The Prosperity Gospel And The Spirit Of Consumerism According To Joel Osteen

The Prosperity Gospel And The Spirit Of Consumerism According To Joel Osteen

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The Prosperity Gospel and the Spirit of Consumerism According to Joel Osteen

Peter Mundey*

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


This article explores the link between Protestantism and the spirit of consumerist capitalism by focusing on the prosperity gospel and one of its most prominent con- temporary proponents—pastor, televangelist, and New York Times bestselling author Joel Osteen. Through in-depth content analysis of eight of Osteen’s most influential and widely read books, I explore the underlying assumptions of his teachings about faith, prosperity, and consumption. The broader implications of Osteen’s theology of money and consumption for American religion—especially the link between Protes- tant Christianity, consumerism, and the American Dream—are considered. Findings reveal Osteen’s support for the consumerist belief that happiness and ultimate mean- ing in life are linked with ever-increasing discretionary consumption. Godliness and nonessential consumption go hand in hand for Osteen, whose Christianized version of the American Dream and prosperity gospel teachings are important components of the spirit of twenty-first-century consumerist capitalism.


Osteen – Weber – prosperity gospel – consumerism – capitalism – consumption – money

* I wish to thank Omar Lizardo, Christian Smith, and Brian Miller for their helpful sugges-

tions on previous versions of this article, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their feed-


© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2017 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03903018


the prosperity gospel and the spirit of consumerism


I love the story of the prodigal son.When the young man came back home after wasting all of his money and living a wild life, the father was so excited he said, “Go kill the fattened calf. Go get the best robe.” Notice, he didn’t say, “Go get me any old calf or just one of those sick ones that’s about to die anyway. Go get me that old robe that I’ll never wear anymore.” That’s because we serve a God of abundance!

joel and victoria osteen, “Hope Notes” on Luke 15:23, Hope for Today Bible1

In the above passage, which explains the parable of the prodigal son for readers of their Hope for Today Bible, Joel and Victoria Osteen argue that Christians “serve a God of abundance.” They go on to write that Christians should “dare to have a ‘fattened calf mentality.’”2 This article will demonstrate that such a mentality, along with Osteen’s “God of abundance,” dovetails nicely with the pseudo-religion of American consumerism.

In addition to pastoring America’s largest congregation, Lakewood Church (Houston, tx), with an average weekend attendance of around 40,000, Joel Osteen reaches millions of persons around the world through his speaking tours, weekly television ministry, and bestselling books, which are the focus of this article. Through content analysis of these widely read texts, I explore the relationship between Osteen’s version of the prosperity gospel and the gospel of consumerism. More precisely, I describe Osteen’s theology of money and consumption and its broader implications for the relationship between Protes- tant Christianity and American consumerism, defined as a quasi-religion in which Americans regularly worship at secular “cathedrals of consumption” and find ultimate meaning, happiness, and purpose in consuming more than they need.3 Since Joel Osteen has branded himself as one of the most prominent and influential figures in twenty-first-century American Christianity, and con-

1 Joel Osteen and Victoria Osteen, Hope for Today Bible(New York: Howard Books, 2009), 1159. 2 Ibid.

3 For more on quasi-religions and “quasi-religious” experiences see David Chidester, Authentic

Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture (Berkley: University of California Press, 2005),

esp. 8, 15, 79. For cathedrals of consumption see George Ritzer, Enchanting a Disenchanted

World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, ca: Pine Forge

Press, 2010), especially 7–9. For the definition of consumerism see Steven Miles,Consumerism

as a Way of Life(Thousand Oaks,ca: Sage Publications, 1998); Amitai Etzioni, “Consumerism

and Americans,” inSocial Problems: Readings with Four Questions, ed. Joel M. Charon and Lee

Garth Vigilant (Belmont,ca: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning, 2011), 42; Dalton Conley,You May

Ask Yourself, 4th ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2015), 103; Bruce P. Rittenhouse, Shopping for

Meaningful Lives: The Religious Motive of Consumerism(Eugene,or: Cascade Books, 2013).

