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Riiiiiiight

posted by awelborn

I read the article on Joel Osteen in the current issue of Texas Monthly, and while it was worth reading because it was very thorough and fair, it still left me peeved, in a general sort of way, and the category of Protestants, whether they be certain evangelicals or certain Pentecostals or whatever, who diss RC’s because you know, we’ve created all of these human traditions and we have priests who are like mediators between God and humanity, and you know, real, Bible-based Christianity doesn’t need all of that, and in fact, can’t have it.

So tell me that after you’re honest about the reactions, uncorrected and unremarked upon, of so many people to folks like Joel Osteen, people who will line up for hours to get his autograph, will ask for him to touch their children and ask for his blessing because the Lord works so powerfully through him.

Yeah. Tell me.



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jay baker

posted August 5, 2005 at 9:45 pm


Dear Amy: iam starting Catholic Pub. Co. soon.Is there any way you can put my website on your Blog?? My web is not up yet, it will be faithful to the Magstrm,like Ignat. Press.Please, please, please, please. I live in Los Angeles.



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Jason Kranzusch

posted August 5, 2005 at 10:52 pm


As a former Pentecostal and fervent RC-basher, I am now quite sympathetic to the RC faithful. I attend a conservative Anglican church in Jackson, MS and feel much closer to RC and Orthodox Xtians than I do to most Prot’s.
A concern remains in my mind. I look for charity among my own Anglican Communion, the RC’s and Orthodox. “High Church” Xtians can, at times, be just as illogical and ill-informed as their Prot. antagonists. Wouldn’t you agree?



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amy

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:06 pm


Jason,
There is no lack of such illogic-detection among RC’s on this blog. But I don’t think that every single post looking at the illogic of another group or elements of that group must be preceded by a mea culpa, every, single time.



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Jimmy Mac

posted August 5, 2005 at 11:16 pm


At the risk of incurring the everlasting fires of the neocons, I ask you all to think about how many RCs are eager to do the same thing as Osteen’s faithful do. Go to Medjugorje (sp) or some of the other Marian shrines. Watch the blatent excesses in action. Could it be that Osteen’s superficial US marketing is what we are against? If we look closely at our own traditions (selling a house? don’t forget to bury the statue of St. Joseph for a quick sale; adulation of traveling madonnas, etc.) you will see parallel examples of hoodwinkisms and superstition.
If you want to see a very BAD example of this, go to the “Jesus Junk” stores in Bethlehem and see the pure garbage that the faithful load up on.



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Lynn Gazis-Sax

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:13 am


The St. Joseph statue burial thing drives me nuts. On the other hand, I totally love my “Mother of the Streets” icon and my picture of Dorothy Day.



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Neil

posted August 6, 2005 at 1:15 am


If I may engage in a little bit of irenicism:
1. Jason is of course right, and this illogic and ignorance has, at times, been acknowledged (as Amy implied). Regarding Jason’s own Pentecostal roots, the eminent theologian Kilian McDonnell, OSB, moved by John Paul II’s own confession of sins committed by Catholics, released a 2000 statement saying, in part, “I confess the sin of arrogance with which Catholics have treated Pentecostals, leading to intolerance, discrimination, and exclusion. … Many Catholics have failed to recognize the true ecclesial and sanctifying elements in Pentecostal churches. We have labeled them ‘enthusiasts’ and have not received with gratitude the gifts and spirituality they offer.”
2. I don’t think that Jimmy Mac need fear the “everlasting fires of the neocons.” At least not here. I think that Jimmy Mac is right to see parallels between certain distortions of Catholic practices and at least some aspects of Osteenism. Osteen tells his audiences (as the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted him) that God “can and will bring your dreams to pass … you were created to live in health and abundance.” This risks instrumentalizing God – the very same danger found in the misuse of the veneration of the saints.
What is this misuse? In a recent article in Theological Studies, Patricia Sullivan has written, ” … the tradition was never truly only about the objective fact of the ‘instrumentality’ of the saints; it was also about our subjective response to God through the saints–whether or not this was recognized by individuals invoking the saints in the past. It could not be simply about the ‘saintly symbols,’ for every religious matter involves both grace and those upon whom grace ‘works.’ In invocation and intercession, both the invoker and the intercessor are ‘graced’ subjects summoned by God to respond positively to his self-offer. So the objective status of the saints as symbols because of their proximity to Christ is subjectively appropriated and therefore fully actualized in the reaction of the living to them. The subjective orientation of the invoker to the things of God offered to human beings is the very point of the religious act; indeed, it is the point of any religious act that properly recognizes that all such activity is a response, not an initiative. In the Middle Ages, the ‘things’ offered often were conceived narrowly as material favors–cures, success at tasks at hand, recoveries of lost items, etc. And it may be that God truly will grant such favors through the agency of a saint. But, as medieval Christians did not stress enough, God will do what he will, and he may answer our prayers in a way that we do not expect but need. The value of any prayer is simply that we consciously turn ourselves to God, responding to him by adopting a disposition that allows him to work with us.”
I don’t know if Dr Sullivan is right about medieval Christians, but an excessive focus on “health and abundance” or miracles can make us lose the awareness that the value of prayer is in our turning ourselves towards God, not material favors. Osteen risks leaving us the prisoners of our own “dreams,” unable to grasp the words of the Psalmist before God – “you will expand my heart” (119:32). Burying the statue of St. Joseph for a quick sale leaves us trapped within the shininess of our desire for profit, unable to see the transformative light of the saints, who, in St Gregory of Nyssa’s words, “cast the refulgence of their own lives, like lamps, upon the path for those who are ‘walking with God’ (Gen 5:24, 6:9).”
So, if we criticize Joel Osteen, it should be with self-awareness indeed.
Thanks.
Neil



