Lakewood Church, the Houston mega-church led by celebrity pastor Joel Osteen has suffered a lot of criticism–most of it aimed at Osteen–for not doing enough to help victims of Hurricane Harvey and unprecedented flooding.
But much of the criticism is unwarranted–or even spurred by jealousy.
It’s true that Lakewood Church cancelled services for Sunday, just after the category 4 storm lashed the coast and dumped nearly 50 inches of rain on southeast Texas. What church wouldn’t have done that–especially one with 16,000 seats and people driving from miles to get there?
Osteen’s most ardent detractors hit him for this tweet:
Victoria & I are praying for everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please join us as we pray for the safety of our Texas friends & family.
— Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) August 26, 2017
People who don’t like Christians, or Osteen in particular, jumped right to the conclusion that if the tweet says to pray, it automatically excludes doing anything concrete to help. That’s a ridiculous assumption, especially since Lakewood has been known in the past to provide aid to victims of previous floods. (Houston
The church announced it was inaccessible due to flooding, prompting area activists to try to verify those claims.
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) August 28, 2017
— Allie (@AlleyCat_Allie) August 28, 2017
Lynne Gabriel, a Houston fashion blogger, tweeted these pictures showing that the church’s lower level is indeed flooded.
— Lynne Gabriel-Caine (@heyitslynneg) August 28, 2017
Another Twitter user, Keaton Milburn, also tweeted images (some of them are the same pictures).
maybe your anonymous source would like to see these photos. ones of the church actually flooding. know your facts first pic.twitter.com/LfjBOdxScm
— Keaton Milburn (@KeatonMilburn) August 28, 2017
Lakewood reached out to Faithwire Monday evening to set the record straight.
Don Iloff, a spokesperson for Lakewood Church, told Faithwire late on Monday night that the house of worship has been in touch with city and county officials in recent days and has been planning outreach efforts.
But considering that the church’s building — inside what was once the Compaq Center sports arena — is prone to flooding, Iloff said that Lakewood chose to instead focus its energies on the ways in which the church could serve as a food and resource distribution center, among other outreach efforts.
Iloff noted that the bottom floor of the building is historically prone to flooding, making any decision to use it problematic.
“The fact is that we knew that we could not put anyone on the bottom floor,” he said, noting that the first floor is where the most space exists for housing flood victims. “We were very concerned about putting anyone on that bottom floor given the history.”
One major detail everyone seems to have ignored:
Iloff: “The [church] doors have never been locked.”
On Monday, the church tweeted:
Beginning at 12 Noon tomorrow we are collecting infant and adult diapers, baby formula and baby food.
— Lakewood Church (@lakewoodchurch) August 29, 2017
And true to form, people began to bring donations, because that’s what Christians do.
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) August 29, 2017
Lakewood’s Facebook page noted Tuesday that the church’s “doors are open to anyone needing shelter,” and that they are needing volunteers and donated items.
It appears that Lakewood’s, and the Osteens’, critics aren’t really upset at the speed the church responded to the disaster. They were more interested in the Osteens wealth.
Pro tip: if your pastor lives in this house, he ain't a pastor. pic.twitter.com/X7p4y7a1nf
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) August 29, 2017
I’m not a pastor or a psychologist, but could it be jealousy? (That’s a sin.)