Explaining Joel Osteen
June 1, 2015
Like many of you I find myself wondering from time-to-time why it is that Joel Osteen is able to attract such massive crowds to his church and stadium events. And those books! How is it that there are more than a dozen or so people willing to buy his books?
I think I have the answer.
I have been reading Matthew Crawford’s new book The World Beyond Your Head. It is a fascinating study of the nature of attention, distraction, and Western Civilization. Crawford, who is a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, spends his spare time fabricating parts for custom motorcycles. In his previous book Shop Class as Soul Craft Crawford makes an appeal for competence in manual labor. Now, in The World Beyond Your Head, Crawford appeals for a similar sort of competence in our mental habits.
So what does all this have to do with Joel Osteen? How is it that so many professing Christians (millions of them!) prefer cheap, sentimental, clichés over the robust and nourishing doctrines of God’s Word? Well, for the same reasons we tend to prefer Cheetos to broccoli.
If you were to regularly air-drop Cheetos over the entire territory of a game preserve, you would probably find that all the herbivores preferred them right away to whatever pathetic grubs and roots they had been eating before. A few years later, the lions would have decided that hunting is not only barbaric, but worse, inconvenient. The cheetahs would come around eventually – all that running! – and the savannah would be ruled by three-toed sloths. With orange fur. (p. 18)