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Pastor Responds to Criticism

TempJoel Osteen, senior pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, has a large following, but he has taken a hit since Hurricane Harvey. Critics say Osteen should have offered his mega-church, which seats 16,8000, to people needing housing after the storm. Instead, Osteen tweeted his prayers, and people say it wasn't enough.

Church officials said the building experienced "severe flooding," but pictures told a different story. In TV interviews, Osteen defended the church's practices. He said, "The main thing is, the city didn't ask us."

 In an article on PR Daily, Brad Phillips raised the issue of authenticity:

If you’re cynical about televangelists, Osteen’s tone in the Today show interview probably struck you as smarmy and self-satisfied. If you’re one of the millions of people who watch his sermons and read his books, you probably viewed him as sincere.

Phillips also questioned why the church didn't have plans in place and, specifically, why the leaders didn't coordinate with Houston city officials ahead of time. 

The social media response has not been kind: memes abound.

Discussion:

  • What's your view of the church's actions during and after the hurricane?
  • How well did Osteen respond to criticism? What are his main arguments? Which are strongest, and which fall short?
  • Given Phillips' question about Osteen's authenticity, how do you view his interview on the Today show?
  • What's your view of the social media response and memes: cruel, justified, or something else?
  • How do your own religious beliefs or practices influence your assessment of the situation and of Osteen, particularly?