I just got back from running errands, an adventure on which I picked up a copy of People Magazine. I have a book on Calvin's Institutes downstairs, and material on some Greek pronoun forms that I've been trying (fruitlessly) for days to memorize, and I've got the final episode of Prime Suspect, finally arrived at the video store (I guess Greek can wait), but as I stood in line at the cash register at the drugstore, I realized that first I needed to put all else aside so that I could catch up on Jennifer Love Hewitt's traumatic beach pictures.
So I came home and had a sandwich and read all about Jennifer and flipped through the magazine and lo and behold, there's a feature on Joel Osteen. Just in time for the second week of Advent, a season which doesn't, by the way, happen to merit a mention in the article.
Now, I'm not going to say a whole lot about the Osteens -- although it's hard not to note that, while a Prebyterian pastor gets to call herself that only after she's slogged through three years of graduate work, two ancient languages, and endless written and oral presentations of herself to various psychological and pastoral and academic committees and boards, and then been called into service by a community, and then had that call confirmed by the broader church, Joel Osteen is a college drop-out whose command of his tradition seems - uh -- let me be charitable here -- on the limited side, and whose community call seems to have some kind of connection to the media industry in the widest possible sense.
Isaiah forms the backbone of the church readings in early Advent, so I am practically overdosed on his words at the moment. And we're studying the prophets right now in one of my seminary classes. The prophets had a pretty rough go of it. They didn't want to say what they had to say, and no one else wanted them to say it either. No one was editing videos of their presentations, escorting them onto private jets, or following them around with make-up and blow-dryers. Mostly people were trying to run them out of town. I guess they needed the Osteens' publicity team.
But this isn't really about Joel Osteen, or about his opposites in proclamation, Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, et al. This is about the rest of us.
A woman is quoted in the People article as saying to Joel Osteen, "Thank you for making religion a pleasure."
And here's the thing. A life of faith IS a pleasure. It's painful and hard and confusing and challenging and joyful and funny and sad and energizing and bewildering, and it's the most satisfying way I can think of to be alive to as much of what's going on in the universe as we can be, in our own limited way. To live life as fully as we can, as fully ourselves as we can be and as fully in relationship with God as we can, IS a pleasure.
But not remotely in the way implied by the lady quoted in the article.
I know that we need to do a better job of conveying the richness and joy of a life of faith but, truthfully, I can see why we have a problem. The reality is that I don't want to be Isaiah anymore than Isaiah did.
The reality is that I would love for someone to blow-dry my hair for me every morning.