Outing Osteen

Michael Spencer has written a firebrand of a post exposing the clearly un-Christian teachings of Joel Osteen, pastor of the 30,000 member Lakewood Church in Houston and author of the current bestselling self-help book, Your Best Life Now. I’m not too familiar with Osteen (other than seeing his Orel Hersheiser-like face staring at me every time I walk into Barnes & Noble or Borders), so there’s little that I can add to Spencer’s post except to say that I agree wholeheardtedly.

Simply based on the interviews here and here, Osteen stands outside biblical Christianity in his teachings. Perhaps the fact that the evangelical blogosphere has been so slow to pick up on this attests to the fact that Osteen is somewhat of a foreigner. Go read Spencer’s post now.

hat tip: Jollyblogger

A New Kind of Truman Show?

For moment—albeit a brief one—I wondered whether or not I was going overboard by posting several sets of photos of our newborn on this blog. After all, the youngster didn’t exactly give me permission to release his strikingly handsome mug to the world. Nevertheless, I published them without regret, hoping that he would later forgive me if he’s uncomfortable with the noteriety this website offers him.

After viewing this website, however, I have no worries at all that I went overboard. The Trixie Update is virtually an online version of The Truman Show. It is written by a father who chronicles every diaper change, minute of sleep, and change of clothing that his now 18 month daughter makes.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall about 12 years from now when a teenaged Trixie discovers that all of her poops from the last thirteen years are public knowledge. Egads!

Kerry the Has-Been and Iraq

Sen. John Kerry’s comments on “Meet the Press” aren’t his first betrayal of Iraq’s new government by the people—his snubbing of Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi in September handily took that honor. The Senator’s continued pessimism toward a free Iraq betrays the fact that Kerry’s time as an influential in the politics of freedom has long since passed:

“It is significant that there is a vote in Iraq,” Kerry said in an interview with NBC television’s Meet the Press. “But … no one in the United States should try to overhype this election.

Kerry’s smug appraisal makes it sound as if he thinks he’s still running for president. Today should indeed be a day of rejoicing and hype! in Iraq. A nation once oppressed is experiencing government by the people for the very first time. No matter how difficult are the days ahead, why should the United States do anything but rejoice?

It makes one wonder what Kerry’s own overhyped “plan” had in store for the Iraqis.

Books That Haunt: The Power and the Glory

Each Tuesday, until I decide otherwise, TruePravda will feature a different book in the Books That Haunt series. You can view all posts from this series here.

If Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings really was, as Tolkein himself held, devoid of any hint of allegory; and if Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress displayed allegory to the extreme; then Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory strikes the perfect balance.

Set in a Mexican province bent on ridding itself of Catholicism and its clergy, Greene’s novel is ripe with the Passion imagery. The protagonist is a “whisky priest,” a cleric who is, to say the least, a little rough around the edges. He is an alcoholic, which is just one of many failings that make him a striking contrast to the ideal of what a priest should be.

Despite his numerous shortcomings, the priest is compelled to perform his priestly duties. In an ironic turn for a Catholic, Greene depicts an almost Calvinistic predestination that transforms the weak priest and moves him to act. His selfish motivations are supplanted by the larger need to do the work of God.

The illegal whisky priest is pursued by a likewise nameless police lieutenant. The lieutenant—an intriguing figure on his own—is relentless, methodical, and assured that he will hunt down the priest. Much like reading the gospels, there is a sense of impending doom for the preist. We know that he will be caught, and we know that the novel’s Judas figure will betray him. In keeping with the “no spoiler” spirit of these posts, I’ll leave the rest of the plot to the reader.

I first encountered the novel during my senior year of college. In order to fill up some credit hours in humanities, I took an intro to religious studies class. The class was pretty much what I expected it to be—broad surveys of the major world religions, each taught as if they were equally valid. One of the surprising things about the class was that we had to read several works of fiction that came out of each religion (so much for primary sources!). The professor chose The Power and the Glory as our text for interacting with Christianity.

After reading the book, we were assigned an essay answering the question, “Is the whisky priest a good example of a Christian?” My response was that, all Roman Catholic errors aside, in one sense the whisky priest was a good example of a Christian (stress is on example, not good). His own sins are never enough to overwhelm the power of God working in him and through him. Granted, a Christian should not strive to be a whisky priest, but at the same time every believer should remember the depths from which they were saved.

