It is quite an unusual phenomena to see non-Christians share Charisma News articles.
However, they weren’t sharing Charisma New’s article to glorify Jesus – they were sharing it because they despised Joel Osteen and Lakewood church for refusing to aid the suffering of thousands when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas. Charisma News reported that Lakewood received flack “for not opening its doors as an emergency shelter” for those suffering from the hurricane.
Other news groups picked up on Joel Osteen’s lack of ‘Christian’ compassion. The Independent reported that “An announcement on Facebook said Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church had shut due to the storm and asked people to pray for those affected.” The post stated:
“Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding! We want to help make sure you are safe…”
Many people have proven on phones and cameras this was simply not true. Case and point (our apologies for the unfortunate formatting of this video on this website interface):
The Independent writes,
Hurricane Harvey: Texas’ biggest church ‘closes doors’ during Hurricane Harvey
Pastor Joel Osteen criticised for not immediately offering 16,000-seater arena that would make for ‘great shelter’, while dozens of smaller churches and mosques have done so
A megachurch in Houston closed its doors in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which has caused catastrophic flooding and forced thousands to leave their homes.
An announcement on Facebook said Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church had shut due to the storm and asked people to pray for those affected.
“Lakewood Church is inaccessible due to severe flooding! We want to help make sure you are safe,” the post read.
It included a list of resources for those affected by the storm, including the addresses for temporary shelters.
But some responded sceptically to the Facebook post, questioning why one of the largest churches in the US – including a 16,000-seat arena – was not able to take in victims of Harvey.
Emily Timbol, an author who has written critically about homophobic views among conservative Christians, tweeted: “It doesn’t make sense why you’re not opening up your mega church to house Houston citizens, help me understand that. Jesus.”
Others criticised televangelist Mr Osteen for not opening up his $10 million home in the upscale area of River Oaks to those desperately seeking shelter.
“Shame on Joel Osteen,” one person tweeted. “Jesus would open the doors and care for the needy.”
Mr Osteen responded to the criticism in a statement quoted by ABC and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need. We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm.”
Others pointed out that mosques in the region are still open and offering people shelter, including the Islamic Society of Greater Houston’s 21 centres.
“If you went to @JoelOsteen’s church for shelter & found it closed, don’t worry, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston’s 21 mosques are open,” the @altNOAA account posted on Twitter.
More than 3,000 people have been rescued in Houston and the surrounding area since the storm hit, with many still waiting to be picked up.
At least nine people are reported to have died as a result of Hurricane Harvey, the worst storm to strike the US in 12 years.
Source: Lydia Smith, Hurricane Harvey: Texas’ biggest church ‘closes doors’ during Hurricane Harvey, The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/hurricane-harvey-texas-lakewood-church-shut-flooding-mosques-open-a7917521.html, Published 29/08/2017. (Accessed 29/08/2017.)
Charisma News reports,
Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church: This Is Going to Devastate Us for Years to Come
“If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry,” Lakewood Church’s Senior Communications Director Don Iloff tells Charisma News while standing outside in the pouring rain in Houston.
Though the megachurch has received some flak for not opening its doors as an emergency shelter, there’s virtually no access to Joel Osteen’s campus, which is considered one of the largest in the country. Instead, staff and volunteers are meeting through conference calls to coordinate efforts. The church, located in Houston’s inner loop, is just a few miles away from the city’s largest shelter, the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Although Harvey’s damage was initially labeled as a once-in-500 years flood, Iloff says it’s now closer to 1-in-800.
“We are this city,” he says. “When you talk about 75,000-80,000 members of the church with 45,000-50,000 showing up on any given weekend, not to mention visitors, when you talk about Lakewood, you’re talking about city. It’s blacks, whites, Hispanics, rich and poor, everything. It’s been interesting the last several days. We’ve had members and staff who have been rescuers, and members and staff who have been rescued. Nothing like this has ever occurred.”
More than 3,000 National Guard troops have been deployed to the state, and ministries from around the country have loaded trucks with supplies to serve the refugees.
Iloff says Lakewood’s efforts will be more focused on the aftermath.
“Right now, it’s hard to know how devastating it’s going to be. Even FEMA doesn’t know the scope until the waters recede,” Iloff says. “That’s really where we’re going to end up make the biggest impact, and we’re going to make efforts for years to come. Lakewood is currently involved in our community, and we have lot of efforts happening in an ongoing basis, like in the 5th Ward, around the city, and we’re working with everyone we can imagine. Our membership is so diverse, and we work with homeless, with unwed mothers. … We truly believe that because this is such a big deal, that this storm is a such devastating thing, our efforts are dealing with this storm in almost everything we do from this point forward at least a year, years to come.”
It’s the diversity that hits home for Iloff.
Leading up to the hurricane-turned-tropical storm, Iloff says the media focused on division. Stories dove into the racism in Charlottesville and the aftermath as the country considered how to handle statues commemorating the Civil War Confederacy. Headlines read of free speech—or lack thereof—of intense protests over the president’s actions. But in Houston, diversity breeds heroics.
In flood pictures, black men carry small white children, white women help elderly Hispanic people, Hispanic people hand out water to whoever is in need—regardless of skin color or religion.
“Maybe it’s because I go to Lakewood, which is very diverse, and we love each other and focus on the greater good, which is Jesus Christ,” Iloff says. “We all focus on something greater than ourselves. They don’t pay attention to the differences between us because commonality is so important. Our race doesn’t matter. I’m a believer, you’re a believer.
“I don’t know that mainstream media is missing it, and right now, I hope they focus on the heroic love and sacrifice that people are making for one another regardless of any kind of difference they may have with that other person. I hope they continue to cover this, not necessarily dividing us up. At least it’s good for us, and it’s really bringing about making us aware of how much more alike we are than different. You can drown no matter what your religion, your ethnicity. Water can kill us all. We all need to be saved. We are all one, and it takes these things to make people realize that. That is something good to come from this.”
For those who want to pray for Houston, Iloff has two requests that boil down to one word: Strength.
“Strength is the single most important thing, the ability to endure through this and after. I think, in the aftermath, that people strengthen their faith. A lot of faith is tested right now, because the single greatest question that comes to us is, ‘How did God let this happen?'” We also hear, ‘Why did this happen?’ ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ and other big faith questions. … During this storm, pray for endurance, and in the aftermath, pray that our faith is strengthened, because it’s up to Christians to answer these hard questions.”
Source: Jessilyn Justice, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church: This Is Going to Devastate Us for Years to Come, Charisma News, https://www.charismanews.com/us/67039-joel-osteen-s-lakewood-church-this-is-going-to-devastate-us-for-years-to-come, Published 28/08/2017. (Accessed 29/08/2017.)
Categories: Lakewood Church