But at the same time, bad things do happen to good people and life is unfair and it’s important to include that in your philosophy lest you end up blaming the victims — or God — for the evils of this fallen world. For a few years after I first saw Osteen, I followed him, read his books and listened to his sermons sometimes… then I stopped. I don’t mean this in any way personally. I have no reason to think he’s other than a good guy spreading the Word as it comes to him. But I personally began to find his philosophy… well, unhelpful.
The preacher in my novel True Crime comments that if you want to have faith, you have to believe in a “God of the sad world.” I think that’s clearly true. For me, one of Christianity’s central assets is that it’s a tragic religion — which is to say, a realistic one. The son of God prayed for release from a dreadful death and his prayer went unfulfilled. That tells you something, something you need to know in order to live with patience and wisdom. It’s not that God is absent, it’s that (as Job discovered) the moral context of life is larger than mortal man can comprehend. Which can make things very, very difficult at times. Tragedy is what we know; redemption is what we believe; that’s why they call it faith instead of knowledge.
I appreciate Osteen’s good will. I enjoy his warmth and spirit. I really like the visceral way he convey’s God’s love. But in the end, if you don’t have a sense of evil and unfairness, I don’t think you can preach truly.