Preaching ‘cotton candy’ Christianity

JP: From the Wall Street Journal. See my additional comments below.

Is Joel Osteen’s Message Recession Proof?

Excerpts:

Joel Osteen has become one of the most popular preachers in America, filling a basketball arena each Sunday in part with a message that God will reward an optimistic approach. “God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas and creativity,” he wrote in his bestselling book, “Your Best Life Now.”

Mr. Osteen’s message has always been as much about happiness — peace of mind, good relationships — as financial lucre. He’s a cross between Norman Vincent Peale’s power of positive thinking and the theology of NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” — that if you do bad things to others, bad things will happen to you, and vice versa. “I believe God’s keeping the records, and I believe you will be rewarded even in this life. Somehow, some way, God will make it up to you. It may be He protected you from an accident you never knew. You can’t give God something without God giving you more in return, whether it’s peace or joy or satisfaction.”

In one part of the interview, Mr. Osteen said he had avoided being called an evangelical because of its conservative political association. When asked if Christian leaders focusing on culture war issues — gay marriage and abortion — have driven people away from Christianity, he answered, “I feel myself many times in those same shoes. There was a time where I thought, ‘I don’t want to be known as an evangelical, because, at the time, that meant you were a Republican that was against everything.’ I think that’s changed. I don’t want people to look at me as their minister and say, ‘He’s a Republican, and he’s against this, that and the other’ — because my church is made up of all different types of people.”

Mr. Osteen attributes his resolution to be politically neutral to his father, also a preacher, who avoided politics “because he didn’t want to divide the audience…Our message is about spreading Christ’s love to everybody. If you look at somebody and say he’s against that or he’s on that side, to me, people start turning you off.”

People can mock Mr. Osteen for his relentless cheerfulness — he has been criticized for preaching “cotton candy” Christianity because he deemphasizes the challenging aspects of Christianity, including the sinful nature of man and God’s judgment. But they have to reckon with the fact that, whatever you call it, Mr. Osteen’s message is resonating.

His message resonates because people “have itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:2-4):

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

The author of Hebrews enjoins us to be “solid food” Christians (Hebrews 5:11-13):

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe

Final comments: Cotton candy has no nutritional value – “a form of spun sugar … it consists of mostly air”. Cotton candy Christianity is sugar-sweet religion with no substance!

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