Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Eye-Opening Perspectives for Heroic Hearts

Monday, June 25, 2012

Joel O’Steen’s Neo-Paganism

By John Kingsbury Moltmann for CPW News Services

     Rev. Joel O’Steen’s simple, straightforward style is seductively innocent.  His dimpled grin and beaming smile are disarming, charming and communicate a great warmth and love.  You feel as if you have known him since grade school.   What’s not to love and admire?
     Dietrich Siegenfelder  of the Foundation for The Study of Neo-Paganism is of a different opinion.  The biggest criticism of O’Steen is that he is a theological lightweight who has built a feel-good church in one of the most powerful cities on planet earth.  Houston, Texas.  Appealing to an amazing cross-cultural mix of followers, the church offers a smorgasbord of community ministries, while O’Steen’s recurring theme is one of faith in God and personal empowerment with God being  the source of a never ending flow of spiritual and material blessings….especially material blessings.  It is here that Siegenfelder takes issue.
     “So last Sunday Joel tells the story of a football player who had given up hope of a pro football career.  He was selling pizzas to make ends meet when a 10 year old boy and his father answered the door for their pizza.  Recognizing the player the boy said ‘What are you doing delivering pizzas?’  With that question the player returned home, started working out, put on 70 pounds and not only made the pro team, but became a star.  In his summation Joel stirred the congregation to reach within themselves for the best that they can be and not to quit because they have the ‘DNA of God in them’.”
     Siegenfelder argues with this later point and uses it to unpack O'Steen's clear, but subtle descent into what Siegenfelder calls “the seductive power of neo-paganism.”  Siegenfelder understands the challenge of being all that we can be inspite of our limitations, but he wondered why O’Steen didn’t tell the congregation who the player was.  “Was it Lyle Alzado or Brian Bosworth?”  he wondered.  “How was he able to put on 70 pounds rapidly and would his methods stand scrutiny?”   Siegenfelder also reflected on the steroid-use acquittal of baseball pitcher Roger Clemens three days earlier and on Penn State's Jerry Sandusky who had just been convicted on 45 of 48 counts of child abuse at Happy Valley.

