Thursday, August 7, 2008

Capitalist Pigs For Jesus

Gosh, gee, golly, I see by the papers that a Continental Airlines stewardess is suing the wife of master snake oil salesman Joel Osteen the TV "pastor" for throwing a snit on a flight from Houston to the couple's Vail, CO. ski lodge condo, resulting in a four figure fine paid to the FAA for "interfering with a crew member." It seems Victoria Osteen went bonkers when it appeared to her that the crew was not hopping to her orders concerning a small stain on her First Class seat.

The Osteens hired famed Texas hotshot lawyer Rusty Hardin to defend Victoria. Hardin formerly represented Opra Winfrey in defending herself from defamation allegations by the Texas meat industry. Hardin ain't cheap. The Osteens may have had to turn up the air conditioners in their dog houses just to afford a lawyer like that.

Not that Joel's 40,000-member -- weekly -- congregation is going to care. They're so totally immersed in jerky Joel's message of prosperity, happiness, and self-aggrandizement they don't think Victoria is capable of any wrong. The fun part of the trial is that the stewardess, Sharon Brown, requested punitive damages, which allowed her attorney to obtain "discovery" of the Osteens' net worth. This is the very sort of thing Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has been seeking from a handful of super-rich new wave Christeranity pastors, but Grassley and his committee have run into snags: most of the tycoon preachers refuse to cooperate, citing 1st Amendment grounds. The Osteens had to cough up detailed records pertaining to their pocketbooks.

Only if the jury finds that Victoria Osteen did what she did with malice or reckless disregard for Ms. Brown's rights can a jury award punishment damages, so Hardin will do everything he can to minimize the actions of his client. He's already labeled Ms. Brown's physical injuries as "aggravated hemorhhoids." Before it's over, he's going to have Brown attacking Victoria.

I would be lying if I claimed I have nothing personal against Joel Osteen. Sometimes, Sunday mornings I leave the TV room and don't always catch the end of a favorite political pundit program that is followed each week by -- guess who? Joel. His sappy, whinny, pathetically wimpy, saccharine, hickishly cornball voice drives me to distraction. I have to jump up from what I'm doing, run into the TV room, and flip the channel. That is exercise of my 1st Amendment rights.

I just wish the 40,000 who go to his performances Sundays (and, presumably, the millions sitting at home) wouldn't call what he's selling "Christianity." It isn't. It's feel good capitalism in its most selfish, deluded form. The original Christians were communists (small "c" please!). They believed in sharing wealth, not hoarding it like Joel and his cult members. Unlike the happy little acquisition-obsessed suburbanites in Joel's church, the ancient Christians held that "ownership" and "property" were alien and of the devil. Everything was share and share alike.

One can imagine Joel's response to this simple suggestion. He would find a way to spin Jesus's famous remark that a rich man will no sooner enter the Kingdom than a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle. He would say that nothing in his religion prohibits a good Christian from enjoying the best life has to offer, and that nothing in the "Good Book" requires a good Christian to become a pauper.

(Later): The Osteen's jury let them off the hook. I wonder when Americans will wake up and see these cornball televangelist shuck artists for what they are: snake oil salesmen. If I were a person of faith, I'd put it somewhere else -- perhaps the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus. There is as much history and science supporting those beliefs as for Yahweh-Jehovah and his son, the pale Galilean. Joel Osteen cares about one thing and one thing only: making money. His wife looks like she was separated at birth from her Siamese twin, Cindy McCain. Rumor has it that Joel is so spineless he lets Victoria make all his decisions for him. It figures. Nietzsche said Christeranity was the worst catastrophe to befall mankind because it deprived us of our will. Joel is its reduction to absurdity.

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