I do not have sympathy with Joel Osteen or his likes, for they turn away the people from repentence. I feel for the multitudes that follow him. It is sad to see so many people not able to discern the truth and falling for such crap.
I can heartily agree with this appraisal, and know it from my own experience in my "un-churched" youth. I'm also glad that you included Billy Graham's "ministry" in this, precisely because (though he's not a "word of faith" type) one of those youthful experiences involved it.
I remember in my teens, just as I was starting to get an interest in important questions (and not coming from a religious household - by no means atheistical or anti-religious, just "a-religious" in most respects), I caught one of his "crusades" on television. I noticed the offer for some free literature, so I called the 800-number to request it.Well
, what I got on the other hand was (I know this in hindsight) a ridiculous hard sell for "Christ." Sincerely at that point I was quite non-commital, yet the person on the phone was convinced (like any good telemarketer) to "sell me" something - in this case, I mean, verbally
accepting "Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour". In reality, I was just a dumb kid who wanted to read the booklets - I was just as non-commital when the conversation ended, as I was when it began. I just told him what he wanted to hear, so he'd shut up, take my address, and send my books. Not very principled on my part, but then again, I was the unwashed kid
- the person on the other end of the line was the supposed "Christian soul-winner." And I have no doubt whatsoever, that each one of the operators they had, was keeping count - just like any good telemarketer.
This is why, to this day, I find the numbers these evangelicals provide about their success to be largely meaningless. Really what they do mean
, is that they've probably stolen someone away from another group, or "ruined" that person for the other group - but as far as actually acquiring that person for another, distinct creed and way of life, I'm convinced that most of the time this doesn't actually happen, or that when it does, it's often short lived. These are the kind of people who think because they shook a "sinner's prayer" out of some poor third-worlder with the lure of a bowl of rice or worse yet, a handful of money, they've not only brought that person over to something, but indeed that this person is "saved" - they're going to Heaven, that's it.That
is insane, and is why I'm of the mind that those not coming from firmly confessional, conservative Protestant backgrounds at the very least (with a Trinitarian form of baptism), need to not simply be Baptized for "correctness" sake, but also to reflect the reality that they are basically no more "Christian" than the fervant adherants of some infidellic religion or paganism. They have a little shared terminology with the Church, some shared namesakes, that's about it - for even the Jews or Muslims would tell you "God is one" or that He discerns between good and evil, etc. (though even they, unlike
these evangelicals, confess that He is the rewarder
of good and evil.)