Osteen preaches "your best life ever" to 30,000 faithful at his church in Houston. He talks about his elegant home, his well-adjusted kids and his wife—his adoring "partner in ministry." "Be positive," says Osteen, "and you too can have all of these things."
The preferred form of worship in many congregations consists of a welcome, 20 minutes of singing contemporary music, then a special musical performance and a sermon. Whatever else happens is secondary to “disseminating information people need in order to gain more control over their lives” and to ensure that they achieve “individual happiness. (Never mind that control is an illusion and happiness is transitory. See Ecclesiastes.)” Sally Morgenthaler (Theology, News & Notes, Spring).
Americans who don’t vote might consider their voter’s registration card expendable. And some might say that the resources of a public library are expendable too.But when something is taken from us, we realize its value. That’s what happened in Salinas, California, when word leaked out that budget cuts were forcing the city to shut down its public libraries.
Family in transition
I was raised in a middle-class, suburban family for whom religion, like sex, was a taboo topic. My Uncle Paul, a monastic known as Brother Leo, would join us each year for Thanksgiving dinner, but we never offered grace for the meal. Uncle Paul was an oddity in his black suit and drab, community-owned sedan. But I sensed that spiritually he was on to something.
The other day my husband, Ken, and I splashed and swam in a pool, then ate burgers and drank iced tea at a barbecue hosted by our friends Ann Marie and Patricia. We are pleased and proud of the honorary titles “Uncle Ken” and “Auntie Rachel,” bestowed on us by this couple and the children they are raising. I’m also thankful for permission to tell their story, which has taught me much about what the apostle Paul calls “a spirit of adoption.”
Does Jeffrey Stout's church have a god? One might say his god is democracy. But surely democracy is an ethic rather than a theology.