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David W.

posted August 6, 2005 at 1:41 am


Yes, the key is the reason for why you do what you do. Burying a statute of St. Joseph is probably only wrong if your motivation is greed or you view God or His saints as celestial slot machines from which a jackpot will eventually come if enough quarters are inserted. There is a sense that a simplicity of faith might also motivate someone to perform “odd” actions as prayers. Child-like faith might simply ask for something without worrying about all of the details and whether it is right to ask for such a thing because it so fancy or expensive, etc. The expression of that prayer might be somewhat unusual, but the heart is in the right place.
Approached from that perspective, we are like the ones who ask for bread and to whom God will not give us a stone instead. I have learned much from my wife with regard to God’s concern about our lives. He is interested in all of the details. Not as an overseer, but because He wants us to be completely united to Him. We show we love Him and we trust Him when we approach Him with the most mundane of concerns.
In terms of odd practices, one should be careful to quickly condemn. Scripture and the lives of the saints are full of odd behaviors. Ezekiel and Hosea certainly are wonderful examples. Their contemporaries probably thought they were insane. No one else was doing what they were doing. It would have been so easy to condemn their religious practice. However, again, the key is the motivation. They were trying to be obedient to God. He sees our hearts and can help us see where we are doing things for our glory rather than His.



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Robin

posted August 6, 2005 at 5:29 am


“Yes, the key is the reason for why you do what you do. Burying a statue of St. Joseph is probably only wrong if your motivation is greed or you view God or His saints as celestial slot machines from which a jackpot will eventually come if enough quarters are inserted.”
But David — why, other than greed or viewing God and the Saints as a “celestial slot machine” WOULD someone bury a statue of St. Joseph?
(PS- Love the “celestial slot machine” metaphor!)
The only legitimate reason I can think of is that the statue is old and worn out, and it had been blessed, and a statue won’t burn.
I cringe when I see people using God, the Blessed Mother, or the saints as good-luck charms. There’s a Ste. Therese chain e-mail that is especially atrocious.
Asking God to help with or the saints to pray for your material needs is ok, I guess, but I think it needs to be done with great caution because it can so easily get out of hand. Much better to ask God to grant or the saints to pray for you to have the desire to imitate Christ and the courage and perseverance to actually do it.
I also saw a good piece of advice in a little book (sorry I don’t have title or author handy) that was more liberal about this topic than I am – it recommended asking God to either satisfy our material needs OR give us the grace to stop caring whether He does or doesn’t. His choice. I kind of like that, too.



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Marion (Mael Muire)

posted August 6, 2005 at 6:20 am


Jason wrote: “I look for charity among my own Anglican Communion, the RC’s and Orthodox. ‘High Church’ Xtians can, at times, be just as illogical and ill-informed as their Prot. antagonists. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Dear Jason, Yes! I agree! It is a very troubling thing. Many of the bloggers and regular commenters around St. Blog’s have been at it for a while, long enough to feel that one has “gotten to know them.” I cherish the bloggers and commenters who may be depended upon to write with reason, clarity, and charity, and I also cherish and rejoice over the moments when I see evidence of progress in those who had never before seemed very reasonable or charitable, but who now seem to be moving in that direction! It’s an inspiring thing to see.
Please keep us in your prayers. Thanks!