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sumerism is one of the most influential moral orders by which Americans cre- ate and find meaning in life, it is worthwhile exploring the intersection between Osteen’sprosperitygospelandthepseudo-religionof Americanconsumerism.4

We already know much about Osteen as a merchant of faith who sells ther- apeutic sermons and worship experiences and has emerged as a distinct “faith brand,” defined by Mara Einstein as “spiritual products that have been given popular meaning and awareness through marketing.”5 We know far less, how- ever, about how Osteen’s theology of money and consumption encourages his devotees to consume and interact with secular merchants in consumer culture and purchase conventional commercial brands, which is the focus of this arti- cle. Shayne Lee and Phillip Luke Sinitiere argue that Osteen “constructs a vision of happy living that blends well with our consumerist self-indulgent culture and offers a narrative of hope grounded in the discourses of religious and bour- geois American middle-class sensibilities.”6The analysis that follows builds on this assertion, revealing in greater detail the consumer sensibilities infused into Osteen’s theology of money and consumption. I also explore how these con- sumer sensibilities align with the cultural norms of American consumerism and the American Dream, which James Truslow Adams famously described as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”7

4 For more on moral orders see Christian Smith, Moral Believing Animals: Human Personhood

and Culture(New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), esp. 7–43; Robert Wuthnow, Meaning

and Moral Order: Explorations in Cultural Analysis (Berkley: University of California Press,


5 Shayne Lee and Phillip Luke Sinitiere,Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual

Marketplace (New York: New York University Press, 2009); Phillip Luke Sinitiere, Salvation

with a Smile: Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church & American Christianity (New York: New York

University Press, 2015); Kate Bowler and Wen Regan, “Bigger, Better, Louder: The Prosperity

Gospel’s Impact on Contemporary Christian Worship,” Religion and American Culture 24,

no. 2 (2014): 186–230; Mara Einstein, Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial

Age (New York: Routledge, 2008), 92. For Einstein’s discussion of Osteen as a “faith brand”

see Chapter 6, “The New Televangelists.” For more on religious branding see Katja Rakow,

“Religious Branding and the Quest to Meet Consumer Needs: Joel Osteen’s ‘Message of Hope,’”

in Religion and the Marketplace in the United States, ed. Jan Stievermann, Philip Goff, Detlef

Junker, and Daniel Silliman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 215–239.

6 Lee and Sinitiere, Holy Mavericks, 39.

7 James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America (Boston, ma: Little, Brown and Company, 1931),


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The Prosperity Gospel

Osteen’s theology of money is consistent with what scholars of religion com- monly refer to as the prosperity gospel. Important teachings of this gospel include the idea that God desires for people to prosper materially, rewards faithful followers with wealth, and that material blessings are signs of God’s favor.8 Ministers espousing this theological perspective typically affirm that one’s “health and wealth” increase and decrease in proportion to one’s faith- fulness and often demonstrate their high levels of faith through extravagant spending on luxury cars, clothes, and private planes.9Milmon Harrison argues that prosperity teachings, which are often associated with the Word of Faith movement, promote “a worldview that emphasizes material prosperity and physical health as the divine right of every Christian.”10 Similarly, Shayne Lee writes that “prosperity teachings allow [persons] to enjoy their wealth and con- sumerism as their rightful inheritance as God’s faithful children.”11

While some prosperity teachings may promote a “God’s my butler” faith in which God functions like a “spiritual Santa Claus,” a cosmic cash dispenser, and a divine atm or vending machine,12 less crassly materialistic versions of pros- perity teachings also exist. There are a “plurality of prosperity theologies and pentecostalisms,” Katherine Attanasi writes, so scholars should consider the possibility of multiple prosperity gospels instead of a singular prosperity gospel promoting unfettered consumerism.13 For example, proponents of a “quasi- ascetic” prosperity gospel may soften the consumerist edges of their theology


9 10 11 12


Kate Bowler, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Sandra Barnes, Live Long and Prosper: How Black Megachurches Addresshiv/aidsand Poverty in the Age of Prosperity Theology (New York: Fordham Uni- versity Press, 2013); Simon Coleman,The Globalisation of Charismatic Christianity: Spread- ing the Gospel of Prosperity (Cambridge, uk: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Milmon F. Harrison, Righteous Riches: The Word of Faith Movement in Contemporary African Amer- ican Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Shayne Lee,T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher (New York: New York University Press, 2007).

