I have to admit, one of my guilty pleasures had been listening to podcasts of Joel Osteen. Although we differ in our approaches to God, although we differ in the themes we explore as ministers—he’s irresistibly positive. What a relief to have a positive message by an eager man who exudes such simple and easy kindness.
It was good to see him in another forum—outside of his 16,000 seat sanctuary—when Whoopi Goldberg interviewed him on the View. Among many questions she asked him: “How do you feel about folks that are gay…” and “Are gay folks welcome at your church?”
In his kindest voice Joel said,
“Of course, they are all welcome. But I come from that value system of scripture that homosexuality is not God's best… I just try to love them and treat everybody with respect."
I almost missed it—he said it with such sweetness: “Not God’s best.”
Then I got mad. Not because Joel has a different opinion. Not because of the power he holds to sway others’ opinions. I got made because he so sweetly uses scripture to back up his ideas of social engineering.
I love scripture—the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, in particular, are important to me. They help me better understand the timeless truth of the Divine. They help me get closer to God. But scripture is certainly not a good blueprint for modern social engineering. If we are to treat homosexuals as inferior based on scripture, what about all the other scriptural issues that we cheerfully ignore:
- We freely mix fibers in our clothing (forbidden in Leviticus 19:19)
- We associate with women during their period (forbidden in Leviticus 15:19-20)
- We do all sorts of things on Sunday (forbidden in Exodus 20:8)
This is just the tip of the iceberg on items prohibited by scripture—and we cheerfully ignore most of them. Surely the time has come when we can evaluate scripture for its spiritual content and leave the 2,000+ year-old social customs, caste systems and dietary laws behind? When I use scripture it’s to empower. When I read scripture it’s to elevate.
I feel a bit hoodwinked. I confused Joel’s manner for his message. I wanted Joel to like me, I guess! Instead, I feel like singer Roberta Flack in her 1973 hit Killing Me Softly. No matter how sweetly someone may sing, I will not permit anyone “Killing me softly with his song.”
Each of us is “God’s Best.” Now and forever. God doesn’t create anything less than perfection. Each of us may fully embody our Divine nature without worry or shame about who we are.
Rev. Larry King, Senior Minister
Portland Center for Spiritual Living