Let me preface this by saying this is not a declaration of guilt or an accusation against Joel Osteen for the reported $600,000 that was found in his Lakewood Church earlier this month. These monies were reported stolen in 2014. Osteen, who I really don’t care for, may not have one clue of how it got stashed hidden away in a restroom wall.
However, I do feel, like others, a presumption of guilt toward Osteen for his past actions. I’m not a religious man, but I do respect others who are deeply to a spiritual and religious organization. I just don’t see religion as the answer to everything or almost everything.
Osteen has had a history of controversy. While he’s entitled to his views on abortion, the LGBTQIA community and politics, like so many other religious figures, he preaches intolerance rather than togetherness. In my opinion, any Christian church official shouldn’t have an opinion on politics. As for gay marriage, you should be happy that others are enjoying what you take for granted.
Unfortunately, Osteen and others such as Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and Joyce Meyers to name a few have preached, “It’s my way or the highway.” They shun anyone who doesn’t follow their rules exactly. And all of the above mentioned also preach the “prosperity gospel” which is so dangerous, law enforcement should be involved.
The “prosperity gospel” is a foolish idea that you more or less, can buy your way into Heaven. It’s important to have money and material possessions but only for church officials. People should and must give religious organization as much as they can even if they can’t afford basic necessities. At the same time, those who have been prosperous even though deceptive or shady actions deserve to have it, because God wants us to have wealth, materials and power.
I know, it makes no sense and contradicts itself. You’re only allowed to have money if you sit at the cool kids table is a better explanation. Most people who are elderly or have lesser means to get through daily activities are the ones upon whom they prey. In my opinion, he’s a con man, a charlatan out to squeeze every last cent out of whomever he can.
In other news, Josh Duggar, the eldest son to Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of the show 19 Kids and Counting, was convicted on Dec. 9 of receiving and possessing of child pornography. Allegations of sexual assaults against him went back to 2006 but it came out with more attention in 2015 after reports he had molested five children and young women, four of which were his siblings.
Naturally, people were divided with devout Christians accusing media reports of violating confidentiality of juvenile records. It was a deflection. People were saying those who released the information were just as guilty as Josh. Others including myself, say this as an epidemic that is common in many religious families and circles. Josh almost seem to get a pass as Jim Bob and Michelle did a very disturbing and uneasy interview where she looked at him as if he was Jesus Christ.
For as long as I can remember, there has been a running joke that the Catholic Church, particularly priests are obsessed with child molestation. I remember a joke in Airplane II: The Sequel where James Noble, of Benson fame, is playing a priest looking at a magazine titled Alter Boy the same way a person looks at Playboy or Penthouse. Yet despite these jokes over the 1980s and 1990s, no one seemed to do much about it.
Until the Boston Globe had their Spotlight series on allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in January 2002. Since then, more allegations have arisen of how even Pope John Paul II, who was very popular during his tenure, allowed priests with a long history of sexual abuse allegations move from one diocese to the next.
At the same time, many protestant churches have faced their own scandals of sexual abuse. The Houston Chronicle reports more than 100 Southern Baptist youth pastors have been charged in sex crimes. NBC News reported in 2019 there were over 200 cases involving pastors and deacons in the Southern Baptist Convention convicted of sex-abuse crimes.
What’s saddening this is putting up an invisible caution tape around those who are honest servants of God. I know many Christian people who won’t even pick up a quarter off the street out of fear that some other person out there dropped it. And the last thing they would do would harm or scar a child by sexually molesting them.
I do think the sex crimes and fraud/theft of supposed religious officials is what is moving so many younger generations away from any religion. Some have been victims of the sexual predators and don’t want to subject their kids even to the possibility a predator might be at another church. Others have watched their parents or grandparents be drained of money that after they died, the church officials wouldn’t even show up to the funerals.
Some colleges have organizations such as Wesleyan Centers, Campus Outreach, Baptist Student Union and church members “adopt” students who were raised in sheltered environments. That’s not saying they’re all bad, but people raised in sheltered homes will often go toward religious organizations rather than getting to know more people in their dorms or other youth organizations. And predators at these organizations expect that.
I’m not saying his full name, because I don’t know it, or what organization he was with, but it was only of those above-mentioned, who I’m almost certain was a predator at the college I went to. He must’ve been in his late 20s and he seemed the type to prey on unsuspecting college students in their late teens. It was a different mind frame back then and I’m not sure someone would’ve done something about it, but his demeanor wasn’t right.
We shouldn’t expect these crimes amongst religious officials and just shrug them off as if they’re pickpockets. We should be prepared to move in swiftly and stop them. Churches and organizations are given a lot of leeway on monetary donations. For tax exemptions, I feel more should and could be done to make sure whatever tithing they reserve isn’t going into someone’s pocket or car payment. Teachers are given more scrutiny than youth ministers. Yet even with no kids, I feel less safe leaving a hypothetical child with a youth minister for an hour than with a teacher for seven hours.
We get mad at teachers for our kids’ bad grades. But if a youth minister is accused of touching a child inappropriately, we give the minister the benefit of the doubt. “It was an accident,” we tell ourselves. And like in many cases involving the Boston diocese, victims were not only not believed, I’m sure many of them were beaten with belts, broom handles or even fists for saying such things.
I don’t know why so many people are afraid of going against organizations that are committing crimes. Well, I do know. If it’s predominantly white people and they are “Christians,” we give them a pass. Do you think the Duggars would’ve been treated the same if their last names were Washington, Lopez, Patel or Ahmads?
I don’t know what the right answer is. People need spiritual and religious guidance. Just because I don’t practice it, doesn’t mean others should do without. We can’t totally do without religion. I think we just need to quit treating some harsher than others.
If these religious leaders know they’re going to get away with it, they’ll push it as far as they can.