Occasionally, I watch the Rev. Joel Osteen preach from his non-denominational mega-church in Dallas. He fills this former hockey arena to capacity every Sunday. His message is completely positive, inspiring people to live their lives to the fullest based upon the foundational belief that God created us good, equips us to live positive lives, and to spread the positive message to others by word and example. He teaches people how to be successful in life by living godly, positive lives. His church’s symbol is the world globe. You will not find the cross at his church, which is an incorporated business under his family’s control.
Of course, I do not watch the Rev. Osteen enough to know if he preaches on Jesus Christ. In the sermon I heard, there was no reference to Jesus, which I thought was a bit odd. Certainly, Jesus was implied, but there was nothing explicit. Nor did I hear anything about sin, suffering, death and the promise of eternal life. No one was condemned. Certain traits such as negative thinking, “pity parties,” inaction and so on were described as what others do which Rev. Osteen’s followers could overcome by their positive outlook on life and responding to the power within themselves. His is a “happy, peppy” religion where faith empowers one to give thanks for what you have, not worry about what you don’t have and allow God to overcome the rest.
There’s nothing wrong with what I heard; it just didn’t seem like our Biblical faith. It had a veneer of Biblical teaching, but anyone who wants to be positive and successful in life would have felt at home — the atheist, the Hindu, the Jew, and whoever. I’m not sure the prisoner, the homeless, the outcast, the sick, the handicapped and the dying would have found much comfort in all the sweet and positive rhetoric. The chronically depressed, the introverted, and the less educated might feel left out of the party. If you carry the cross in your life, it’s your fault, because you allowed the negative and nasty to get you down. I wonder what Jesus would say about that!
I really enjoyed one metaphor the Rev. Osteen used, though. He asked his listeners if they were a thermometer or a thermostat. A person who is a thermometer is affected by everyone else. If the mood is bad, their mood is bad. If the conversation is negative, their conversation is negative. A person who is a thermometer has no control over his/her environment; the environment controls the person.
Whereas a person who is a thermostat sets the example and influences his/her environment and atmosphere; by being a positive, joyful, inspiring and an energetic person, as one engages others, pulls them up and sets the agenda for well-being.
As Catholics, though, I think we do see ourselves as thermometers and God as the Thermostat. As thermometers, when we respond to God’s thermostatic love when we attend Mass every Sunday, go to Confession regularly, strive to form a Christian family and love, honor and respect our spouses, our children, our family and our friends. We are thermometers when we honor the commitments we have made before God and Church. We respond to God the Thermostat when we pick up our cross and follow Jesus and share our time, talent and treasure with the Church and the world in which we live.
As Catholic thermometers, we respond to God the Thermostat when we reach out to the poor, advocate for the defenseless and speak out against injustice and promote the right to life from conception until natural death. When we are sick, aging or dying, we trust in Jesus and his power to overcome our suffering through the promise of His cross and resurrection. We positively know that our true home is not here but in heaven with God and all the angels and saints.
As Catholics, God brings us to His temperature when we live godly lives, respect natural law, strive to live simply in this passing world, to be modest in behavior and dress, and to say “yes” to all that God wants for us, which is made known to us through God’s revelation in Scripture and Tradition.
Our Catholic Faith is positive when we say “yes” to all that God has revealed to the Church. How much more positive can we get when we say yes to faith, hope, love and truth?