What do Fred Phelps and Joel Osteen have in common? There’s no punchline, I really am going somewhere with this.
Fred Phelps is the pastor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. You’ve seen them in the news or online protesting military funerals and more recently posting statements of judgment on Twitter. I’ve never heard him say “Hell is hot and sin ain’t right” but I imagine he would agree with that statement. Phelps is completely occupied with God’s judgement. God does hate sin, and the wages of sin is death. That seems to be just about the only weapon in the Westboro arsenal. The message is a call to repent.
At the polar opposite end of the spectrum is Joel Osteen. He has never used the words wrath and God in the same sentence. Sin, the cross, the blood of Jesus, he quit preaching on those things years ago. He actually said in an interview that everybody has already heard those things. Osteen has his, um, church members hold up their Bibles each week, repeat some little mantra, then put them back down while he tells funny stories for another half hour. He is an excellent speaker – funny, polished, very encouraging – I just wouldn’t call him a preacher. His message is to think positive thoughts, believe that God wants to bless you, will bless you, and that nothing would please God more than to bless you. He has a million dollar smile, gorgeous wife, two books on the New York Times Bestseller List, and 50,000+ attendees every week at Lakewood “Church.” He’s doing much better in that department than Phelps, whose congregation consists mainly of his own family members. Continue reading