Tuesday's HOT MIC

Tuesday's HOT MIC

Atheist defends Joel Osteen's church after Hurricane Harvey.

Patheos's "friendly atheist," Hemant Mehta, defended Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church.

It’s tempting to bash the Osteens. Believe me, I would love to point out the hypocrisy of a Prosperity Gospel preacher leaving poor people out in the cold. It’s easy for an atheist to criticize a wealthy pastor for offering only prayers in a time of need when he could be doing so much more.

But that’s just not the reality of the situation.

As Lakewood Church has pointed out on its social media, the church is literally “inaccessible due to severe flooding.” That’s referring to the roads and highways leading to the church, but one reporter notes that the underground parking garage is flooded as well. In addition, think of the chaos it would create to invite thousands of people into the building — knowing that many more may be trying to get in — and the amount of people and resources they would need to manage everyone. By turning the church into a temporary shelter, it may create more problems than it solves.

And it’s not like they’re letting their own people inside during this tragedy. Church services were canceled over the weekend, as were classes run inside the building.

The church actually has a history of helping people during natural disasters, so it’s not like this is part of a pattern where they turn their backs on their community in a time of need. After a tropical storm in 2001, the church became a shelter for about 5,000 people. And just last year, after local floods in April, Lakewood held a benefit concert with all proceeds going to the Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund.

The point is: I’m sure they’d open up the building as a shelter if they could. (Just think of how much good publicity they’d get!) The fact that they haven’t done it suggests they’re unable to help, not that they’re refusing to help.

That said, for a guy who makes as much money as he does, Osteen could earn some goodwill by announcing any donations he’s making in the wake of the disaster. He hasn’t done that yet. Instead, he’s just rattling off a bunch of prayers as usual.

There are plenty of reasons to criticize Osteen. We’ve done it a number of times on this site. But this isn’t one of them.

Here's more Osteen criticism on PJ Media. He preaches the "prosperity gospel," an unbiblical approach to Christianity. Even so, his track record on service is positive, and his church is blameless in this situation. Don't believe the hype.