Lee,T.D. Jakes, 110.

Harrison, Righteous Riches, 8.

Lee,T.D. Jakes, 100.

Gerardo Marti,Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church (New Brunswick, nj: Rutgers University Press, 2008), 127; Barnes, Live Long and Prosper, 51.

Katherine Attanasi, “Introduction: The Plurality of Prosperity Theologies and Pentecos- talisms,” in Pentecostalism and Prosperity: The Socio-Economics of the Global Charismatic Movement, ed. Katherine Attanasi and AmosYong (NewYork: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012), 1.

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by affirming that persons should give away many of their God-given blessings, that God blesses them with their needs, not necessarily their wants, and that God’sblessingsareoftenimmaterialin nature.14Thisarticleaddressestheques- tion of whether or not Joel Osteen’s brand of the prosperity gospel is overtly consumerist or perhaps somewhat ascetic, and delineates his contribution to the spirit of twenty-first-century consumerist capitalism.

Protestantism and the Spirit of Consumerist Capitalism

InThe Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, MaxWeber famously argued that the religiously motivated work ethic he observed among seventeenth- century European Calvinists helped lay the ideological groundwork for the emergence of modern capitalism.15Weber’s Calvinists worked extremely hard in order to pursue their God-given vocational calling and to confirm their sta- tus as one of God’s elect. Just as modern proponents of the prosperity gospel believe material blessings are a sign of God’s favor, Weber’s Calvinists believed that success in the economic realm was a sign of God’s favor, and, more pre- cisely, that one was predestined to spend eternity in heaven. Unlike the mod- ern prosperity gospel, however, the Protestant consumption ethic practiced by Weber’s Calvinists taught that money earned from successful economic pur- suits was to be stewarded according to the principles of financial austerity and frugality, not spent on frivolous nonessentials and for personal pleasure and enjoyment. Although it restricted luxury consumption, the Protestant ethic was not anti-wealth. Rather, wealth was supposed to be spent rationally, saved diligently, and given away generously to worthy causes.

How did the Protestant ethic—an ideology that limited discretionary consumption—contribute to the emergence of capitalism, an ideology and collective practice premised on consuming discretionary nonessentials? Cen- tral to Weber’s argument is that the Protestant ethic transcended its Calvinist origins and was secularized, thus removing religious restraints on discretionary spending. Modern capitalists maintained the original ethic’s emphasis on hard work and capital accumulation, but instead of working in pursuit of a religious



Peter Mundey, “American Christianity & Consumerism: Understanding the Relationship between Christian Economic Culture and Secular Consumer Culture” (PhD diss., Univer- sity of Notre Dame, 2015), 235–241. For more on less overtly consumerist versions of the prosperity gospel see Marti, Hollywood Faith, 121–128.

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Routledge, [1930] 2005).

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calling, they pursued wealth as an end in and of itself, and enjoyed the fruits of their labor rather than living austerely.

As an ideal type for secularized religious asceticism, Weber used Benjamin Franklin, a deist who secularized the religious principles of his Calvinist father along utilitarian lines. In this article, I use Joel Osteen as an ideal type to illus- trate how Protestant thought is related to the spirit of modern consumerism and increasingly reflects the secular American Dream.We will see that Osteen’s prosperity gospel contains some aspects of Weberian secularized asceticism, but this theoretical lens alone is insufficient for understanding the link between Joel Osteen and the spirit of consumerist capitalism.