The Power and The Glory reminds the reader that God can use the most sinful and profane for his purposes. It’s a novel that will haunt the reader’s thoughts with notions of redemption, sacrifice, and betrayal for many a sleepless night.

Vocation and the Church

Ken Myers highlights a needed area of improvement in the church:

I meet many students who struggle with keeping their faith intact while in college. There are numerous ministries devoted to encouraging them in that struggle. That encouragement often takes the form of well-crafted arguments defending basic Christian beliefs, and these are obviously valuable resources. They reinforce the foundational convictions on which we all build. But I sometimes wonder if these students might be even more sustained if they had a robust sense of the rich and comprehenisve structure of Christian intellectual life. If the congregations in which they were raised had confidently and expectantly taught and preached and conversed in a way that assumed the unity of all truth, and if they affirmed the value of intellectual vocations, would these students be more likely to deflect skeptical questions about their faith?

By and large, evangelical churches do a good job in “sending off” and encouraging those among their congregations who go into ministry vocations, but what of those whose vocations are more oriented to the secular world? Typically (at least in my experience) these folks—who, incidentally, constitute the vast majority of the church—are left to fend for themselves.

We need to do a better job in dispelling the myth that some vocations (i.e., “full-time Christian ministry”) are more sacred than others. After all, all believers are considered among the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-10). If indeed all truth is God’s truth, the engineer, physician, homemaker, janitor, teacher—even lawyer!—are all in positions to further God’s truth to a world in need of redemption.


I’ve already referenced it my “On the side” miniblog, but it’s worth mentioning again here. Christine Rosen’s essay in the latest issue of The New Atlantis, “The Age of Egocasting,” is a must-read.

You’ll never look at your remote control the same again. Rosen delivers a probing critique of the way we have increasingly personalized technology to the detriment of community. It’s lengthy, but you’ll be glad you read it.

The Difference is in the Rightness

In his Inaugural address today, President Bush made a familiar-sounding pronouncement:

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Why does this sound familiar? Because it echoes the post-WWII communist ideal of global expansion. The “reds” believed that one nation after another would capitulate to communist rule. Decades later they undoubtedly shook their heads in disillusionment as the Soviet bloc crumbled.

The difference? The democratic impulse is right. It is not perfect, mind you—but it is right. This concept is quite obvious, of course, but I think some in our society need to be reminded of that. Let freedom ring!

Books That Haunt: Lancelot

Each Tuesday, until I decide otherwise, TruePravda will feature a different book in the Books That Haunt series. You can view all posts from this series here.

Walker Percy’s writing is ready-made to get under one’s skin, and Lancelot is no exception. Far removed from the Knights of the Round Table, Percy’s 1977 novel is a look at the madness that results when a person’s own revulsion of darkness overwhelms him.

We first meet Lancelot Andrewes Lamar in mental health facility. The reader assumes the ear of an old friend coming to visit, which gives the narration and style of the novel a sense of involvement that would otherwise be lacking. As the storyline progesses, Lamar tells the reader of what landed him in the asylum.

Once a carefree liberal, Lamar accidentaly discoveres that his youngest daughter was not his own. He investigates, and finds that his screenwriter wife has been less-than-faithful, occasionally indulging herself with her director. Lamar plots his revenge—an effort to cleanse the world of the decadence that is Hollywood. He finds his opportunity when the film crew shoots a set at his Louisiana estate.

Central to the plot is the idea of a quest—a motif that runs just as strongly through Lancelot as in Percy’s acclaimed 1961 novel, The Moviegoer. In The Moviegoer, the quest dealt with the existential search for meaning; in Lancelot, the quest is portrayed as an engine for destruction itself.

As Lamar is increasingly consumed by his desire to set right the wrong actions of his wife and her Hollywood enclave, he succumbs to the very self-reverence that he is trying to topple:

“Evil” is surely the clue to this age, the only quest appropriate to the age. For everything and everyone’s either wonderful or sick and nothing is evil.

God may be absent, but what if one should find the devil? Do you think I wouldn’t be pleased to meet the devil? Ha ha, I’d shake his hand like a long-lost friend.

While he rightly identifies a lack of the recognition of evil in our age, Lamar unwittingly (or not?) begins to fill that void himself. Lancelot is a haunting novel because it reminds us that as we stand at the crossroads of history and culture, we must take heed that our zeal to protect what is right is only a handsbreadth away from the evil we stand against.