Joel Osteen found himself in the headlines during the ongoing crisis in Houston when word got out that his mega-church was closed when floodwaters overtook the city. Consequently he has been under a deluge of criticism, and one of the most common comments I’ve seen and heard about him lately is the fact that he owns a house that is valued at about ten to fifteen million dollars. I’m no fan of the Prosperity Gospel ideology that Joel Osteen peddles, but when people bring up in isolation the fact that he owns an expensive house my first reaction is to say “And?” I fully understand the point people are trying to make, but I think they’re making that point poorly. Joel Osteen owning a house worth ten to fifteen million dollars does not, by itself, damn him. Being rich doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad person, and there’s no rule that says religious leaders have to be poor. The relevant issues would be how Joel Osteen got rich and, more importantly under the current circumstances, whether or not he is using his wealth to help the Houston community during the flooding. When you bring up the value of Joel Osteen’s house you should immediately follow it with some sort of comment about how he should use the resources available to a rich person like him to bring aid to the displaced people of Houston. You could also mention that it’s reasonable to expect that Joel Osteen would be trying to help out, given that he’s a minister. If, however, you merely keep parroting the line about him owning an expensive house as if that were somehow evil in and of itself, then you show yourself to be rather lazy in making an argument, and you might even be exposing yourself as having some sort of inherent disdain for rich people.

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