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June 6, 2014

I was watching CNN the other day and Joel Osteen was being interviewed by Marc Lamont.  While most of my fellow evangelicals don’t think much of Osteen I’ve always had a grudging admiration for the way he easily dances around the “gotcha” questions in the many TV interviews he does.  He never seems to stumble into saying something that can be slanted into some horrible indictment on him and Christianity in general.

Sadly it does seem to be the rule that, when Christian pastors and leaders are interviewed, the primary goal of the interviewer is to get them to make some sort of misstatement that can be used to gun down, in a rhetorical sense, a Christian celebrity.  It is as if it is a game in which they strive to be quoted.  You know the “Last night Pastor X told Interviewer Y that he thinks the inquisition was a good idea.” sort of thing.

The prime “gotcha” topic of the day is, of course, same sex marriage and as expected Lamont tried to get Osteen to say something that might be used to horrify our laid-back, live-and-let-live, popular culture on this subject.  Osteen was asked if he thought same sex marriage was sinful.  He answered, still smiling, “Well, I suppose I do but that is not my message…” and went on to give his own ideas on what he feels called to do with typical Osteen generalities.

Lamont, clearly annoyed, took another try at getting the quote he wanted.  He said “Your church has 45,000 members; surely some of them are gay.”  Again, Osteen was unruffled and responded that “Yes, that is probably true but my message to everyone there is the same, that…” and he pretty much repeated the same stuff he had said before.  In the end Lamont never did get his “gotcha” on Osteen.

What interested me in the aftermath of that interview was that evangelical commentary was very harsh on Osteen, berating him again and again for failing to take a stand for Jesus and confront sin; for his wishy-washy attitude on the subject of gay marriage.  The guy had deftly avoided saying something embarrassing and we were mad at him?  Are we only happy when Christian leaders actually fall into these obvious cultural traps?  Only happy when they say something that offends non-Christians?

Lamont was right; there are assuredly gay members of Osteen’s church.  But even more assuredly there are heterosexual members cheating on their spouses, or others having sex outside marriage, or still others  watching pornography.  And it is not just sex.  There are members who bear false witness, who covet, who take the Lord’s name in vain, and just about anything you can think of.  It is the nature of man that we are sinful and the nature of church that it is a place where sinners go to meet the Savior.

I’m not happy about the fact that the media has taken to playing “gotcha” with Christian leaders but that is just the way the world works.  But why do we have to play the game with them?  Rest assured that pastors being interviewed will never be asked about heterosexual relations outside of marriage, let alone about all that nonsexual stuff, like coveting, that sounds so boring.

Why can’t we refuse to play the game that the media wants on that one isolated subject of same sex marriage?  Why can’t we insist that our message is the Gospel?  Why can’t we insist that our churches are simply places where sinners of all stripes come to cling to God?  I can’t help but think that we take the bait because, when it comes to same sex relations, the vast majority of us see it as something that applies to “them;” to those other folks and not us.  We are comfortably excluded from worrying that in condemning we may well be condemning ourselves.

Maybe Osteen had it right.  (Pause to let my fellow evangelicals shudder.)  He acknowledged that he “probably” felt some sex relations to be sinful.  He admitted that there were gays in his fellowship.  But he focused on his message.  Maybe we should focus on ours.


From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. I don’t know much about Joel Osteen, or if Jesus would have taken His message to a TV interview, but some folks found Him evasive at times, too:
    When someone wanted Him to arbitrate a civil dispute (“Speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me.”)
    Or denounce oppression (“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or no?”)
    Or support the death penalty (Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Moses law says…”)

    As I read it, He wasn’t a social activist, an insurrectionist, a judge or a lawyer. He came across as totally focused on His message: “God is calling you to face your own sinfulness and repent, to be part of His kingdom.” Good for Mr. Osteen if he can remind folks of that message.

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