Truth Matters Newsletters – January 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 1 – Words of the Profit by Kyle Smith
Discernment Ministries International
Words of the Profit
By Kyle Smith
January 6, 2008 — A holy man in Chuck Palahniuk’s darkly funny 1999 novel “Survivor” sells 200 million copies of a self-help guide called “The Book of Very Common Prayer,” which includes The Prayer to Locate a Lost Contact Lens and The Prayer to Prevent Mildew Stains. The Prayer for a Parking Space goes:
Oh, divine and merciful God,
History is without equal for how much I will adore You,
When you give me today, a place to park…
In Your care will I find respite. With Your
Guidance, will I find peace.
To stop, to rest, to idle, to park
These are Yours to give me. This is what I ask.
Just eight years later, the principal difference between Palahniuk’s satire and the most popular preacher in America today, Joel Osteen, is that Osteen’s message is more blasphemous. Osteen’s seven million Christian TV viewers might be interested to learn that Osteen, a college dropout with no formal training, is, literally, a heretic whose message is being called “Satanic,” “occult” and “antichrist” by respected evangelical ministers (See, for instance, the blog of Connecticut River Baptist Church pastor Ken Silva).
Osteen, who wears a deranged flash-frozen-smile – he looks like Martin Short playing the Joker – received a $13 million advance for his new book, “Become a Better You,” and collects $73 million a year in donations at the former home to the Houston Rockets that is now Lakewood “Church.” “Survivor,” not the Bible, seems to be the blueprint for Osteen’s life. Palahniuk’s character Tender Branson is born into a religious cult; Osteen inherited his ministry from his father John, a babbling freak who believed in faith healing and announced, at 77, that God had just given him the okay to keep preaching into his 90s. Two weeks later, Osteen Sr. was dead. Palahniuk’s Tender Branson gets a makeover from agents who pump him up with exercise and steroids; Osteen bench-presses 300 pounds. “People shopping for a Messiah want quality. Nobody is going to follow a loser,” writes Palahniuk. Tender Branson’s agent tells him, “Think of those young people out in the world struggling with outdated religious or with no religions, think of those people as your target market.” Osteen doesn’t stick to outdated religions – his church is non-denominational – or any religion at all. There are no crosses or other religious symbols in his church.
Even Palahniuk, though, doesn’t dare place Man over God on the Who’s Hot in the Cosmos List. Osteen has said, “You can cancel out God’s plan by speaking negative words.” Whoa, there, preacher boy. That ain’t Christianity. Christians don’t believe they can change the will of God, I hope I don’t win the lottery”). Even the Palahniukian prayer says, “These are yours to give me” and leaves the rest up to Him.
Osteen’s favorite code word is “increase,” because that gives a Biblicalish spin to materialist goals, as in “God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions.” When Osteen cites the Bible (note to TV interviewers: Try springing a little Scriptural quiz on Osteen the next time you get him in the chair) he doesn’t merely miss the point, He steers the opposite way. Osteen cites Colossians 3:2 (“Set your mind and keep it on the higher things”) in his book, “Your Best Life Now” (chapter two, page one – or 2:1) as applicable to the situation, “Perhaps you work in sales, and you are scheduled to give an important presentation.” God wants to help you “snag that big contract” if you set your mind to it.
Flip to Colossians 3:2 (King James Version) and you’ll find that the entire verse reads, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:5 warns against “covetousness, which is idolatry.” Osteen’s books are all about covetousness and idolatry. He is a false prophet to whom God is a cosmic waiter. (“Hi! My name is God and I’ll be your deity this evening. Start you off with a bottle of water?”)
The Word-Faith Movement,” of which Osteen is a member, uses God as a Trojan horse to sell the ancient mystic rubbish – picture it and you’ll pocket it – that also drives “The Secret.” doesn’t pretend to be a tax-exempt religion.
If the IRS doesn’t nab Osteen, maybe Palahniuk should sue him for plagiarism. Osteen writes, “Perhaps you’re searching for a parking spot in a crowded lot. Say, ‘Father, I thank You for leading me and guiding me. Your favor will cause me to get a good spot.”
Osteen recalls the time he tasked God with being his personal parking aide, and lo: ‘Just as I steered our car past the front row of parked cars, another car backed out as I approached…it was the premier spot in that parking lot.”
Maybe Osteen didn’t learn all of the lessons of The Gospel According to Chuck, though: “Survivor” climaxes with Tender Branson being chased by an angry mod.