Friday, December 23, 2005

Prima donna Christianity

John Teter links to a disturbing discussion about a recent incident where Joel Osteen's wife and children were apparently removed from an airplane after causing a disturbance onboard. While I met Joel and his wife once, and my wife and son enjoyed an afternoon playing with their children at a hotel pool, I'm totally unqualified to pass judgment on them or their family or this story. In fact, in our very limited experience the Osteens came across as genuinely nice people, and I respect the fact that as celebrities, never mind religious figures, they have a bullseye on their backs that may attract rumor and unfair innuendo. That said, the discussion points to very real problems with how some evangelicals (again, I do not know enough about Osteen's ministry to lump him in this category) have cheapened the gospel by seeming to equate material success and status with "God's favor." To such theology, I can't help but ask: Was Job removed from God's favor when his kids died and his house burned to the ground and boils ravaged his body? Was David outside of God's favor when he lived on the lam among caves and foraged for food in deserts? Had Joseph violated God's favor when he was sold as a slave, wrongfully accused of rape, and imprisoned for years for a crime he never committed? Had Hosea lost favor when God told him to marry a prostitute and suffer the indignities that came with her abandonment? Was Jesus outside of God's favor when his broken body hung naked from a tree (or for that matter when he was born in a barn)? Had Stephen fallen into disfavor when he was stoned to death, or had Paul - Stephen's redeemed executioner - disinherited God's favor when he was shipwrecked, imprisoned, stoned, beaten, and ultimately martyred? On the countary, there's much to be said for suffering as a mark of God's favor. In fact, Jesus himself said it this way:

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)
James offered:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
And Peter had this to say:
"But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.' ... It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." (1 Pet 3:14, 17)
I'll take their truth, and 66 books of complicated Scripture, over our Americanized fluff anyday. What do you think?


At 12/24/2005 12:10:00 PM, Blogger John Liotti said...

I've been constantly frustrated by the American model of Christianity. Living in the Bay Area (like NYC) forces me to be much more real in our approach. This is simply not a 'Christian' area - with estimates of only 4 to 6% of the population church-going.

The 'norm' dosen't cut it. Saying that - folks here seem (in a rich, liberal way - you know good words but a whole lotta NIMBY - not in my back yard - mentality) to care about the poor and justice issues. Whan I tell them what our church and non profits are doing - there is an openness to diologue.

I don't know - I'm rambling... but I hunger for authenticity and honesty. That's why we church planted - maybe that is why we are so small...

At 12/24/2005 12:31:00 PM, Blogger soulpadre said...

Awesome, simply awesome. With pop Christianity becoming more market segment than counter culture, we have the responsibility of taking persecution on the chin. Spiritual warfare is NOT praying through until one finds a convenient parking space at the mall, yanno! Jeremy, John, others: keep swimming up stream from the mainstream. Keep emerging, and breaking through the cultural accretions! Shalom, and Merry Christmas!

At 12/25/2005 12:35:00 AM, Blogger latinaliz said...

Amen, amen! In suffering many things happen that those focused on this wave of a prosperity gospel don't pay much mind to...we want resurrection without going to the grave. I believe it was Martin Luther who once said, "God creates out of nothing. Therefore until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him." In suffering we learn so much about ourselves and the God we say we believe in. With the theology of prosperity (which fills churches seeking $) the preoccupation is MONEY while in biblically balanced stewardship theology the preoccupation is wisdom in the use of money. The latter's attitude is faithful while the former is driven, the latter is steward, the former is owner. In my own journey I've learned so much from the hardships of life but one thing is for sure you realize you just can't have a prima donna Christianity in the Kingdom.

At 12/28/2005 08:13:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Kruse said...

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