There have been numerous articles criticizing Houston mega-church pastor Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest church in America for not doing enough in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and for not letting people stay in the expansive church facility as a shelter.
In terms of his prosperity gospel theology, there are many reasons to criticize Osteen. I’m not a fan of him.But I feel like this story allows people to be critical both of religious people and the rich. And since many in the media hate both of those things, it’s an easy target.
I haven’t seen someone catch so much heat in the aftermath of a hurricane since former president George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina.
Other churches and mosques opened up to flood victims. Lakewood didn’t. Lakewood has housed flood victims before. They gave shelter to 5,000 people in 2001. But they also did experience some flooding within their facilities. They had cancelled weekend services due to the hurricane. While smaller churches have housed refugees, perhaps part of the reason for that is it is logistically easier to setup a smaller church than a big church. Making sure that they had the necessary supplies the necessary security precautions, the necessary man power. This is one of the worst natural disasters in modern American history. Given the extreme situation, I think it’s worth getting more context before rushing to judge.
All said, I think it’s a big leap to basically go with the narrative that’s out there: that Lakwood could have helped people but didn’t simply because they didn’t want to.
Why would a consumeristic, prosperity-gospel preaching church not want the photo ops and publicity of helping people?
The church has served as a distribution center for victims and is also raising funds in the aftermath of the storm.
Picture of the flooding: