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Joel Osteen's Sin

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I ended my last blog about the oppression of gays by some black Christian churches by asking, "How did Jesus transcend all manner of hate?" This question has lived inside my heart and life for many years. It was the question that led me away from Christianity, as I could not find the answer in the religion of my childhood. I wanted deeply to understand the power of Jesus' love, and his command for us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love God with all our heart and soul.

While I've found that some of the leaders of black Christian churches tend to be particularly staunch in their commitment to demonizing gays, other non-black Christian churches don't hesitate to join in, too. Recently, Oprah Winfrey sat down with Joel Osteen, the pastor of the largest church in America. Each Sunday Osteen speaks to at least 16,000 church members. When Oprah asked Pastor Osteen if he thought gay people would enter heaven, he answered, "Yes, if they repent for their sins." Pastor Osteen went on to say that the Bible defines homosexuality as a sin. These types of declarations and beliefs by some Christians conflict with what I've come to see as the deeper meaning within the teachings of Jesus.

In 1998 I left the Christian church and began a journey that started with the question, "How did Jesus transcend all manner of hate?" I'd heard hundreds, and maybe thousands, of messages pointing me to what Jesus did and why I should worship him. But after 30 years those lessons hadn't given me any real power or peace in my life. After years of religious and spiritual exploration and deep questioning, I discovered that unlike the Jesus espoused in the various mega-churches, the Jesus I'd found knew, owned, accepted, and declared his oneness with God. "When you see me, you see my Father who has sent me," said Jesus. Jesus' core message was love: love yourself, love your enemy, and love God. These teachings were my path from a dark night of the soul, a path that eventually led me to profound oneness.

Osteen says, "Wishing to be something that you are not is an insult to God. God made every one of us a masterpiece." Here's where I question Pastor Osteen's message. I say "yes" to this, and I ask, "Are these words true for gay people, or are they the exception to the message you offer the thousands you speak with weekly, and the millions who purchase your books?"

Even as Pastor Osteen's message is one of happiness and inspiration, I see it is as duplicitous and divisive at its core, like a wolf in sheep's clothing. In the world in which we live today, this concept of sin asks us to discard a part of ourselves. "Love the sinner but hate the sin" suggests that there is some part of ourselves we should reject or even hate. How can this be true if Jesus himself said to love your enemy? We're accustomed to viewing our enemy as something or someone outside ourselves, but in truth the greatest and only enemy is within. And Christ commands each to love himself as he loves God, no exceptions. Love in and of itself creates bridges and builds relationships with all people and all parts of ourselves. Love creates wholeness.

What if we all were taught (and believed!) that we are here as a representative of the Father, the creative force behind all that is? What if we knew that each person we encounter is a representative of the Father? In our understanding that each one of us is here on purpose as a representative of the Father, an experience of surrender and acceptance occurs. When we, like Jesus the Christ, know our oneness with God, an embrace of the self is realized. In an era post-Jesus the Christ, there is only one sin, and that is our denial of our true and whole selves.

In our world today there appears to be a great explosion of pain and suffering. We see oppressed people rising up and claiming their freedom. Freedom occurs once we claim every part of ourselves to the whole. Pastor Osteen's message is obsolete and oppressive in an age when people are awakening to their truest nature. We each have as our birthright the claim, "When you see me, you see my Father who has sent me." There, in the hearts, lives, and eyes of gay people, are all people. So there is only one thing to see and accept: gay people (like the Christ) are the living expression of love. They, too, are representatives of the Father. And our ability to fully love gay people and all people is directly connected to our experience of God.