In order to see the bigger picture, we also need to consider Colin Camp- bell’s argument in the Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Consumerismthat a sec- ond Protestant ethic rose up out of traditional Protestantism, complemented Weber’s ethic, and partially contributed to the hedonist elements of mod- ern consumerism, including acquisitiveness, shopaholism, and over-the-top discretionary consumption.16 The prosperity gospel, I argue, is best viewed as an extension of the second Protestant ethic identified by Campbell, who argues that the two Protestant ethics—one romantic and the other ascetic— represent the “twin cultures” of consumerism, which supplement rather than contradict each other.17 Labeling modern consumerists as completely puritan or completely romantic is thus unwarranted because persons often blend ele- ments of both into an overreaching consumer ethic.

While neither Campbell nor Weber should be interpreted as arguing that Protestant beliefs directly caused consumerism, both point to the potential of religious beliefs to partially shape behavior, especially economic behavior. Though beyond the scope of this article, Osteen’s readers likely incorporate some of the beliefs he writes about in his books into their own consumer lives, which suggests that the story of Christianity’s role in shaping the spirit of consumerism is ongoing and does not end with the writings of Weber and Campbell. Since Joel Osteen is arguably “America’s most powerful twenty-first- century evangelical minister,” his contribution to this story is likely a very significant and influential one.18




Colin Campbell,The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Consumerism(New York: Basil Black- well, [1987] 2005).

Ibid., 227. For cultures of consumerism contradicting each other see Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism(New York: Basic Books, [1976] 1996).

Sinitiere,Salvation with a Smile, 8.

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Osteen’s Corpus

Joel Osteen has two product lines through which he sells his theology of money and consumption to the masses: spoken word, as seen in his preaching both in person and on tv, and written word, as seen in his books. Though both product lines are worthy of study, and are likely similar in most respects, for the purposes of this article I focus in depth on Osteen’s written product line. These texts, I argue, represent a highly influential, potentially behavior- shaping medium through which Osteen reaches millions of persons, thereby disseminating his beliefs about God, money, and consumption. According to Osteen’s website, “In 2004, his first book, Your Best Life Now, was released by Time Warner debuting at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List and quickly rising to #1. It remained on the New York TimesBestseller for more than 2 years and has sold more than 4 million copies.”19Osteen has released several other widely read books building upon the success of Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, including: Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day(2007),It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase God’s Favor (2009), Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week (2011), Break Out! 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life (2013), You Can You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner (2014), Fresh Start: The New You Begins Today (2015), and The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today (2015).20 These texts were selected for analysis in this article and represent the major works in Osteen’s written corpus from 2004, the beginning of his writing career, to 2015. Minor Osteen publications during this time period—by which I mean devotionals, study guides, and daily readings—were excluded from the present study in order to prioritize his most widely read texts, and to focus on the most fully



“Joel Osteen: An Inspiration to Millions,” Joel Osteen Ministries, accessed March 28, 2016,

Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential (New York: Warner Faith, 2004); Joel Osteen,Become a BetterYou: 7 Keys to ImprovingYour Life Every Day(New York: Free Press, 2007); Joel Osteen,It’sYourTime:ActivateYourFaith,AchieveYourDreams, and Increase in God’s Favor (New York: Free Press, 2009); Joel Osteen, Every Day a Friday: How to be Happier 7 Days a Week (New York. Faith Works, 2011); Joel Osteen, Break Out: 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life (New York: Faith Works, 2013); Joel Osteen, You Can You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner (New York: Faith Works, 2014); Joel Osteen, Fresh Start: The New You Begins Today (New York: Faith Works, 2015); Joel Osteen, The Power of I Am: Two Words that Will Change Your Life Today (New York: Faith Works, 2015).

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developed written articulations of his theology. Books were read—amounting to 2,077 pages (excluding appendices)—and coded for references to money, material possessions, consumption, shopping, and explicit references to the prosperity gospel. As I read, I recorded in detailed notes the page numbers for each instance of a particular code, as well as verbatim text of the most representative quotations.

