Richard Niebuhr uses the metaphor of a shipwreck to describe those life experiences where what we thought would hold comes apart. A marriage ends, a career collapses, an illness shatters plans, a loved one dies. Pastors and congregations can be a lifeline. Our culture, however, is mourning avoidant—and too often, faith communities reflect the broader culture's misconceptions surrounding grief.
Recently Victoria Osteen, wife of pastor Joel Osteen, made some comments that concerned many Christians. Apparently, she stated that worship was not for God but for the worshiper, that when people obey God, they should do it for themselves (although she later revised some of these comments). For many evangelicals, the Osteens are on the periphery of Christianity.
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."