In some ways (and perhaps oddly, for a Progressive Christian like me), I admire Joel Osteen. I like his preaching, even though I often disagree with his Theology, because he presents a clear and simple message that is grounded in God’s love.
This particular tweet of his is, however, a little bit problematic for me: mostly but not entirely because of Osteen’s main point, “choose faith over facts.” Even though this is, in fact, a theme that often appears in my own preaching and teaching, including my recent sermon entitled “Risky Business.”
But with regards to this tweet, the heart of my concern lies in how that statement is modified by the statements that precede it: “The facts may tell you one thing” and “God is not limited by facts.”
The issue is this: the way this is presented seems to imply that Faith is a static thing, a standard of belief. However, I see Faith as the expression of our relationship, our journey, with God. Journeys always involve movement, evolution, change. As people of faith, we continue to move, grow and change as our journey with God and those around us causes our relationships with them and with God to grow and deepen. We aren’t journeying through life towards a more perfect faith. Rather, our faith is the reflection of our lifelong journey towards a perfect God.
Therefore, Faith does not supersede facts. Rather, our faith evolves as our [factual] comprehension and appreciation of the world and people around us evolves. The facts don’t change. Instead, our understanding of them changes. As we learn to love one another as Christ has called us to do, our appreciation of the facts expands in the light of that love.
Two or three decades ago, I did not comprehend, nor did I love, those who had sexual orientations that were other than heterosexual. Yes, I tolerated such individuals, and even had fruitful and respectful relationships with such people. But, I saw them as flawed and hurting people who needed healing.
What I did not recognize is that I was just as flawed and hurting as they were, and just as much in need of healing. The “problem” with someone who is LGBT is not that their sexual orientation is different than mine, but that they are human. The sin in their lives does not derive from whom they love, but derives from the fact that they love imperfectly, as we all do. This same statement is true of anyone we see as “flawed” – whether we seem them as such because they depend on public aid, are poor, or a felon, have the “wrong” skin color, were not born in this country, are not Christian, are not our type of Christian, or vote for the wrong political party.
The issue is not that they are flawed, but rather that we see them as flawed. The FACT is that they are child of God, just as we are. The FACT is that God loves them as much as God Loves us. The FACT is that they are no more flawed than we. The FACT is that we are not seeing our own flaws. And, the FACT is, that we are imagining we see what their flaws are, when only God truly knows. And finally, the FACT is that God loves them – and us – despite our flaws.
Historically, the purpose of the season of Advent is not to prepare for Christmas, but to reflect upon our own brokenness, our own sin, and our need for the redemption and healing that is made available to us through the gift and message of Christ: who came into this world to share our journey with us, to show us how to love one another despite our flaws, and despite our flawed view of the facts.
And so, during this Advent Season, I ask you to reflect upon the facts, and to choose Faith, as Joel Osteen says: but choose Faith in spite of OUR facts, because our grasp of reality is never more than a tiny fraction of understanding when compared to the limitless immensity of God’s omniscience. God created a universe where the myriad of pieces that make up the entire universe, including ourselves, are each distinct and unique. The ultimate FACT is that God loves each and every microscopic bit of His Creation, including us, just as we are.
We are called to choose Faith BECAUSE of the facts, not in spite of them.
Copyright (c) 2014, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved. I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)