Osteen’s “More Than Enough” God

The main theme of Joel Osteen’s theology of money and consumption is that ever-increasing discretionary consumption is essential to fulfilling God’s vision for one’s life, which naturally encourages Christians to buy into what consumer culture is selling. In addition to God providing faithful Christians with what theyneed—which isnotconsumerist—Osteen argues that God will give them the desires of their heart, their wants, which is consumerist.21 “It’s good to ask God for your needs,” Osteen writes, “but I’m challenging you to ask for your dreams. Ask for your goals. Ask for big things.”22 Elsewhere Osteen puts it this way: “God wants you to live an overcoming life of victory. He doesn’t want you to barely get by. He’s called El Shaddai, ‘the God of more than enough.’ He’s not ‘El Cheapo,’ the God of barely enough!”23Osteen’s God doesn’t merely give the faithful manna, their daily bread. Rather, God gives them “armloads of blessings,” “explosive blessings,” “floods of favor,” and a “barnyard of bless- ings.”24 Though the economy may be down, Osteen reminds his readers that “God is not having a down year. I’m happy to report the economy in Heaven is doing just fine. Don’t plan on having a 201(k), but how about a 601(k), a 1201(k).”25 Osteen challenges Christians to “supersize your prayers,” thus giv- ing them permission to dream big consumerist dreams and believe that God will supernaturally intervene to help them go from poverty to plenty, from just


22 23 24 25

For consumerism’s emphasis on discretionary as opposed to essentials consumption see Bell,The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, 22; Peter N. Stearns,Consumerism in World History:The GlobalTransformation of Desire, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2001), vii; Arlie Russell Hochschild, The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work (Berkley: University of California Press, 2003), 209.

Osteen, Break Out, 108.

Osteen,Your Best Life Now, 33.

Osteen, It’s Your Time, 243; Osteen, Break Out, 24, 53.

Osteen, It’s Your Time, 162.

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barely getting by and only buying essentials to living a life of abundance and buying lots of discretionary nonessentials.26 An impoverished or need-based consumer lifestyle is not consistent with faithful Christian living, according to Osteen, who writes:

While I don’t like the term prosperity minister, I must say I am not a poverty minister. I can’t find a single verse in the Scripture that suggests we are supposed to drag around not having enough, not able to afford what we want, living off the leftovers, in the land of Not Enough. We were created to be the head and not the tail. Jesus came that we might live an abundant life. We represent Almighty God here on this earth. We should be examples of His goodness—so blessed, so prosperous, so generous, so full of joy—that other people want what we have.27

Denying oneself consumer luxuries is thus tantamount to denying God’s bless- ings and rejecting the abundant life Jesus came to earth to give Christians, who Osteen believes should be so blessed and prosperous that they create envy among other persons. This may lead to a “keeping up with the Christians” sort of mentality similar to how the proverbial “Joneses” have functioned as a refer- ence group for normative consumption in American culture.

Big Faith = Big Consumer Lifestyle: New Homes, New Clothes, and Swimming Pools

Osteen’s God desires that the faithful literally “cash in” on their piety. Stories of how God has steadily improved the Osteen family’s living arrangements and finances because of their devout living and steadfast belief that God wants to give them the desires of their hearts can be found throughout his books. Take, for example, Osteen’s account of how early in his marriage to Victoria, they were out for a walk and stumbled upon a “fabulous home” that was “much prettier than any of the other homes in that community.” It had “high ceilings and oversized windows providing an appealing view of the backyard,” whereas “most of the other homes around us were one-story, ranch-style homes that were forty to fifty years old.” After Victoria observed, “‘Joel, one day we’re going to live in a beautiful home just like that,’” Joel was incredulous. “At the time,” he

26 27

Ibid., 70.

Osteen,The Power of I Am, 155.