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Michael Tinkler

posted August 6, 2005 at 6:44 am


Jimmy Mac, please turn on your sarcasm detetecter (which should have been triggered by the multiple -i- usage) and reread.
We believe in mediators.
They say they don’t.
Then someone says something like ” . . . the Lord works so powerfully THROUGH him” [my emphasis].
Amy was pointing out that THOSE Prostestants believe in mediators, too, they just don’t know it.
I love it when post-Englightenment folks badmouth the middle ages for treating the saints badly. Just love it.



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Gerard E.

posted August 6, 2005 at 6:59 am


We tend to worship God through the window of our culture. The whole saints/relics/blood n’ gutz angle of Roman Catholicism is definitely a European Middle Ages phenomenon. When life was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Joel Osteen’s success reflects the ‘can-do,’ ‘get-r-done’ attitude of metro Houston. Hard to imagine that in any Rust Belt city, the local political and business leaders would provide the same cooperation Osteen enjoyed in converting the Compaq Arena to the New Supersized Lakewood Church. ‘Oh, but you worship Mary and the Saints.’ ‘Fine- don’t ask Osteen for his autograph when he’s on a book signing. Or ask him to pray over your sick child.’ Irony- I only use it for good, not evil…..



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Charles R. Williams

posted August 6, 2005 at 7:54 am


Pentecostals understand that we should pray to God in a very specific way for what is important to us, confident that God is a loving father. There are several benefits to this. First, if we pray for what we want, it keeps our prayer authentic – childish perhaps, but still real. Second, if we pray for concrete, specific things, we will know when God answers our prayers.
Someone who needs money should ask God in faith for money. Someone who is sick and in pain should ask God for healing. Someone who desperately wants a Mercedes-Benz, should pray for that and perhaps God will answer that prayer far more generously than that person can imagine.
Problems arise when we try to manipulate God through charismatic personalities or when our prayer life is disproportionately centered on our personal needs or when we judge God’s love for us or the stength of our faith by material prosperity in this life. This is a serious problem in popular pentecostalism but a potential problem for all Christians.



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michigancatholic

posted August 6, 2005 at 8:49 am


This is the evil that is wrought by corruption in the church–generations of people who dismiss the priesthood because they’ve remembered generationally the evil seen by forbears.
So just in case our clerics now think that the many recent scandals have been only political or only little things or things that can be smoothed over…let them think about this.
We’ll be lucky if we don’t end up with another batch of reformists who go off and splinter the whole thing up even more with new tales to tell their progeny.



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Nancy

posted August 6, 2005 at 8:57 am


There is an aged monk at the monastery I visit. He is not an educated man, and some would say that he’s not any too very smart. (I would not be one of those who would say that.) He takes care of the machinery, the generators, drives the tractor, fixes the road.
At the time for prayer at Lauds and Vespers, when nearly everyone else is making lofty petitions for peace in the world and universal holiness or something, this man will thank God for a new day, and ask for help with the generators. Or pray that this or that section of the road may be fixed without incident. Or that the weather may be favorable for some project.
I think this guy is on the right track. It’s not that we shouldn’t pray for “peace in Iraq.” Of course we should. But to confine our prayers to that kind of thing is to sort of keep God at a distance. He should be over in Iraq, we’re saying, straightening out that situation, and leave us alone. By praying that the weather may be good so that a certain job might be completed today, we’re bringing Him into the nitty-gritty details of our daily lives. (In our own minds, I mean. He was there already.) We’re recognizing Him here, in the computer, in the printer, in the generator, in the troublesome battery in our car, in whether it rains or not. As David W. says, He’s interested in all the details of our lives.
Never fear, He’s big enough to take care of Iraq too.



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Ruth

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:35 am


I confess…I buried a statue of St. Joseph–a little old lady at church insisted since my place wasn’t selling. It wasn’t the act of burying the statue that had any meaning for me, but the prayer that accompanied it–basically “St. Joseph, please help me.” First call that came in the next day was the real estate agent telling me he had a buyer for my house. Coincidence? I think not.



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Maureen

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:35 am


That’s a good point.
As another extreme, I know a guy who believes in God, but believes that it’s wrong to pray for anything, especially for himself. I’ve tried to convince him otherwise, but no joy.
I pray for him often, so as to make sure he’s covered….



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Lynn Gazis-Sax

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:36 am


By praying that the weather may be good so that a certain job might be completed today, we’re bringing Him into the nitty-gritty details of our daily lives.
That reminds me of something that struck me when I was reading Teresa of Avila, and that was the concreteness and ordinariness of some of the things that she would see God directing her to do. And she would still see it as God leading her, in these ordinary details.



