Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Cotton Candy Gospel

They dress the wound of my people
    as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
    when there is no peace. 

So what's wrong with positive thinking and victorious living?  Why are those stodgy old orthodox Christians so grumpy and judgmental about Joel Osteen?  After all, doesn't he help people?

Why of course!  Joel's all about helping you "Become a Better You" by following these seven simple keys:
  1. Keep pressing forward 
  2. Be positive toward yourself 
  3. Develop better relationships 
  4. Form better habits 
  5. Embrace the place where you are 
  6. Develop your inner life 
  7. Stay passionate about life 
What's not to like?  Why, nothing at all!  It's all great stuff ... except it's not the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It has been aptly described as "cotton candy" ... 100% sugar for the soul.  You walk away feeling motivated and energized.  But if you think you've heard the gospel, remember ... the sugar high only lasts a little while.  Once it wears off it's all fat, decay and depression.

Still, if Mr. Osteen was just a motivational speaker, the church could essentially ignore him.  He could make the rounds of the usual circuit of business leadership symposiums and the like.  He'd probably help lots of people be full-spectrum leaders.

The problem is that he claims to be a Christian leader.  He pastors a church.  A very, very big one.

According to Wikipedia, "Joel Scott Osteen (born March 5, 1963) is an American author, televangelist, and the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. His ministry reaches over seven million broadcast media viewers weekly in over 100 nations around the world." 

That's an awful lot of people who believe they are coming to Mr. Osteen for a word from God. Unfortunately, what they're getting is all dessert and no vegetables.  The Bible?  Let me paraphrase it for you.  The holiness of God?  Meh.  Sin, judgment and wrath?  Why so angry?  Grace?  I'm sure we have some nice "Amazing Grace" T-shirts in our gift shop.  Victorious Living?  Now we're talking!

This brings us back to Jeremiah, who warned of false prophets who preached of false peace.  Treating a deadly cancer with band-aids and aspirin, they soothed the doomed with lies about a deliverance which would never come to the unrepentant citizens of Jerusalem.  What those people needed was the truth.  They needed life-saving surgery, but few of them listened to God's oncologist Jeremiah.  After all, he was such a downer!  I mean, who writes a depressing book called "Lamentations" and expects to make any money?  

Of course, Jeremiah was not the only prophet to preach against the snake oil sold by sweet-talking charlatans.  The Apostle Paul warned Timothy as well:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:3)
The Cotton Candy Gospel is nothing new.  Everyone wants to hear they are wonderful, their future is marvelous, and their spiritual life is victorious.  Yum yum!

I'm sure that some of Joel Osteen's fans and followers are authentic Christians.  They get their vegetables from somewhere, and go to Joel to satisfy their sweet tooth.  Presumably at some point the Holy Spirit will convict them that it's making them spiritually flabby, and they'll move back to something more nourishing.

The frightening part is that many others are following this Pied Piper as he serenades their route to destruction.  Blind to their peril, they will find themselves among those who cry "Lord Lord" on the Day of Judgment, and hear those tragic and terrifying words:  "I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!"

Those wretched souls will doubtless protest that Pastor Joel promised them their "Best Life Now".  And our Lord will say, "Yes, I'm afraid you had it."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Proud Papa: Junior Breaks Out

Jailer Jr.'s graduation from Riverbend High School was a can't-miss event, which I attempted not to miss over an extremely slow Internet connection.  I was grateful for the principal's "shout out" during his introduction, which at least let my son know my heart was with him though my body is very much still in Afghanistan.

I have actually been quite caught up in Junior's travails through his remarkable college application process.  After applying to all his "dream" schools, he was eventually accepted to UVA and VA Tech.  These are great schools to be sure, but they were not his top choices.  Then, after being put on Carnegie Mellon's priority waiting list and being passed over, he was unexpectedly accepted three days later.

Meanwhile, in the space of a couple of months he was:
  • given an ROTC scholarship
  • lost it (medical disqualification)
  • got it back (waiver)
  • was offered an upgrade to a full-ride for Electrical Engineering
  • lost it through a dizzying sequence of events
  • then (finally) got it back as well!
Today, I'm thrilled (and very humbled) to say that Junior has a full Air Force ROTC scholarship to attend a top-10 engineering school.

Through it all the entire Jailer clan learned to appreciate the power of prayer, the faithfulness of God, and the help He provides through some truly wonderful people He put in our path.  Indeed, Junior will be hard-pressed to take this tremendous opportunity for granted after all this drama!  As an added bonus, he will be just an hour's drive from his namesake--my true father in the faith--and his wonderful wife, who are excited about watching out for him through his college years.  Since we expect to spend three of his college years in the Far East, Mrs. Jailer and I are very grateful for this blessing on top of all the others!

If you will indulge one final father's boast about his son, please stop by Teen Ink and check out Junior's essay about Stonewall Jackson. I'm biased, of course, but I happen to think he developed a very balanced and nuanced view of a complicated and controversial leader.  Here's a little taste:
Jackson was a loyal soldier, strong disciplinarian, daring tactician, charismatic leader, and imposing opponent for the Union to be sure. However, his talents were only fully effective under a certain set of conditions – familiar territory, extreme mobility, tentative adversaries, and dependable allies. When such conditions weren’t met, the results were at best mixed. That isn’t to diminish the importance of Jackson’s generalship. He routed the Union several times and changed the balance of power in the Virginia theater of the war significantly. His audacity, had he survived, may well have brought the South a tactical victory at Gettysburg on the chaotic first day, a strategic inflection point which in turn may have won the war before Grant could even step up into supreme command. Still, his genius needs to be evaluated within its limitations. He was a man in his moment, a weapon to be employed for a particular purpose, yet who even then always seemed to operate just inches from disaster. In the end, disaster found him.
If you appreciate what you see, I invite you to leave a comment, give a (generous) rating, and share it with your friends!  You'll do much to encourage a young author!

Oh, and the beautiful and brilliant Jailerette may now stop gagging about all this over-the-top gushing over her older brother ... your turn's coming my dear!