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writes, “we were living in an extremely old house that had experienced some foundation problems … We had stretched our faith and spent everything we had just to buy that home and get into that neighborhood. Thinking of our bank account, and my income at the time, it seemed impossible to me that we’d ever work our way up to a home like the one we had toured.” Joel goes on to explain that over time “I got rid of my limited thinking and I started agreeing with [Victoria]. I started believing that somehow, some way, God could bring it to pass. We kept on believing it, seeing it, and speaking it. Several years later, we sold our property, and through another real estate deal, we were able to build a house just like the one we had viewed.”28 Even after orchestrating the purchase of their dream home, God wasn’t finished upgrading the Osteens’ housing arrangements. Joel describes how God supernaturally arranged for them to acquire a lot adjacent to their home, further expanding the size of their property:

The Scripture says in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Victoria and I didn’t need that extra lot next door. We didn’t need more room. That was simply a desire, just a thought: “Hey, this would be nice to have.” But isn’t it interesting, God already had it lined up? He had already put the thought [to sell] in our neighbor’s mind. He sent Victoria out to the driveway at the right time so the neighbor could tell her before he told anyone else. God brought it all together. All I had to do was stay in faith. I walked into that blessing …29

Note in particular Osteen’s assertion that they didn’t need the extra lot next door, which, again speaks to his belief that God wants to bless the faithful with nonessential luxuries.

Osteen describes a similar story in which his mother, Dodie Osteen, dreamed of having a swimming pool in her backyard, and God eventually blessed her with this luxury. Dodie’s husband, John, rejected the idea of buying a pool, believing it to be too expensive and impractical. Joel writes,

My dad would look at her like: “Woman, what are you talking about? We are not putting in a swimming pool.” But month after month, even year after year, my mother kept thanking God for His goodness, thanking God that He was lining up the right people, the right opportunities. She was

28 29

Osteen,Your Best Life Now, 7–8. Osteen, It’s Your Time, 113.

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believing for it. My dad was believing against it. But down in her heart she had a confidence, a knowing, that one day she would have that pool.30

In spite of her husband’s doubt, Dodie marked off with a tape measure the out- line of the pool she envisioned, believing God would eventually help make her dream come to pass, which occurred when, out of the blue, some pool builders approached John and Dodie after a service and said, “‘We build swimming pools … We own a large company, and we flew all this way just to see if we could give you a swimming pool.’”31Reflecting on this story, Joel writes,

What was that? Supernatural favor. God said if you will delight yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart. That means if you’ll keep God in first place, if you honor Him with your life, He’ll cause people to want to be good to you. He’ll cause you to be at the right place at the right time. His blessings will chase you down and overtake you.Take your limits off God.Why don’t you get out of your box and say, “God I’m ready for some of these explosive blessings. I’m ready for Your far-and-beyond favor.”32

The moral of this story is that good things come to those who wait patiently on God and live God-honoring lives and that God communicates divine favor using the spoils of consumerism to reward true believers. If Christians keep God in “first place” in their lives, God will give them top-notch consumer blessings.

Osteen believes that one way of keeping God in “first place” in one’s life is by dressing nicely. Because the body is God’s temple, Osteen believes it should be adored in a God-honoring way, which for him includes regularly purchasing new clothing and keeping up with the latest styles. Osteen writes,

Don’t go out feeling sloppy, feeling less than your best, or knowing that you didn’t take the time to look like you should. You are the temple of the most high God. God lives in you. Take time to take care of yourself. Some women, in particular, take care of everyone else, putting their children first, being good wives, and running the house or doing their jobs. That’s good, but they need to take care of themselves too. Get your nails done. Get your hair done. Get a massage. Go shopping. Go exercise. Go have some fun with your friends. Take care of your temple in an excellent

30 31 32

Ibid., 295. Ibid., 296. Ibid., 296–297.

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way. Some men haven’t bought new clothes in twenty-seven years. The shirts they are wearing have been in and out of style three times already. They are taking care of their families. They are hard workers. They need to take care of themselves, too. When you look good you feel better.33

Here Osteen implies that God doesn’t like dowdy, out-of-style temples. Buying new clothes is a way of becoming a more ornate temple in which God can dwell more fully. Osteen makes a similar point in the following passage:

God does not like sloppiness. Even around the home, we all like to be super casual, but make sure you look good for your children and for your spouse. Some ladies may need to get rid of bathrobes given to them by their great-grandmothers and buy something new. You may love them because they are comfortable and sentimental, but can I tell you what nobody else will tell you: They are ugly. You’re too beautiful to wear those things. Get your credit cards and go to a certain store in the mall. I’m not going to give away a free advertisement, but it starts with my wife’s name: Victoria. I can’t tell you the whole thing because it’s asecret.You can figure it out. Go get something that makes you look like the masterpiece God made you to be.34

In this passage, Osteen not so subtly implies that it is godly for women to dis- card their old bathrobes and buy new apparel from Victoria’s Secret. He infers that a woman cannot look like God’s “masterpiece” in old clothing. Instead, she must spend and upgrade her way to having a God-honoring appearance.