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kimberley

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:42 am


Actually folks, the appeal of Joel Osteen is very simpe. He’s cute. And he tells people what they want to hear. If he ever told people to stop whinning and to carry their crosses like Jesus did the Compaq center would empty out.



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Michael Tinkler

posted August 6, 2005 at 9:46 am


The saints, relics, blood and gutz approach started in the 1st century.
It’s not medieval – it’s barely even Late Antique.
If one wants to know about the early manifestations of the Cult of the Saints in the west (NOT Northern Europe, by the way!), one could read the brief (the text is about 180 pages?) The Cult of the Saints : Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity by Peter Brown.
One of the important themes of the book (and most of Brown’s work) is that the distinction between “popular religion” (meaning saints, semi-idolatry, vulgar masses, etc.) and “educated religion” is a fiction of the 18th century rather than something true about the Early Church or the Middle Ages. His books on the body in the Early Church and Poverty in the Early Church are great antidotes to a lot of foolishness, too.



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Regina

posted August 6, 2005 at 10:36 am


“Someone who needs money should ask God in faith for money. Someone who is sick and in pain should ask God for healing. Someone who desperately wants a Mercedes-Benz, should pray for that and perhaps God will answer that prayer far more generously than that person can imagine.”
Is there a difference between these three prayers? The difference between needs and wants? After all, nobody ever needs a Mercedes. It’s the difference between asking for my daily bread and asking for lobster, filet mignon, and champagne.
I’m not suggesting that we judge others’ prayers; only our own. For me, asking for too many material things is the beginning of a dangerous path. I begin to think that the Mercedes (or whatever the “want” is) can satisfy me, forgetting that my true need is for God.
(Not that I’m always very good at this! One of my frequent prayers is asking God to help me only want God.)



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Regina

posted August 6, 2005 at 10:44 am


Back to Amy’s original point: I’m curious how the type of person she’s criticizing would respond. What is the difference between the way God works through Joel Osteen and a Catholic priest? (I know the difference to a Catholic . . . ) Is it the idea that Osteen was chosen by God alone and a priest is (to some) chosen by the Catholic church?



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Lynn Gazis-Sax

posted August 6, 2005 at 11:14 am


I’m not sure I understand it properly myself, Regina, since I was raised Episcopalian, and Episcopalian critique of Catholicism is different from evangelical/Pentecostal views. But, my take on what might shape the response: 1) You’re not supposed to pray to anyone other than God. From a Catholic perspective, prayer to saints is explained as just asking the dead to pray for you, the same as the living, while from the Protestant perspective it’s seen as actually praying to someone who isn’t God. 2) The Catholic priest is someone you’re obliged to go to, for the Eucharist, confession, etc. While Osteen is, in theory, just some guy that God happens to work through, that you don’t need to go to at all, to approach God.



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jayker

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:02 pm


Nancy,
You make a great point. If we don’t call on God for the small everyday things how will we hear Him ask us to do the everyday things like invite our widowed Aunt to dinner this evening or visit our sons childhood classmate in jail or drop by to bring homegrown tomatoes to our old retired business partner, etc..
We live in our own skins here and now in our own time; and our life is made up of little everyday things. It is healthy to allow God to be present to us in all those every day things including our perceived needs and desires.



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carrie ryckman

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:12 pm


I confess, with four kids I’m constantly praying to St. Anthony for help in finding things: keys, soccer shoes, goggles,…kids.



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Michael Tinkler

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:39 pm


Regina –
In re: “vocation” or “call” — God may have chosen Joel Osteen, but there’s also the DYNASTIC priciple at work — he inherited his father’s ministry and megachurch



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Tim

posted August 6, 2005 at 12:54 pm


Re St. Joseph and the house. St. Anthony, et. al. St. Joe sits confidently on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet in our house. His protection is welcomed daily. As for St. Anthony, when our daughter and son-in-law departed from grad school for employment in a faraway place, I prayed a novena to St. Anthony for them to find them a suitable place to live. They found the house — on Anthony Road. Coincidence? Perhaps. Superstition? Not!



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alicia

posted August 6, 2005 at 1:28 pm


this thread reminds me of a Janis Joplin song:
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz
my friends all drive Porsches,
I must make amends
Worked hard all my lifetime
No help from my friends.
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz



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Jimmy Mac

posted August 6, 2005 at 3:59 pm


” people who will line up for hours to get his autograph, will ask for him to touch their children and ask for his blessing because the Lord works so powerfully through him. ”
Michael Tinkler: so where is the sarcasm here that I should have detected?
Could we substitute JPII, Padre Pio, Mother Teresa or any number of statues of saints (forget the autograph in that case … but some might hope even for that) for Joel Osteen and have this statement of Amy’s ring rather Catholic?



