It's actually been a pretty bad year.
Bishop Eddie Long died in January, of an "unspecified" illness, but the church officially ruled it cancer. He made cryptic remarks about being treated for an immune problem and had a drastic weight loss that he credited a vegan diet with bringing about. But the uncomfortable fact remains that he was rumored, and accused but settled out of court - of homosexually grooming young boys, even as he thundered from the pulpit against homosexuality in between prosperity gospel sermons.
Hurricane Harvey struck Houston last week, and "Pastor" Joel Osteen has had an absolute bother by it. Oh, his megachurch didn't flood. There was no damage to his extensive property. It was just that a large, dry secure building would seem to be the first place to actually be opened to help house, feed and clothe people in desperate need whose lives had been literally washed away by the calamity.
But at first, he claimed it had, which was why he was powerless to do anything. Needless to say someone went down with a camera to check these assertions and found the property high and dry. Osteen then changed his story and said that he'd simply not been asked to make his church available to the homeless and needy, completely ignoring the celestial being and human avatar he claims to support and follow that certainly did. Memes raged a plenty about how his church was meant to shelter his money from taxes, not people from storms. Then he went and said that the church was always open.
For the record, Lakewood Church acquired the Compaq Center, the former home of the Houston Rockets NBA team. They actually enlarged the stadium to accomodate more worshippers. We're not talking about a small building here. When Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, Louisiana the Superdome was an immediate refuge center, so why that particular edifice was closed for any length of time is beyond me.
Osteen couldn't help but flounder. His usual schtick was about how God wants you to be happy and prosperous and live a rich and you know, the usual prosperity gospel nonsense. When faced with a bona fide tragedy and the opportunity to show Christian leadership, he literally had no other instincts but to literally pass the hat around the afflicted requesting donations in the middle of a service attended by those sheltering in the storm, and ostensibly to support these people who'd lost everything.
Osteen is worth $70 million.
He has since said that Hurricane Harvey is God's way of telling those people who lost everything that they're more than capable of being able to "handle it". Well, Pastor Osteen, perhaps the Hurricane is also there to remind you that the church is a place of refuge for the needy and should be a place of charity and public service, not a tax dodge with which to amass a giant fortune.
I'd start with Matthew 19:21.
You could pare down your personal fortune to a mere $20 million, it'd still keep you in makeup and your giant mansion.
I would then direct you to Titus 1:7. As I would direct anyone else, who points at Osteen and says this is what is wrong with Christianity. Christianity from its very beginning has abhorred this sort of thing. Something about Jesus driving moneychangers from the Temple with a stout home-made whip.
Yes, it's a bad time for the prosperity gospel. People are getting richer in this current administration, sure. The most important thing that Trump wants to ram through next is tax reform.
As our current lifestyles heat the oceans and create storms that make thousands destitute, while the newest of kings and rulers feast mightily on the earth's spoils while many wonder where their next paycheck is coming from - the assertion that God is an almighty ATM is starting to run thin.
So very very thin.