Osteen reiterates the link between upgrading one’s wardrobe and godliness when interpreting Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” He writes in regard to this passage, “Arise—that’s the first thing. And number two, you must shine. Put a smile on your face. Get your enthusiasm back. Laugh again. Enjoy your life. Take up new hobbies. Find some new friends. Buy some new clothes. It’s not enough to just arise. Shine! That is an act of your faith.”35 Osteen’s exegesis of this passage is clear: shining brightly for God includes habitually buying a new wardrobe, which he believes is “an act of faith.” Shining bright for God also means that Christians should wear their God-given bless- ings well—be they clothes, a new house, or a new job. Osteen writes,

33 34 35

Osteen,You Can You Will, 101–102. Ibid., 102–103.

Osteen, It’s Your Time, 274.

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When you dress your best, you’re wearing your blessings well. When you step up and take that promotion, you’re wearing your blessings well. When God opens the door and you move into that new house you’ve been believing for, others may be critical. But don’t allow those who are negative, jealous, judgmental, bitter, angry, and nonsmiling to bring you down. If you want to please God and live in happiness, don’t drag around broke, defeated, or depressed. Wear your blessings well. Step up to a new level. Enjoy God’s favor. Be proud of who you are and what God has done in your life.36

Christians should therefore be unapologetic to naysayers who think they should consume in a humbler fashion and ignore persons who are jealous of what they have. True believers, according to Osteen, unabashedly communi- cate to others God’s goodness in their lives by engaging in high levels of discre- tionary consumption. Enjoying the luxuries of consumerism is a way of show- ing off God’s power to provide abundantly, which is a point Osteen reiterates in the following passage:

We think, Is it wrong for me to want to live in a nice house or drive a nice car? Is it wrong to want funds to accomplish my dreams or wrong to want to leave an inheritance for my children? God is saying, “It’s not wrong. I take pleasure in prospering you.” … [King] David left billions of dollars for his son to build the temple, and yet David is called “a man after God’s own heart.” Get rid of the thinking that God wouldn’t want me to have too much. That wouldn’t be right. That might not look good. It’s just the opposite. When you look good, it makes God look good. When you’re blessed, prosperous, and successful, it brings Him honor. I realize that everything I have comes from God. Whether it is the suit that I’m wearing, my car, my house, or my resources, it’s God’s goodness. You don’t have to apologize for what God has done in your life. Wear your blessings well.37

Having good possessions is thus symbolic of the fact that one serves a good God, but one should not be content merely to wear one’s current blessings well. Osteen believes that true believers should dream about having bigger and better blessings, which is a theme I discuss further below.

36 37

Osteen, Every Day a Friday, 281. Osteen,The Power of I Am, 157.

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Don’t Stop Dreaming about More Blessings

