When People Show You Who They Are: On Joel Osteen and The Nashville Statement

Yesterday Christian twitter got so loud, NPR picked up the story this morning. In case you don’t know, now you know Joel Osteen is not being totally honest about why his giant church didn’t house hurricane relief efforts, and a bunch of very conservative theology guys thought it was time to remind everyone what they think about human sexuality.

I understand the outrage. I understand the fury. (My favorite response here) I understand the heartbreak of being reminded that some people think you are broken in the eyes of God. What I did not understand was the surprise. I was not surprised by any of these actions. I was not surprised by any of these statements.

As the brilliant Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

It is no surprise that Joel Osteen did not think it was his job, or the job of the church to house people in crisis. He doesn’t think of the church as a house of refuge. He thinks that people favored by God will be able to help themselves. I am not trying to be critical of his theology, and I am not trying to negatively represent him, these are the things that his says. They are broadcast live on television every Sunday.

Why would a man who thinks that favor with God and financial favor are one and the same even consider opening the doors of his church for refuge? The people of God can surely spend the money that God has blessed them with to take a little vacation while the waters recede. He didn’t open up the doors of the church, because he does not believe that sheltering the unfortunate is the job of the church. He has never said anything that would make us think that.

Meanwhile, as the country is watching Houston and worrying about where people are going to stay, a group of very conservative mostly men put out a statement on what they believe about human sexuality and the Bible. I am a little unclear as to why they even put out a statement, because everyone who cares even a little already knows what they think. It is like me putting an ad in the newspaper about how much I love to eat or how I run my mouth a lot. If you met me, you know. This is information I regularly volunteer.

So dudes who don’t believe women should be pastors, don’t believe women should be the head of the household, got in a fight with a muppet bear over gender roles, believe that homosexuality is a sin and OH BY THE WAY also believe that if you don’t believe what they believe you are not a christian.

Y’all. None of this is new. I am a woman who left a career that I was good at to pursue three years of academic study of the Bible, and people LOVE to tell me I don’t take the Bible seriously. We disagree. I still think they are christians, they think I am not. We disagree on that too. Whatever man.

None of this is a surprise. None of it is new information. When people show you who they are believe them. These men have showed us who they are. These men have showed us what they think about God and what that means for their christian practices. None of this should be a surprise. We don’t just think about theology. We practice it. We do it and live it and work it out in word and deed.

These men have long told us what they believe. They have lived it out by who they let in and who they let speak and what they say and where their money goes. This is what they believe, this is what they say, this is how they live.

There are so many other churches and people and places that are opening their doors wide in the name of Jesus. Melissa Greene has been quietly excluded from the christian machine for years as she continues to affirm LGBTQ people in Nashville no less. The United Methodist Church is doing the quiet work they often do in times of crisis. I am sure they are not the only denomination doing good work. Very many denominations have emergency squads.

If the actions of these men in the name of Christ have hurt you, please know that I am praying that you feel desperately loved today. If you are looking for a different kind of christian leader, there are so very many in your community quietly doing the work of Jesus.

This doesn’t have to be our way, our theology, our belief. We can do better. God is so much bigger than this.

3 thoughts on “When People Show You Who They Are: On Joel Osteen and The Nashville Statement

  1. In Toledo, our church with a new pastor from Houston, has been uniquely positioned to gather and send help to his former church which is a distribution center for Harvey relief. God is at work.

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