written by Anthony Moore
© 2013

Question:  How has Pastor Joel Osteen’s “prosperity gospel” contributed to suicidal tendencies?

Excerpt from Cracking the System: I’ve never seriously considered killing myself, but I came pretty close that one time when Pastor Joel Osteen happened to come on TV and I was unable to change the channel.

I read an interview Osteen did a while back, in which he said out of all the letters and phone calls he receives, 99.9% of them are positive. Considering that at the time he said 7 million people watch the show a week, I figure Osteen’s motivational techniques must not be working, since they haven’t motivated people enough to call in and complain about his television show. I imagine a great deal of the people who have contacted him have been potheads who called in to ask “where did he get the good weed he appeared to be high on when he was doing his televised sermon.” Maybe it’s just me, but I got the impression that he was high when I saw him preaching. Like I said, maybe that’s just me, especially considering that I had just finished watching the movies Half-Baked and Friday before I saw his televised sermon.  Even so, my viewpoint was supported by the fact that Osteen has a book he was promoting called How to Make Everyday a Friday. Really? I imagine potheads who are fans of the movie Friday were probably disappointed after they read the book and found out it didn’t have any tips on scoring good weed. By the way, for those who might be offended because they think I’m making light of suicide, that’s not my intention. I understand that suicide is a serious problem that impacts many people and is often preventable. However, looking at Joel Osteen’s weekly televised sermon is also a serious problem that impacts many people and is often preventable. It’s not so much that I’m against the “prosperity gospel” that he’s known for, but I do have an issue with religions that stress the prosperity gospel without stressing helping the less fortunate along with fighting social, economic and other systematic injustices, especially since there’s a guy they tend to frequently reference for whom fighting poverty and injustice were pretty big things—I believe his name was Jesus Christ.

HOW THE PRECEDING BOOK EXCERPT CONTRIBUTES TO “CRACKING” THE SYSTEM: The excerpt above is from the chapter entitled The Business of College. It comes from a section within the chapter entitled Since We’re on the Subject of Suicide, Let’s Talk About Joel Osteen. This chapter breaks down how college is a business. It puts this into perspective by showing the broader context of business on the billion dollar level. This includes business in the context of distribution channels, the internet, leveraged buyouts, capitalism, capital, college financing, and other factors. In the context of breaking down business on the billion dollar level, it profiles billionaire Ron Burkle. Key to his billion dollar fortune have been private equity and leveraged buyouts, which are finance-driven business practices that have impacted the first and largest student loan company, Sallie Mae. These factors have contributed to Sallie Mae, which started out as a government sponsored-entity founded to help students pay for college, being transforming into a primarily profit-driven company traded on public markets (that was a highly coveted acquisition target by private equity firms and other large companies). This not only epitomizes the reality that college is a business, but also reflects how the finance-driven ideology that has co-opted capitalism in the U.S. for the past several decades and led to the emergence of practices such as leveraged buyouts has been key in transforming college in the U.S. from primarily being a means to educate U.S. citizens to primarily being about making money off of U.S. citizens. A strong argument can be made that Joel Osteen’s “prosperity gospel” is also a byproduct of this perversion of capitalism in the U.S., where the practice of earning money from providing value to consumers has been co-opted into draining as much money as possible from consumers (whether they get commensurate value for their money or not). The chapter breaks down these realities in ways that provide readers with strategies for success and show how to avoid falling victim to practices that financially exploit college students. It does so through sections such as Ron Burkle Shows How “Playing the Game” Can Trump a College Degree and Since College is a Business, Doesn’t It Make Sense To Treat It Like One?

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