The LA Jewish Journal has an exclusive interview with Pastor Joel Osteen about his upcoming pro-Israel performance at the Jerusalem Theater. Joel Osteen is one of the leading American preachers on TV every night. He preaches that God cares about you and wants you to have wealth, a better self, your dreams fulfilled, and a good life. Jews should take note that even though Osteen is an Evangelical, his views are almost Unitarian for their lack of doctrine or dogma. In addition, Joel Osteen is very popular in my Centrist Orthodox neighborhood; people watch him on TV and know his sermons. He generally uses Hebrew scripture in a narrative reading. If God has made promises to Abraham, then they apply to all believers out there. You too have been promised to be numerous, blessed, wealth and to have everything. His religion is so light and his message of prosperity so in tune with suburban Orthodoxy that he is a model rabbi. I hear more discussion of Osteen’s sermons than those of the local Rabbis. On the hand, he is condemned by the more doctrinal Christians as a false prophet, a phony, and a disbeliever. And he has been interviewed on national TV to defend his view from charges of opportunism.
To show how far the current Evangelical gospel of prosperity has come, Osteen starts off his interview by saying that Jesus is basically a force within all of us, including Jews. He interprets God saves us as God has given us the potential to believe in ourselves and fulfill our goals. He likes the Jewish tradition and has given up eating pork, but not 100%. He even has respect for Hindu even thought they have different beliefs. He has a non-judgmental, non-patronizing, open and embracing attitude to other religions.
Osteen states that he presents his Christians principles at each show so all who want to can accept them. But his Christian messages is pretty universal and without a sense of missionary urgency.
The interview has his hallmark themes, including that God has a plan for everyone and if we trust in God he will help us with everything we ever wanted in life. When asked why Evangelicals are doing well, he answers that people do not want denominations or ideology; they want a hopeful positive life. “We all face difficulties in our health, our marriages, our finances, and our message is: God can help you in these areas. (I do think that certain parts of Orthodoxy are rapidly heading in this direction).
Joel Osteen, Israel and the Jews: an exclusive Q&A By JewishJournal.com
Saying they want to “show solidarity with the nation of Israel and the Jewish people,” mega-pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen will bring their musical, charismatic brand of Christianity to Israel. The Osteens announced they will hold to hold “A Historic Night of Hope” at the Jerusalem Theater on Thursday, February 3 at 7:00 pm. The event will be broadcast around the world by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). While in Israel, the Osteens will meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as a tour of the Holy Land.
Rabbi Naomi Levy: I watched an interview you did with Larry King. I was so amazed when you said Jews can indeed go to heaven, and then I saw that you later took heat for it, and you rephrased yourself. Is it wrong to believe that people who don’t believe in Jesus have a place with God and have a place in heaven?
Pastor Joel Osteen: Sure. You know, to me it’s up to every person. I mean, what the Scripture teaches is that Jesus came so that we could have salvation through him.
NL: I saw another video where you spoke about how you’ve stopped eating pork, and I’m curious if you’ve taken on other aspects of being kosher.
JO: I just see that in the Scripture as well. I don’t always follow it 100 percent. But I appreciate the Jewish tradition and what’s in the Scripture, what it says about it.
JO: You know, I try to encourage people to believe for the best, but that God will always give you the strength to make it through and faith is all about trust. … Yesterday I prayed for a family. They had a little girl that had cancer and she’s in a wheelchair. You know, our prayer is that she’s going to live every day that God’s planned out for her. I hope it’s until she’s 90 years old. I don’t know if it will be, but I also pray that God gives these parents strength, and they get to that place of trust to say, ‘OK, God, I believe you’re in control of my life, that you have a plan for my little girl and a plan for my life.’ I think when you come back to that place of trust to believe that there’s something bigger than yourself, that’s what gives you the faith and strength to move on.
NL: Why do you think the mainline churches are losing members right now, and churches like your own are growing?
JO: I think that these days people are not as interested in being, whether it’s Baptist or Methodist or some denomination. They’re interested in churches that are relevant and practical and help them live their life better, and I’m not saying that the other ones don’t, but I think that the churches that I see growing are teaching you how to forgive and how to have a good attitude and how to love one another and practical things that help people. … I mean, I can guess that it’s positive, it’s hopeful. We all face difficulties in our health, our marriages, our finances, and our message is: God can help you in these areas. He can give you strength like we talked about. I think that’s part of the message that people, I hope they walk away saying, ‘You know what, I can be better, I can overcome this addiction, I can make it through another day.’
NL: When you speak to Jews, is your goal to say, ‘And now that you’ve come this far it’s time to embrace Jesus,’ or can a Jew remain a steadfast Jew and learn from you?
JO: I think anybody can learn. I put what we believe as Christians at the end of almost every broadcast and every service, but I just don’t believe in forcing anything down anybody’s throat. I believe it’s the spirit on the inside that reveals who we’re supposed to be. So I give that opportunity, but maybe this is a better way to put it: I don’t look down on anybody because they don’t believe just like me. … I’ve spent a lot of time in India with my father, and those were loving, kind people to us, very caring. They were Hindus, they don’t believe like we do, but I don’t look down on them. They know my faith, I know theirs, and I always let my light shine, but I’m not going to force anybody. I don’t think you’re supposed to go forcing something down somebody’s throat. Read the rest here.