Monday, October 19, 2015

Joel Osteen: Christians lack respect for opinions of others

From the Houston Chronicle:

Lakewood Church pastor, radio host, and best-selling author Joel Osteen told a major religious news outlet this week that Christians should likely refrain from arguing over religion with those of different faiths.

According to the Christian Post, Osteen says that when it comes to debating the points of Christianity some of his fellow Christians lack respect for differing opinions.

More here.

Okay, while I definitely agree to an extent with Osteen's overall point, that some Christians are disrespectful when they argue theology or faith, and, actually, I'll go a step further and say that some Christians are downright full of contempt when they talk about these things, I have to disagree with his solution. That is, it's not the discussion itself that's to be avoided, but rather entering such discussion with a scornful attitude.

I mean, life is confusing. People come to their spirituality from as many different directions as there are people. Faith is a very personal thing, ultimately. When you argue with someone about religion, you are necessarily arguing with his very sense of self. And that must be respected, especially if you want to be heard. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't engage with people on the subject. It just means you should be respectful and compassionate.

For instance, I am very much of the belief that enormous numbers of Christians in the United States just straight up ignore Jesus' second greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. Sure, all Christians give, at the very least, lip service to the notion of love, but many, in their minds, words, and actions, essentially castrate it with numerous exceptions and caveats. It's, like, sure, I'll love you, but only if you're just like me, otherwise you're bound for hell and to be opposed at all costs.

I will never give up arguing for love. It is the greatest concept in all of Christianity. But I also recognize that it isn't easy to love. It's harder still to love people by whom you feel threatened. It's even harder to love when life has hurt you, and life hurts all of us. You can't just shove love in people's faces and expect them to have an Apostle Paul style conversion. Indeed, that's likely to get the opposite of the reaction for which you're looking, less love and more anger. So you have to be respectful. You have to concede that no one really knows anything for sure.

But it's okay to say, "Hey, you know what? I think I've really got something here that you need to hear, so please just listen a bit, and I'll listen to you, and we can walk away still disagreeing, but we'll both know a bit more about ourselves, each other, and humanity." And you can't do any of that if you refuse to discuss your differences.