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 6, 2005 at 4:45 pm


Jimmy Mac makes a sound point, one equally applicable to Catholics and Evangelicals (and other Christians, as well). Often, religious conventional wisdom or social custom interferes with an accurate understanding of who Jesus is and what the Gospel is. Too many Christians, regardless of their denominational or theological identity, settle for mindless cliches rather than “seeking and finding” for themselves (and, often, by themselves). It’s far easier to rest on cliches; you don’t have to do any thinking. And God forbid that you challenge those cliches, let alone the established structure upholding them.
Christ never allowed Himself to be turned into a cliche. Instead, He challenged much of the Jews’ prevailing conventional wisdom concerning God and themselves while illustrating Who God really is.



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Colleen

posted August 6, 2005 at 5:08 pm


Well ya, Jimmy Mac makes a good point if we discount the ontological differences between a guy like Mr. Osteen and Padre Pio, JPII and for that matter, your own parish priest. Mother Teresa is kind of out of the loop because she didn’t lead huge throngs with her preaching. She did her preaching using no words and she is an inspiration to not just Catholics.
But the thing is that evangelicals (and most Protestants) say that it’s just ‘me and Jesus’ not like the Catholics who get to Jesus through a priest. And they honestly believe that – like we are automatons (think of JFK’s presidential run and the Catholic obstacles he had to overcome in a largely Protestant country). Of course they don’t see the plank in their own eye. Like most of us!



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Michael Tinkler

posted August 6, 2005 at 5:51 pm


Jimmy. I’ve explained it. The multiple -i- usage: “Riiiiiiight”
You’re right, it rings rather Catholic. That’s what’s funny. We think that mediation isn’t a bad thing. Protestants claim to think that mediation is a bad thing, yet here we see them practicing it.
*sigh*
I’m having to explain humor; that may mean that you’re more interested in criticizing Catholics than reading what Amy has to say.



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Charles R. Williams

posted August 6, 2005 at 6:31 pm


Regina
The Mercedes Benz was a tongue in cheek allusion to the Janis Joplin song. If in fact we are at very primitive and materialistic spiritual level such a prayer may be sincere and God hears even such prayers as these although he may answer them in unexpected ways.
I remember when as a kid I prayed for a suit of armor. Well, it was an honest prayer. God has certainly been gracious to me. By the way, I no longer pray for this. I have too much stuff rusting away in my garage as it is.



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Fr. Shawn O'Neal

posted August 6, 2005 at 8:14 pm


Here are scattered thoughts:
Peter Popoff offers “miraculous spring water”.
Ernest Angley, and many others, offered “anointing oil”.
Rod Parsley offered blessed cloths.
I know TV guys aren’t the same as mainstream Protestants, but I never want anyone to think that RCs have the monopoly on this stuff. Not even close.
Osteen=Prayer of Jabez=Norman Vincent Peale
As for the St. Joseph statues, how about praying for the intercession of St. Joseph for the sake of all our families?
Please supply some info: Is it only a Philly area tradition that people put an image of Our Mother in the window so to make sure the weather stays sunny outside? (Please use Our Mother’s intercession abilities for something greater than keeping away clouds and rain.)



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sharon d.

posted August 6, 2005 at 8:19 pm


Amy,
Thank you. I had never heard of Joel Osteen until a month ago; now suddenly the radio is abuzz about the governor showing up at his new mega-church, and Joel is grinning at me from the cover of Texas Monthly at the checkout line. I did pick it up to thumb through the article, and was stunned to read that quote from an Osteen fan, begging him to touch his toddler because “he needs the anointing.” What the heck? When did nice Texas evangelicals start behaving like this?



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tcreek

posted August 6, 2005 at 8:22 pm


I don’t think we should be to quick to judge the “quaint” beliefs of simple “old fashioned” Catholic folks. I believe St Paul has it about right in 1 Corinthians.
—-
Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: “He catches the wise in their own ruses,” and again: “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.”
—-
I think it was C.S. Lewis who said something like – ” No one has ever gone to hell because they believed that God was an old man with a beard.”



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Septimus

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:19 am


I think Amy’s original point — if I may — was not that there aren’t misuses, or hazards of faith, within our Catholic system of beliefs, because of course there are, as itemized thus far.
No, the point was about the “purer-than-thou” attitude of too many Evangelicals.
Let’s just admit that a religion that includes human beings is going to have problems, and stipulate that right across the board.



