By now you’ve probably seen the shot from Houston. If not, take a second and make yourself happy by watching it here. Do it for yourself.
It’s ironic, of course, that the home of NASA’s “mission control” would be the place where a great deal of the Christian world claims the Gospel is going out of orbit.
I’ve been sitting on this post for a bit because I wanted to see the continual fall-out of this. It’s no surprise that many church leaders across denominations are taking umbrage with VO’s remarks. Article upon article, meme upon meme, floating around either point-by-point refuting her, or simply making fun of her.
I wouldn’t even call it “mocking.” They’re not mocking her, they’re making fun of her. Which is shameful. Mockery, actually, is a high form of critique. Paul Woodruff notes this in Reverence, and I think he’s largely right. Mockery actually takes the person seriously.
No. I’ve seen people just more outright making fun of her. Even Bill Cosby’s 40 year-old self has a response.
But, with all of this negative press, I’ve just been thinking of my Shakespeare. As Hamlet says, “Thou dost protest too much.”
In other words, I think much of the Christian world is so pissed about her words, so quick to say, “No way! That’s not what we do. That’s not how it goes…” because underneath the skin, deep into the soul, there is a real fear that VO’s words are true.
True about the pastor who is quick to deride her for her words, and true for the parishioner sitting in the pew.
She meant them as prescriptive, of course. But I take them, her words, as descriptive.
I mean, when we trumpet around that Christianity is all about “Jesus-and-me” for so long, are we really surprised that we are where we are here? Osteen is not a theologian. In fact, I dare to say she’s been raised and taught in the classroom of the pew her whole life. Civil American Christian Religion has been a warm blanket for many pockets of society, and I’ve rarely if ever heard it seriously challenged from most pulpits. And Victoria Osteen was just repeating what she’s heard her whole life, I think.
“Not from my church…” you might say. But remember your church is one small thread in a whole tapestry of the Christian industrial complex, and whether or not you have heard it within your walls, I seriously doubt you’ve heard it challenged in any real, life-shaking way.
Why? Because people might leave. And no one wants to be down on a Sunday morning. And we really do want it to be that personal, we really do want permission to be happy, and if we can’t get it from God, where can we get it from?
The theology of “feel good/do good” is a powerful force because it feeds a need within us to have permission to be happy and have a purpose.
That might be a bit cynical, which is not like me. I’m an optimist, or at my best, one who lives on hope.
But sometimes when an opportunity comes to point at the emprorer’s pink parts because everyone caught a glimpse, a flash, of his nakedness, it’s important to take a moment and analyze the strong reactions we have.
Perhaps it’s because we realize that Christian culture has created these words, and Osteen is just repeating what she’s learned.
Perhaps it’s because deep down we realize that many do come to church to get their shot of Jesus, the drug of choice for many.
Perhaps it’s because deep down we realize that in many pockets of the world, VO’s message is exactly what people are hoping we’ll say from the pulpit on Sunday morning because one of the biggest motivators for us getting up in the morning is to chase that elusive rabbit of happiness in a dark hole existence.
…and it should be noted that there is nothing wrong with being happy, wanting to be happy, or searching for happiness in life.
But when we’ve turned that into the point of the Gospel, well, we can’t get mad when someone repeats it back to us.
And if that’s not the point of the Gospel, which I do not think it is, then instead of getting mad and making fun of Osteen (either of them), we should look at ourselves, our message, and realize that we’re largely sucking at getting it across effectively in many pockets of Christianity.
See, I think Victoria Osteen said something really true about Christianity today, and I think that our vehement reactions against her words are not just because we disagree with her assessment (which I truly do), but also because we know that she’s just, on TV, pointed out that the emperor is naked in many places.
Which means we have more work to do.
Osteen is not where the Gospel is going out of orbit. Osteen is a product of a Gospel that is largely out of orbit, and has been for a long time.