     "Happy Valley," said Siegenfelder.  "If I were the judge I'd lock up Sandusky and his wife together in a happy little valley......yes, together..... in a six by six foot cell.  For a pedophile that ought to be like hell before hell especially if there's no guard intervening to break up the inevitable fisticuffs." Siegenfelder toyed with the idea that if Bill and Hillary Clinton could share a cell directly next door to the Sanduskys it would make a hit reality TV show with great educational value.
     “Here’s the problem with O'Steen's message,” said Siegenfelder.  “The Jews and Muslims ….and even Christians….have long maintained that God is God and humans are something else altogether.  Greek mythology takes humans and weds them to deities genetically giving them super human qualities...Achilles, for example.  Christianity does the same to one man, but not with the mythological superhuman qualities that we associate with bulked up sports figures, Herculean Olympians, or  a small, but buff, Brad Pitt sticking it to a much bigger baldheaded Incredible Hulk.   Jesus had a bulked up humanity and compassion but that does not translate well into the stereotypical macho warrior.   Children are now targeted for the the reintroduction of the god-within of Greek and Egyptian mythology in the writings of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter or Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero.  Judeo-Christian belief sees humans created in God’s image….whatever that means.   I tend to believe that it means that they have a capacity for a spiritual, ethical and moral dimension, but certainly not God’s DNA, nor a spritualized moral capacity that makes them capable of saving themselves from the abyss.  For Christians, the virgin birth of Christ deals with that issue.  It argues that  Jesus the God-Man is the only, the one and only, who has the DNA of God....which has led even some Christians to deny the virgin birth for what that orthodox belief does to their trust of the scientific method in life analysis.  Then there is  Jesus’ words….’that which is flesh is flesh and that which is spirit is spirit.’  Being "born again" is a spiritual experience, not a DNA injection.  Unable to live up to a natural desire for super-human anything, Christianity sees the individual driven to his or her knees in existential despair and receptive of a wholly-other means of salvation.  Jesus.  Then they lead others to recognize the existential despair and offer the same solution.  O'Steen avoids deeper analysis skipping the despair thus joining the mythological bandwagon," said Sigenfelder.  Siegenfelder believes that the power of Western Judeo-Christianity is the freedom given to those who don't have to be god....or a god.....but humans struggling to be fully human and using the natural world and it resources to cope with their humanity as people of faith often stretched between the poles of action and inaction.....Shakespeare's "to be....or not to be?".
     According to Siegenfelder, O’Steen strays into neo-paganism of the kind similar to Scientology when he argues that we carry within us the DNA of God.  “This sounds very close to the idea of our having a Thetan…..Scientologists’ name for the ‘god-within’,” said Siegenfelder.  “That would be an affront to the deepest held conviction of the Judeo-Christian and Muslim religions," according to Siegenfelder.
     Siegenfelder says that while O’Steen is more a “glass is half-full, rather than half-empty” kind of preacher, implanting the image of carrying the DNA of God in our person is to violate the prohibition of images that these dominant world religions have historically maintained. 
     “I prefer to say that I am a glass-is-half-full person, but the glass is cracked and leaking and in constant need of refilling by God’s grace because I’m not God…..never have been and never will be. ”
     People come to O’Steen because they want to be more than what they are, but according to Siegenfelder, O’Steen’s emphasis upon personal empowerment and monetary reward  opens the door to neo-paganism masquerading as orthodox religious belief or in O'Steen's case Mainline Pentecostal self-helpism....itself a recent amalgam of conflicting traditions.   “David Koresh believed that he was God and that he had the DNA of God in him….so he spread it around…..primarily in the vaginas of his female followers,” said Siegenfelder.
     Ironically, Siegenfelder sees the problems associated with O’Steen’s gospel primarily as a product of Western Capitalism married to a success formula that incorporates Christianity.  Houston is a drill-here-drill-now-get-er-done city that thrives on a brashness like that of Tom Slick chasing the Yeti across the Himalayas or George H.W. Bush attempting to finish the annexation of Central and South America that Teddy Roosevelt left dangling.  Oilmen like Roy Cullen or Howard Hughes rarely asked penetrating theological questions preferring the slickly lubricated and transportable self-help philosophy of petroleum wildcatters.   Generally, they want the benefits and rewards of the conquest without inheriting the long-term problems.  This is what the environmentalists are always pointing out as commercial exploitation devoid of humanity's deeper struggles.   In Howard Hughes' case this easily translated to his personal relationships, too, like to Hollywood starlets for which he often openly negotiated for drilling rights.  In these cases Christianity may act like a drilling slurry that helps move their agenda forward toward the deep wells of material payoff, but this is in essence the usurpation of the Christian ethic by pagan principles.  It is, after all suppose to be harder for a rich person to find heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle....and you can't make that stupid case that the 'eye of the needle' was some little door in the Jerusalem wall inside a larger gate that didn't exist when the Bible was written and that it can be negotiated with knee-bending humility.  That still makes salvation what O'Steen's message is also full of.  Work harder!  Nope.  That camel is going to be severely streamlined like a wayward space shuttle sucked through a black hole's vortex no matter the power of its reverse thrusters, but what's impossible for the camel is possible with God.   The Gospel is harder to swallow than a four foot flax seed muffin, you see, but that doesn't sell seats at the old Summit nor in Robert Schuller's Chrystal Cathedral where Windex is said to have a number of its sales reps in regular attendance," said Siegenfelder who also noted that O'Steen's tendency to splurge on his ministry, as with the Easter Sunday rental of New York's Yankee Stadium for $1.5 million, proves that he is a Keynsian in fiscal policy.  'Do it and they will come'....."Like with the loaves and fishes....just spread the wealth around and there will be more and more and more of it," said Siegenfelder who considers O'Steen a guru of cultural narcissism like Pulitizer Prize winning author, Chris Hedges.
     “It’s like when Apple’s Steve Jobs announced the McIntosh computer with the Ridley Scott commercial in 1984…..an Orwellian ad that indicated that because of the MacIntosh, 1984 is nothing like Orwell's 1984. Jobs shared with his supporters his favorite quotation from Henry Ford.  When Ford was told it was wonderful that he had given people what they want in automobiles Ford said “people don’t know what they want.  You have to give them what they want.  If I had asked people what they wanted they would have said ‘a better horse". 