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austin

posted August 7, 2005 at 1:30 pm


I listened to a talk recently in which the Baptist minister distinguished between spirituality(good) and religion/ritual(bad.) Afterwards, I commented that spirituality was sort of amorphous and needed a channel–that was religion/ritual. Also that my children loved ritual, such as night prayers and that they had little use for spirituality, which was too abstract for them. He was very gracious, and said he thought I was right. The idea of ritual and tradition being a good thing was a bombshell to the people there, which was surprising to me as a Catholic. Several people then commented wistfully upon the loss of tradition in every day life.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 7, 2005 at 3:23 pm


Colleen, ontological differences are irrelevant to my point, which is the tendency for Christians of various stripes to follow people, conventional wisdom or “traditions” as opposed to thinking for themselves under the Spirit’s guidance.
Besides, the whole criticism of the “me ‘n’ Jesus” approach ignores the following:
1. Jesus is God’s designated intercessor between Himself and humanity. This doesn’t negate intercessory prayer on the part of the saints or believers on earth. However, most Catholics in practice give far too much attention to their saintly intercessors and far too little to Christ as the Ulimate Intercessor.
2. Through Baptism and Confirmation, all Catholics receive the Holy Spirit, which is Christ’s personal emissary (if you will) to the believer. The Spirit teaches, guides, encourages and warns — and not solely through the mechanism of the established Church, either. The Spirit (unlike the established Church) deals with the individual believer’s particular sins, stumblings, personality, talents, etc. — and not necessarily in the melodramatic way that Charismatics emphacise. Rememeber, God came to Elijah as a soft, still voice in the midst of fire, earthquake and landslide.
3. God wants and commands all believers to come to Him “boldly and confidently,” as the Letter to the Hebrews states. I have found the most effective way to do this is through personal prayer (and that doesn’t negate the sacramental ways of coming to God).
It would be nice for Evangelicals stopped looking at Catholics through stereotypical lenses. It would be just as nice for Catholics to do the same when it comes to Evangelicals — and to stop overreacting to everything Evangelicals say about the Church.



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Colleen

posted August 7, 2005 at 4:44 pm


Joe D:
I’m pretty ok with your post except for:
“1. Jesus is God’s designated intercessor between Himself and humanity. This doesn’t negate intercessory prayer on the part of the saints or believers on earth. However, most Catholics in practice give far too much attention to their saintly intercessors and far too little to Christ as the Ulimate Intercessor.”
How the heck do you know ‘most Catholics in practice give far too much attention to their saintly intercessors and far too little to Christ as the Ultimate Intercessor’???
You are lacking in charity and humility. You have absolutely no way of knowing anyone’s internal spiritual side. Hell, we have enough trouble trying to figure out the state of our own souls!
What people do externally is one thing but we have no knowledge of anyone’s internal state — what they do, when and if they pray, how they pray, who they pray to or anything else.
Are you a liturgist? I ask only because it seems to me that too many liturgists are far to ready to judge the state of another’s relationship with our Father by using their own personal parish related observations. There is no way that you can tell by expressions, singing (or not) or bodily movements how anyone’s relationship to God is. We all have busy internal lives not privy to anyone else. Thank God.



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Septimus

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:53 pm


Colleen, Joe:
If I may attempt to be irenic…as a former ex-Catholic (I spent 10 years as an Evangelical), I had to wrestle with the business of the saints.
I resolved that with the insight that the saints aren’t “apart from” Jesus; their role derives from him. Recall John 13: he is the Vine, they are the branches.
Insofar as the Vine reaches to heaven (a la “Jack and the Beanstalk,”) how does one climb the vine, without making use of the branches? It seems impossible to me. (I’m not saying Evangelicals can’t get to heaven, by the way; only that from the Catholic point of view, I can’t separate out the saints, and I see no reason to try.)



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gaw

posted August 7, 2005 at 11:41 pm


First of, congrats on having the guts to read the article. I didn’t.
As a protestant (Southern Baptist evangelical fundamentalist) I’ve got to say my problem with Osteen is that his doctrine (what there is of a doctrine, that is) is heretical. To the extent that I disagree w/ RC dependance upon icons and such, I agree w/ Amy’s point about Osteen being elevated to a position of “spriritual mediator.” Intercession is biblical and correct, but expecting another person’s position with God to bring you a special blessing is not.
I further doubt that Osteen is “nearer to God” anyhow, seeing as his teachings are counter to the clear text of scripture, and discount the gospel of Christ. God did not become a man and die on the cross to “bring your dreams to pass.” He did so to save us from our sins.
Osteen talks much of “dreams” and “fullfillment” and irrelevant garbage such as that. He speaks nothing of sin, depravity, repentance, or things that really matter. Like someone already said, if he did so then his empire would crumble.



