Famed Pastor Joel Osteen captivated and overwhelmed our nation’s capital this past weekend with more than 40,000 people at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. His prosperity message was in full gear when he delivered his feel-good sermon to the faithful.
In an interview with Oprah, Osteen—who also recently served as guest chaplain at the House of Representatives, by invitation from Representative Jackson-Lee—indicated that homosexuality is a sin and seemed quite uncomfortable saying so. He quickly added that homosexuals would be welcome in Heaven just as people who commit other sins will be welcome.
What he did not emphasize is the fact that all of us sinners must repent of our sins and strive to replicate the character of Christ, rather than just remaining in our sins—much less be proud enough of them to throw parades—and expect Heaven to be given to us. This does not mean that the saved are perfect and never sin, but that they have established goals and strive for perfection on a daily basis, hoping to get closer and closer to it. We are blessed that God is much more merciful than we are, and that He takes pity on the weak, and encourages us in our journey toward Him.
Theology aside, I was struck by how quickly the pastor had to change the subject, as it were. The moment he said anything difficult, anything that challenged the status quo and said that people have to change, he had crossed a line.
This is a hard saying, who can hear it?
I do not mean to focus on Pastor Osteen too much; this is just one example of how the church has lost its saltiness, or abandoned its role in society, and in many cases will not speak out against, for example, crime, abortion, or homosexual activities. Look at how these sins have flourished in our times, and yet the church is too afraid to do anything about them.
And look what happens when Christians do speak up! The Bishop of Peoria is now being audited by the IRS because of comments he made comparing President Obama’s violation of religious freedom with his contraception mandate to Adolf Hitler.
Tocqueville noted the importance of mediating institutions in American democracy. Essentially, he said that they were a stabilizing force that served as something of a check on the size of government. He was impressed and pleased with how religious Americans were.