Joel Osteen’s reputation was submerged in the wreckage left behind by Hurricane Harvey — and at least one pastor says the televangelist got what he deserved.
John Pavlovitz, head of North Raleigh Community Church in North Carolina, said the “prosperity gospel” minister had discredited his faith by tweeting out banal platitudes as locals mosques and furniture stores offered shelter from the hurricane that flooded Houston.
“You’ve experienced the wrath of millions of people who watched the week unfold and determined they were witnessing in you and your megachurch’s response to the hurricane—everything they believe is wrong about organized Christianity,” Pavlovitz said, “its self-serving greed, its callousness, its tone-deafness in the face of a hurting multitude, its lack of something that looks like Jesus.”
The North Carolina pastor said Osteen’s critics had found his social media expressions of “thoughts and prayers” hollow and disingenuous, and they were disgusted by his self-serving excuses for his “late and underwhelming act of kindness performed under duress.”
“Don’t wait for an invitation, you don’t wait to be shamed by strangers, and you don’t make excuses,” he said.
“I imagine you feel like this has been a rough week,” Pavlovitz wrote. “It hasn’t. You’ve had the week you probably should have had, all this considered. You’ve had the week that was coming long before rain ever started falling in Houston.”
He urged Osteen to learn from the experience and understand why his critics have questioned his theology.
“They rightly recognized that mansions are not places that servant leaders emulating this humble, foot-washing Jesus occupy,” Pavlovitz wrote. “They correctly saw the massive chasm between the ever-grinning, your ship is coming in, name it and claim it prosperity promise that is your bread and butter—and the difficult, painful, sacrificial ‘you will have trouble’ life that Jesus and those who followed him lived in the Gospels.”
The pastor hoped Osteen would follow the example set by his fellow Houstonians and turn away from his “coddled, cozy, stock photo existence.”
“You had a difficult week, but you are safe and dry, and despite the criticism and pushback, blessed with more abundance than most people will ever know,” Pavlovitz wrote. “That’s good news for you. I don’t hold any of that against you.”
“The even better news, Pastor Osteen, is that you are alive,” he added. “You are still here and you have a chance now to show people that Christianity is far more than their greatest fears about it, much better than the worst they’ve seen of Christians, and more beautiful than the ugliness they’ve experienced in the Church.”