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Kevin

posted August 8, 2005 at 8:21 am


As an ex-Catholic (and ex-Christian), I think Joel Osteen serves as a bridge between Christianity and New Thought Churches like Religious Science, Unity, etc. I have only heard him a few times but he seems to follow (at least in a general sense) the concept that God has already provided everything we need (prosperity etc.)and it is us to each individual to appropriate it in their life. I think Catholics don’t understand Osteen because they approach him from a Catholic (and solely Christian) viewpoint. He is cute but that doesn’t explain why people go to his church (I suspect you could find a lot more cuter guys in the mall). The few times I have listened to him I am impressed by his warmth and sincerity. I suspect that anyone sitting in the arena would feel that Osteen loved and cared for him personally. Osteen has that ability. He also tells people that there are vital spiritual principles that you can use to make your life better in a concrete way (and how to use them). I NEVER heard in a Catholic church. His religion is vital, personal, loving, and dynamic. I believe a lot of what he teaches is true. The question I have is whether he has the whole picture? If not, what part is he missing?



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Lynn Gazis-Sax

posted August 8, 2005 at 9:00 am


The part that St. John of the Cross has? Or maybe the part that Dorothy Day has? Or John Woolman (to jump outside the Catholic tradition)?
He may be warm and sincere and all, but if his whole message is each individual being able to appropriate the prosperity, etc., he or she needs, I’d say he’s missing a lot. How much does he have to say about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison? If it’s not at least as much as he has to say about living your full potential, then he’s off base. (Not a slam at evangelical Protestantism, just a question about Joel Osteen in particular.)



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julie b

posted August 8, 2005 at 9:05 am


Kevin: You’ll get a lot of posts on this one.
You will find that Catholicism teaches about the relationship between God and mankind, culminating in His loving us so much as to die for us. It is about a personal relationship with God, not about “accessing vital spiritual principles” so that we can “use” them. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully human, is a Person….not just some spiritual “good for me gas”. We love persons, we should not use them.
On the other hand, if your understanding of this that is there are ways to to access this Person, the Church teaches many ways to do so. Prayer, the sacraments, use of our intellect to understand more(theology)about God, and many more.
Again,we love a person. We should not ever just use them for our needs and goals. It is part of the dark veil that covers us. We are fully capable of using others for our own needs and gratifications. It is not much of a step to do the same to God.



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Kevin

posted August 8, 2005 at 12:28 pm


Julia,
Thanks for your response to my post. I shared that I am no longer a Christian because I have tried to understand Osteen’s message from a non-Christian point of view. I was raised in a devout Catholic family, went to a well-known conservative Catholic college, minored in Theology, worked for a large archdiocese for two years, etc. I am well aware of what Catholicism teaches. I reached a point in my spiritual journey where I asked myself a lot of hard questions and took a long hard look at the Catholic Church.
I personally believe that Osteen teaches something that is true. My feeling is that he is building a church on one pillar but I don’t know what is taught on a day-to-day level in his church. I imagine that the meat is in the courses members take. I can’t say for sure because I haven’t listened to him that much.
What I can glean from these teachings is that yes, you can use God. God is seen more like a parent who has raised his child and steps back. God has done all God can do. Everything we need has been given to us. Now, it is up to the child. Yes, the child can behave selfishly and probably will. However, being healthy and prosperous is not, in and of itself, selfish. Most of these groups also seem to teach it is all about love. Love yourself and others and do no harm to others.
You mention the dark veil that covers us. I have found that these groups by and large don’t believe in original sin (I think that is what you are referring to). With Christians like Joel Osteen they seem to deemphasize this aspect or choose to ignore it. Again, I am not an expert.
My personal note: I read this blog from time to time. Religion interests me. What I don’t understand is the interest in Joel by people on this blog (including Amy’s). I have heard
Joel admit he might be wrong and that others might be right. I don’t get the fascination….



