For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Osteen's False Gospel is Nothing New

Mrs. Osteen’s now famous exhortation to do good for ourselves because God just wants us to be happy is old news.  You’ve no doubt heard the clip, and also no doubt read the dozens of responses.  Along with many, the clip showing Bill Cosby’s “response” is a favorite.

But here’s the thing.  This is nothing new.  This me-istic, prosperity gospel has been around for a long, long time.  Back in the 80’s I was working in Christian radio, both at our college station and some others.  I remember some of my favorite “alternative” bands (that’s what we called it back then) like Daniel Amos and Steve Taylor doing songs about this false gospel.  Those two in particular had a fun way of doing it.

I was thinking about that because I was feeling nostalgic and listening to an old DA record called Doppelganger.  One of the songs is New Car!  It’s set as a game show conversation with the hook line actually being a sample of Johnny Jacobs shouting “A New Car!”  Here’s a bit of it:

Contestant: Well, I know what I want, I know what I need
I want a miracle, I know what I need
I know what I want, I know what I need, give me a
Johnny Jacobs: (A new car!)
Contestant: I know what I need, give me a
Johnny Jacobs: (A new car!)
Contestant: I'm one of the kings kids
Kings kids: (He wants a blessing)
Contestant: I'm one of the kings kids
Kings kids: (He wants a blessing)
Contestant: I do deserve the best
Kings kids: (Keep on confessing)
Contestant: The very, very, very, very
Kings Kids: (na-na-na-na-na) 
Contestant: Very, very best, I'm one of the king's kids
I deserve the best, I want a
Johnny Jacobs: (A new car!)

You get the idea.  DA was making fun of this same prosperity gospel thing that tells us it’s all about us, all about our own happiness, all about our own worldly wants and needs.

Steve Taylor also had several songs taking swipes at the health/wealth heresy and the self centered nature of the church.  Songs like 1985’s This Disco (Used to be a CuteCathedral), which promises a place where they “only play the stuff you’re wanting to hear.”

Then there was the later ’93 epic called Cash Cow, which actually points out my point: this is nothing new.  In that song, Taylor likens this false gospel to the same motives behind the recently freed Hebrew slaves who turned their back on God in favor of a golden calf.  God wasn’t meeting their “felt needs” so they sought out another god, a god of gold, that would make them feel better about themselves. 

Taylor reminds us that this same sinful heart resides within us all: 
Perhaps you've already been licked
I, too, was hypnotized
By those big cow eyes
The last time I uttered those three little words
"I deserve better!"

And there it is, isn’t it?  Osteen’s “do good for yourself” is the same as DA’s “I do deserve the best” and Taylor’s “I deserve better!”  Which is all the same as the complaint we read about in Exodus 16: 16:2  “And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’" Exodus 16:2-3 

So then, what are we to make of this?  One, realize that while Mrs. Osteen may have stated the heresy more plainly than some others, it’s nothing new.  And two, we should see this as a cautionary tale, a reminder to search our own hearts and see whether or not we, too, have been hypnotized by those big cow eyes thinking “I deserve better” because I’m a “King’s kid.”  

And now, for those feeling either nostalgic or adventurous, feel free to enjoy either DA's New Car, or a recent live version of Taylor's Cash Cow, or both. 

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