M a year from church tithing alone. I looked at the pictures of the volunteers and took notice of the interior environments. In a few pictures that rugs, I noticed not one rug was wet. Not one thing in the environment had any water damage.
When I worked at Little Caesar's we had a damaged wall that, when rain was sever (if not torrential), it started to flood at the door, it would take a couple days for the rug we had to dry out. I remembered how dark the rug would get when it was either drenched or damp. The rugs in Osteen's church looked bone dry.
To be sure I wasn't being completely paranoid (you know, out of my disdain toward Joel), I looked up on Google if it was true that Joel only opened his church due to backlash on social media. Of course, he would claim that the "narrative" on social media was false.
Wait, he said something? In more than one news article about his church being closed, it was reported he had nothing to say. Now he's saying the backlash narrative is false?
Something seriously doesn't add up. In three days, I've gone from fed up with him to feeling ashamed at myself to getting riled up.
Making things further weirder is that all of Osteen's followers are stating all the claims of the church being flooded were false. That presents a "narrative" dilemma.
Was his church closed to flooding and, therefore, he unable to accept flood survivors?
Or was he unwilling to open his church doors for half a week before having to accept them?
Wait, I almost forgot, what about the church staff that supported the claims of flooded hallways?
Much as I've tried rationalizing (for the sake of argument) the timing of the claims, none of the possibilities are in Joel's favor for why the church wasn't opened in the first place (especially if it wasn't flooded in the first place). It's one or the other, to put it succinctly.
Sure, Joel has his share of skeptics, and sure, those skeptics have an internal share of fakes and hypocrites (I count myself one on occasion), as many of his followers are quick to call anyone out who doesn't take Joel seriously. However, there's the worldly way of being what a Christian looks like, then there's the Bible way of being what a Christian looks like.
Hurricane Harvey has set up a very large problem for Joel Osteen. It's also shown the true colors of his followers and skeptics. I've seen my own true colors in this ordeal, and I'm liking Joel's colors less than I did before.