     “There was nothing humble about Henry Ford,” said Sigenfelder.  “The guy thought he invented the automobile.  Never mind that he didn’t, or that trains were running long before the automobile or that the real breakthrough discovery was the wheel.  He just routinized its reproduction.  Or that one day a horse may in fact be superior to a car....especially if they can be genetically engineered to fly like the ones in the movie Avatar.  Henry Ford created the assembly line for the same reason that Josiah Wedgewood used that same process in making porcelain china which he didn't invent either….to control the knowledge of production through compartmentalization and fragmentation along an impersonal assembly line.   Ford bemoaned the lazy worker, but depended on them for his fortunes and on the taxpayer-paid road system over which his machines traveled never admitting the obvious symbiosis between the citizen-paid concrete and asphalt roads and the reduction in broken Ford axels, wheels and motor-mounts.  The same for English taxpayer-paid canals that provided transport for Wedgewood's delicate china.  Ford wouldn't hire a job applicant who put salt and pepper on his meal before he tasted it.  "How would he know if he hadn't tasted it first?" Ford asked.  "But it was breakfast and I could see that my eggs weren't peppered," said the rejected Packard designer whose dreams came true at Harley-Davidson.  Meanwhile, John D. Rockefeller pumped oil worldwide, used petroleum's sludge as asphalt roads, gave away dimes, built churches and envisioned a world-wide oligarchy of Thetan-esque leaders atop a new world order all the while promoting law and order that protected their system of rule.

John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Joel O'Steen.

     "In this modern age of routine monotony punctuated by crashing buildings people want to believe that there is a God within them longing to break out and be free, but that’s not God in any organic natural sense.  That’s just them and many will traffic in this natural longing while giving it a spiritual definition devoid of the spiritual essense,” said Sigenfelder pointing to a woman in Ridley Scott’s MacIntosh ad as she is hurling a sledge hammer that explodes the image of the Orwellian Big Brother which for Steve Jobs was IBM.
     “And I’m not at all sure that the Tavistock-type Ridley Scott ad created for MacIntosh computers didn’t hide the reality of it when it was revealed at an Apple stockholder’s meeting that the software designer for the new MacIntosh was actually Bill Gates of Microsoft who was the power behind the monolithic IBM software programs….the very Orwellian scenario that Jobs said was overcome by his new McIntosh computer is today produced in Orwellian factories in China.  Who knows what Trojan Horse or tracking elements are already in the world's computers....like the PROMIS and PTECH software that was shown to have invaded our FAA and Defense Department computers or STUXNET which spread initially through Microsoft Windows?" asked Siegenfelder as he read a magazine article about drones in Afghanistan and reflected on the Children's Machine, a $100 computer offered to Third World children by Nicholas Negroponti, the younger brother of Iran Contra defender, National Security advisor and Ambassador to Iraq who succeeded L. Paul Bremer, John Negroponti," said Siegenfelder and asking "have they never heard  the saying...'beware the Greek bearing gifts'?"
      Edwin Black’s War Against the Weak has drawn the connections between IBM, its computer punch cards and the Nazi Holocaust which was dependent upon convincing the German people that they were gods….Aryan gods….but gods none-the-less.  O’Steen’s  little gods may be more culturally diverse than those of Twentieth Century Germany, but the principle is the same and given their indoctrination into the Houston culture they are as steeped in its lock-step-oil-ethic as Germans were in Hitler’s Reich.   Given that the Houston culture is an oil culture where even the Bin Laden family owned an airport within a stone’s throw of its many refineries, Houston Gulf Airport,  Joel O'Steen would do well to remind the sheep of his pasture that Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world," said Siegenfelder.

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