Flight Rage

Great article today over at AlterNet  concerning the meltdown of Joel Osteen’s wife, Victoria, because a flight attendant did not attend to her needs quickly enough.  There was a stain on her armrest, and she freaked out. I am reading this thing and thinking, “Damn, this is really well written,” and then read more carefully and discover its written by Barbara Erenreich …. so that explains it!  Anyway, read it:

Consider the ways the Lord works in the life of the Osteens, as recounted in Joel Osteen’s book Your Best Life Now, which has sold 4 million copies and is graced by a back cover photo of the smiling couple. Acting through Victoria, who kept “speaking words of faith and victory” on the subject, Joel was led to build the family “an elegant home.” On other occasions, God intervened to save Joel from a speeding ticket and to get him not only a good parking spot but “the premier spot in that parking lot.” Why God did not swoop down with a sponge and clean up the offending stain on the armrest remains a mystery, because Osteen’s deity is less the Master of the Universe than an obliging factotum.

Plenty of Christians have already made the point that the positive thinking of Christianity Light is demeaning to God, and I leave them to pursue this critique. More importantly, from a secular point of view, it’s dismissive of other humans, and not only flight attendants. If a person is speeding, shouldn’t he get a ticket to deter him from endangering others? And if Osteen gets the premier parking spot, what about all the other people consigned to the remote fringes of the lot? Christianity, at best, is about a sacrificial love for others, not about getting to the head of the line.

She nails it pretty well.  I’ve always wondered how the prosperity gospel people manage to live with themselves. The idea  that God wants them to be rich, and is working for them specifically (at the expense of others) is about as childishly self-centered as you can get.  Not to mention the superficial materialism.  Jesus was not a Republican.


3 thoughts on “Flight Rage

  1. I recently preached on the very familiar passage about the salt of the earth. The question I asked was “Was does Jesus mean my salt that has lost its taste (or saltiness)? Saltiness is what Christians have that the rest of the world needs; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, or more basically the gospel. Preaching that lacks the gospel is salt without saltiness. The prosperity gospel is not God’s good news. “Think positive thoughts” is not what Jesus came to preach to the poor and the needy. Joel Osteen is the prime example of claiming to be salt, yet without saltiness. And what does Matthew 5:13 say that he’s good for?

  2. Clark …. I appreciate your comment. Of course, the metaphor of salt is quite wide ranging. I have always understood it to refer to the notion of preservation and purification. In the absence of refrigeration, salt would have been the primary method of preserving. I picked this up from Wikipedia:

    “* Exodus, Ezekiel, and Kings present salt as a purifying agent
    * Leviticus, Numbers, and Chronicles present it as a sign of God’s covenant.
    * The most important use of salt was as a preservative and hence the most common interpretation of the metaphor is as asserting the duty to preserve the purity of the world.
    * In the Rabbinic literature of the period salt was a metaphor for wisdom.
    * Salt was a minor but essential ingredient in fertilizer and so a few scholars such as Gundry believe that earth should be translated as soil (i.e. salt of the soil), and hence the metaphor asserts that the audience should help the world grow and prosper.
    * One interpretation of salt of the earth is that it orders the audience to take part in the world rather than withdraw from it”

    The last item is, I believe, where you are coming from. Osteen and his crew are attempting to build a spiritual “gated community” around themselves, withdrawing from the very real suffering and social injustices which plague the world. As long as they have what they need, they seem to be happy. That is not a Biblical message I can subscribe to.

  3. Its hard to fault anyone for beliefs when all of Christianity is so silly. So they say Jesus tells them to get rich, while others say Jesus wants me to burn in hell for my beliefs while he and his friends all prance around enjoying themselves in paradise. Whatever.

    p.s. – The biggest church where I live is a “prosperity” church. They ended up having to disclose some financial records, and it turns out they made $40 million in a single year. ’03 I think. What a racket!

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