Sunday, December 06, 2009

A prosperous faith

Sunday mornings now find me at the gym. I joined Planet Fitness in Auburn in an attempt to keep my fitness momentum moving forward during the dark days of winter. For the past several weeks, my goal has been to visit the gym 3-4 days per week, where I engage in 50-55 minutes of weight lifting, and another 30-45 minutes of cardio.

Weekdays, I tend to get up early and arrive by 5:30 a.m. in order to get my reps in before heading to the office. On Sunday, Planet Fitness doesn't open until 7:00, so I have to go a bit later.

This Sunday morning routine finds me on the treadmill or elliptical machine during part of my longer, two hour session. Being tethered to an exercise machine results in you being captive to the row of televisions projecting a mix of Fox propaganda, infomercials, and local weather at the AM fitness crowd. One program on The Discovery Channel that I've tuned into the past two Sundays is popular preacher, Joel Osteen, he of the great head of hair, as well as the nation's largest congregation, Lakewood Church, in Houston. To say his theology is suspect, would be putting it kindly. Like so many prosperity preachers, Osteen dispenses with the message of self-sacrifice, and living for others--in essence, Jesus' gospel--and has crafted a message that overflows with pure positivism. Osteen has distilled the Xian life into a series of steps (seven, to be exact), which if followed, guarntees that our existence will be happy, healthy, and blessed with everything that would make this life wonderful.

Actually, I haven't invested more than about 10 minutes the past two Sundays, kicking the tires, so to speak, on Osteen. When someone is hyped as much as he is, and you have some experience with movements that follow a man, then a few minutes listening to what someone like Osteen has to say, since he's wildly popular, is just staying abreast of an opponent, in my opinion.

Interestingly, in catching up with my Long Reads Twitter feed, I came across this article from The Atlantic Online, written by Hanna Rosin, provocatively titled, "Did Christiantiy Cause the Crash?"

Rosin's lengthy, well-written piece explores the prepondarance of preachers that peddle the prosperity message to tens of millions of Americans. While Osteen gets a mention, there are many other messengers that are promoting a brand of Christian faith that is a different kind of animal than the one I once embraced, and different than espoused by traditional evangelical theology. The article provides a blow-by-blow account of the gullibility of many that profess to be following Christ. It also shows that P.T. Barnum's adage about suckers is still alive and well in America.

No comments: