No, this isn't an "In & Out" situation:
or even Seinfeld:
But yes, Joel Osteen's got a gay problem.
Details below the fold:
The "gay problem" that Osteen in particular, and the rest of evangelical Christianity in general, can be summed up in the words of the famous chant:
We're here!LGBTs are here to stay. The closet has been kicked open, the lock has been destroyed. And they're not going back.
Get used to it!
And a growing number of Americans have no problem with that.
Either by law or by court edict, marriage equality is the law of the land in 14 states and the District of Columbia, representing 33% of the country's population. Several other states are poised to join that group, including Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey, and perhaps even New Mexico. Oregon does not have marriage equality (yet), but recognizes same-sex marriages performed in states with marriage equality. The Defense of Marriage Act, while not dead, may be on life support.
So the problem facing Osteen and his conservative brothers (and a few sisters) is how to keep evangelical Christianity relevant in a changing era.
Joel Osteen has a problem, one that all Evangelicals in the U.S. are facing. The anti-gay position of mainstream Christianity has fallen out of favor with the public. Every reputable poll currently shows uncontested majority support for gay marriage. And the cultural shift happened more quickly than the churches can follow.Osteen is walking a fine line here. You've got the old guard hardliners, like Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham (son of Billy) and others who still maintain that homosexual acts are a grievous sin that forever separate the sinner from the grace of God (while they might admit that celibate gays and lesbians are okay in God's sight), while people are leaving the pews because they know gays and lesbians personally and have no problem with them. And you've got pastors like Osteen who want to diminish the whole emphasis on societal issues like gay rights, in exchange for a more focused approach on an individual's relationship with God. Other young "rising stars" of evangelical Christianity, such as Rob Bell, founder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville MI and a noted Christian author, said this past March:
The Huffington Post’s Josh Zepps recently asked Osteen about this passage from his new book, “Break Out: 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barrier and Live an Extraordinary Life”: “It doesn’t matter who likes you or doesn’t like you, all that matters is that God likes you. He accepts you, he approves of you.”
Zepps wanted to know if this included gay folks. “Absolutely,” Osteen offered without missing a beat. Evangelicals are notoriously tricky on the subject. It’s common theology to claim that God accepts absolutely everyone because being gay is viewed as an affliction, not an identity. What makes Osteen’s statement so unusual is his claim that God “approves” of gay folks.
“I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man,” Bell said. “And I think the ship has sailed. This is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”While none of them are opening their doors to actually host same-sex marriages, they're also not taking the old stance of "well, gay people are okay as long as they're not doing the icky gay stuff." This could signal a sea change in the evangelical Christianity movement…and as we've seen, the movement has the ear of many in the Republican Party. It will be interesting to see what happens as the old guard goes off to get their reward (and it may not be what they're expecting) and the younger crowd takes over.