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 8, 2005 at 2:24 pm


How the heck do you know ‘most Catholics in practice give far too much attention to their saintly intercessors and far too little to Christ as the Ultimate Intercessor’???
Colleen, all you have to do is study a little church history and be sensitive to Catholic popular piety, as illustrated by this story that a Catholic youth group I once attended used to explain Marian intercession.
As a king was being honored with gifts, a poor commoner felt sad that all he had to offer was an apple, and one needing polishing at that. He felt he couldn’t go directly to the king but he thought that if he could contact the king’s mother, it might work.
He did. The mother presented the apple (which she polished) to the king, who was very pleased not only with the gift but with the giver.
Here’s another story. The wife of my best friend (a conservative Catholic) died from cancer last year. Last month, my friend told me that he was in severe financial straits so he prayed to his wife for help. The next day, he received a job offer that would allieviate his financial stress tremendously, as well as enable him to do what he was trained to do.
He thanked his late wife for the help.
Regardless of his late wife’s role in the matter, it was God who worked the miracle in question.
Colleen, most intercessory devotions to the saints (and certainly to Mary) throughout history reflected GAW’s comment: Intercession is biblical and correct, but expecting another person’s position with God to bring you a special blessing is not. That italicized comment describes much of popular Catholic piety concerning the saints to a T.
If you don’t believe that, then consider the following: When considering canonizing somebody, why do church officials examine the number of miracles attributed to the candidate in question?



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c matt

posted August 8, 2005 at 4:37 pm


Jesus is God’s designated intercessor between Himself and humanity.
Well, as God Himself, did Jesus designate anyone for a particular role? If not, then what was that whole business about the keys, feeding my sheep, building His church upon a particular rock, etc.? While the designation by Jesus to others who shall remain nameless so as to not offend may have been for a different role, it certainly was not fur nuthin’, was it? Which raises the question of exactly for what was the designation by Christ to P—r? A few weeks back Zippy had posted on this very topic (saint’s role) and brought up a good point – if saints in heaven can’t offer intercessory prayer for you, what’s the point of anyone on earth praying on behalf of anyone else? Put another way, if I can ask John Doe on earth to pray for me (or he can ask for me to pray for him) why can’t I ask a saint to do the same thing?



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c matt

posted August 8, 2005 at 4:45 pm


If you don’t believe that, then consider the following: When considering canonizing somebody, why do church officials examine the number of miracles attributed to the candidate in question?
Don’t really know, but here’s a guess –
1) if the person were alive, and was performing miracles, that would seem to be strong evidence of him being in a state of grace;
2) if they are now dead, and miracles can be attributed to them, that would therefore seem to be strong evidence of them having died in a state of grace;
3) according to Catholic teaching, if you die in a state of grace you go to heaven;
4) Saints are those souls who are now in heaven;
ergo
5) a miracle after death attributed to said soul is evidence that they died in a state of grace and are in heaven and therefore can be designated a saint.



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Fred K

posted August 8, 2005 at 5:44 pm


Dear Joseph D’Hippolito:
“Only in Christ are all things in communion. He is the point of convergence of all hearts and beings and therefore the bridge and shortest way from each to each” (Balthasar, Grain of Wheat, p64).



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 8, 2005 at 10:27 pm


c matt, there’s a big difference between Jesus appointing someone to lead the Church on Earth after His Ascention and the kind of intercessory prayer familiar to most Catholics.
Zippy’s point makes sense if you believe in a fundamental equality between the redeemed on Earth and the redeemed in Heaven. But most Catholics don’t think in those terms, and you know that. They view the redeemed in Heaven as somehow more influential with God than they are, and many Catholics organize their prayer lives along that assumption. Otherwise, why are there “patron saints” for various nations, professions and groups of people?
As a result, praying for others down here gets a relatively short shrift by comparison.
c matt, have you read or watched TV productions of Dickens’ “Great Expectations”? There’s a particularly touching scene in which Pip goes to London accompanied by his barrister. When the barrister approaches his office, he’s besieged by Londoners holding papers in their clenched fists, hoping he would hear their petitions. Those Londoners probably viewed Pip with some jealousy, since he had the access they craved.
Many Catholics view their relationship to God the way those Londoners viewed their relationship to Dickens’ barrister, and the Church doesn’t effectively teach them otherwise.



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Colleen

posted August 9, 2005 at 7:06 pm


Joe, I am a day late and a dollar short BUT, I will still say how do you know ‘most Catholics believe’ by your own subjective experiences?
I am really not that smart but even I know that any miracle is through the Trinity — if I ask for a ‘saint’ to pray for me and what I am asking for is granted, then I thank God for the favor and thank the saint for the prayers he/she said on my behalf. That’s the Catholic understanding and if I may say so ‘most Catholics’ I know believe what I have outlined.
But the fact is, the article posted makes some protestants (who don’t go for the intercessor deal) just like some catholics (who do go for the intercessor deal) although those same protestants would probably be very defensive and upset if you pointed it out to them.



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