DeConick responds to Osteen

Well it's Houston and Joel Osteen has released another "inspiring" best-seller. I imagine that my readers are probably familiar with Osteen, and his just-released book Become a Better You. We in Houston have been deluged with Osteen-mania, including five days of excerpts from his new book in the Houston Chronicle. I have been following the excerpts, getting more and more concerned about his "inspiring" message, and reminded about the main pop theology that has irritated me about Christianity since my teens when I watched my mom embrace it.

Osteen tells his audience that if they want happiness they need to be satisfied with where they are because God is in control of things and we are right where God wants us to be. His message:
If you're in a hard place, be encouraged in knowing that God is still in control of your life...

Recall those three Hebrew teenagers in the Old Testament who wouldn't bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar's golden idol. The king got so upset that he ordered them thrown into a fiery furnace.

But the Hebrew boys said, "King, we're not worried about it. We know that our God will deliver us. But even if He doesn't, we're still not going to bow down." Notice, they embraced the place where they were, even though it was difficult, even though they didn't like it.

You can do something similar. Quit living frustrated because your prayers weren't answered the way you wanted. Quit being depressed because you're not as far in your career as you had hoped, or because you have a problem in your marriage, or in your finances. No, just keep pressing forward. Keep your joy and enthusiasm. You may not be exactly where you hoped to be, but know this: God is still in control of your life.
As for bad marriages, Osteen says:
Well, he may not be the perfect husband. But you can thank God that at least you have somebody to love. Do you know how many people are lonely today? Believe it or not, some woman would be glad to have your husband. Be grateful for that man. Be grateful for that woman.
I normally don't get involved in contemporary theological discussions, but the days on end that I have had to put up with reading this message has irritated me enough that I feel compelled to respond. Why? Because what Osteen is saying is not just nauseating, it is downright dangerous. Here is another man in power, telling his flock to be content with all aspects of their lives, because God is controlling those situations. He uses a very violent image - a king executing those who don't submit to him - to inspire his audience to hang in there because God is in control. Does he really think that if any of us find ourselves raped or kidnapped or faced with genocide or war that we should expect God to swoop down and save us like the young teenagers who faced execution by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar?

What about women and children who are being beaten by their husbands, boyfriends, and dads every day in America? Is God in control of them? Should they stick it out because it is what God plans for their lives?

It is just this sort of Christian theology that bolsters abused women, and tells them that it is the right thing to do to stay with the abuser. That they must deserve it in some way, that they are being punished for being bad people, that they need to learn to forgive their husbands and love them unconditionally. I know this from personal experience since my husband has dedicated many years of his life to helping abused women try to get legal protection against the abuser.

Now my reader might think that Osteen can't possibly intend this? My response is that it matters not what he intends, but how his message is received by women in abusive relationships and other people who face terrible things that are beyond their control. His message "you must learn to be happy right where you are" is downright dangerous for them.

So I have another message. If you are in an unsafe place, if you are being hurt, abused, or threatened, get out. No one is going to do this for you - God or anyone else. You have to make the decision to leave.

There is so much in our lives that happens to us that we have no control over - and it is not because God wants those things to happen to us. But there are things we do control and it is our responsibility to use our brains and figure out how to get to where we want to go if we aren't already there. So if you hate your job, don't be content with it and thank God that at least you have a job. Figure out what needs to be done to get the job you prefer or dream about, and do it, knowing full well the risk. It might take years. It might take training. It might take saving money. It might take moving. It might not work out the way you planned it. So have a plan B. My point is this: if you have a dream, you are your own fairy godmother.