Monday, April 03, 2006

Damning with faint praise

A while back I posted about the athiest who put himself on EBAY, promising to go to a Christian church once for every ten dollars of the winning bid - which was just over $500 (50 churches). He's keeping a log of his visits here, filled with commentary on those visits. It's pretty eye-opening and the pastors he critiques have taken to responding to his praise/criticism. We can all learn some things about how we "do church" and how we look to a world that "doesn't get us."

Anyway, in his latest post, he opens up a bit on a personal note and in doing so, has this to say about his affinity for watching Houston mega-church pastor Joel Osteen on television:

Well, first the positive. I enjoy watching Joel for the same reason many Christians don’t watch him– it’s Christian-lite! He’s not solely dependent on the Bible to make a point. Instead of using the Bible to write a sermon, it always seems to me that he wrote the sermon with a life lesson in mind, and then consulted the Bible to back up his points. And I walk away from watching him thinking, “I do need to make better use of my time!” instead of “I should read Mark because Chapter 2 (or whatever) said some interesting things about Jesus.” Obvously, the former sits better with Atheists.

Another great part about Joel is that while he leads the king of all megachurches, I’m not drawn to him on TV because of the extravagant setup of his church/basketball arena. Unlike other megachurches that depend on the sheer enormity of itself to bring people in, I’m drawn to Joel’s message. You could have him speaking in a tiny room with an audience of 4, and I know he’d speak the same way with the same passion.

Compare that with his thoughts on James Dobson:

The icing on this whole cake is reading my Focus on the Family newsletter. And I say this without trying to politicize anything. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Dan Savage and his advice column Savage Love (typical advice: If your wife is not satisfying you, go have an affair), because I find him to be funny. He may take it too far at times, in my opinion, but he stresses the importance of personal freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Dobson, on the other hand, stresses complete control and the pursuit of Heaven. I like to read what he says because he is a man that’s so well-respected in his community. But he also despises everything I stand for, and since I think I’m a good person, I can’t understand why he feels that way. Well, I know why he feels that way… but I can’t understand why people like me don’t make him stop and think he might be a *little* bit wrong…

I hope this guy never hears me and "likes" it! Here's his moral of the story, according to the EBAY Atheist:

Christianity works best for non-believers when we hear stories that sound like something we would see or do. Joel tells me to not be dishonest by telling a story from his college days (Hey, I went to college, too!) and then supports his message with a story from the Bible. Dobson tells me I shouldn’t be dishonest because Proverbs 6:16-19 says so (as he does in the April issue of Charisma). Period. Who would I be more inclined to listen to?

1 comment:

Jim Pemberton said...

One could argue that Osteen is a more effective evangtelist because of his apparent ability to attract the unsaved to come and listen to him. However, Osteen doesn't contribute to a sociological normalization of spiritual maturity like Dobson. Dobson's not an evangelist and he doesn't pretend to be. He leads an oprganization dedicated to promoting spiritual maturity with regards to family issues. I would suggest that Dobson is more effective toward evangelism, albeit indirectly, than Osteen, despite the fact that this atheist commentator doesn't prefer his methods of communication.