Joel Osteen encourages his readers to habitually imagine what else God can do for them when it comes to their consumer lifestyle, as seen, for instance, in the above examples of how Dodie Osteen dreamed about getting a swimming pool and Victoria Osteen dreamed about owning a “fabulous home.” Both examples illustrate Osteen’s belief that Christians should use the “power of positive thinking” and dreaming to improve not only their emotional and spiritual worlds, but also their financial and consumer worlds. Dwelling on a prosperous future, visualizing positive outcomes, and dreaming bigger and better dreams are requisite behaviors for spiritual growth and development. If you can dream and envision material prosperity, Osteen believes you can claim such prosperity. Dreaming bigger dreams results in bigger blessings. Christians simply have to, as a common prosperity gospel mantra states, “Name it and claim it.” Osteen writes, “Get your checkbook out and prophesy to it. All it looks like are dead bones. Debt. Lack. Struggle. ‘I prophesy to these dead bones that I will lend and not borrow. I am the head and not the tail. I am coming in to overflow.’”38Note, again, Osteen’s belief that God is a more-than-enough deity who will supernaturally elevate persons from debt to “overflow” if only they envision a prosperous future. This is especially true when it comes to home ownership and upgrading to the home of one’s dreams, which are recurring themes in Osteen’s writing. In response to the prayer, “‘God, would you please give me a bigger apartment? I don’t want to bother You for too much,’” Osteen states, “No, God wants to give you your own house. God has a big dream for your life.”39Christians should therefore get in proper alignment with the divine by matching God’s big dreams for them with their own dreams, as seen in the following passage:

Pay attention to your thoughts. Make sure you’re tuned in to the right channel. Maybe you’re driving through a nice neighborhood and you see a beautiful home and that thought tells you, I will never own a nice house like that. I will never get ahead. I’m so in debt. Nobody in my family is really successful. Change the channel. You’ve got to guard your mind. If you believe those lies long enough, your own thinking will keep you from God’s best. Just switch over to the Voice of Victory in your thoughts: God, You said if I keep You first, You will give me the desires of my heart. You said

38 39

Ibid., 45.

Osteen,Your Best Life Now, 35.

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nogoodthingwillYouwithholdwhenIwalkuprightly.Yousaidindueseason I would reap if I didn’t give up, so I want to thank You that my due season is on its way. I know my time is coming.40

Here Osteen implies that even if you are currently living a hard knock economic life, do not stop dreaming and believing that God will give you a bigger and bet- ter house. Dream cessation, along with dreaming small dreams, are indicative of having a small, impoverished God, which stands in stark contrast with the supersized God of Joel Osteen.

Dreaming big dreams necessarily includes getting rid of what Osteen refers to as a “poverty mentality,” which is a sort of quasi-sin in his theology of money and consumption.41 “You may be living in poverty at the moment,” he writes, “but don’t ever let poverty live in you.”42In several instances throughout his books Osteen writes about rags to riches stories, such as how his father, John Osteen, “rose up and broke the curse of poverty in our family. He took the limits off God and went on to live a blessed, abundant life.”43 Note in particular Osteen’s framing of poverty as a “curse,” which implies that a less than abundant life is in some way evil, and stands in stark contrast with Osteen’s framing of an abundant and prosperous consumer lifestyle as God- honoring. The history of Lakewood Church represents another rags to riches story because the congregation progressed from dilapidated facilities in an impoverished neighborhood to a prestigious 16,000-seat arena formerly known as the Compaq Center, which used to serve as the home of the nba’s Houston Rockets. Osteen writes,

For many years we were on the other side of Houston, in wood buildings, then metal buildings. The roads weren’t big enough. The parking lots were not adequate. At times we were looked down on, seen as second- class, but one day we came in to an explosive blessing that blasted us to a new level. We saw the exceeding greatness of God’s favor. God has given us the premier facility in the fourth largest city in America. That’s what God is doing today. He’s stepping it up a notch. We were never created to be second class and just barely get by. The Scripture says we are supposed to reign in life as kings. You may not be there yet, but don’t settle where you are. Get ready for God to do something new. He’s about

40 41 42 43

Osteen, Every Day a Friday, 263. Osteen,Your Best Life Now, 63. Ibid., 86.

Osteen, Fresh Start, 90.

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to release buildings, contracts, ideas, favor, influence that will catapult His people to new levels. He is about to open up doors wider than you thought possible, just as He did for our church. You need to make room for explosive blessings in your thinking. Get ready for them. God is about to release hidden treasure for you.44

Like Lakewood Church, Osteen calls on Christians everywhere to transcend poverty, a “second-class” mentality, and a lack of prestige—which suggests that godly living is synonymous with upward social mobility and the affluent con- sumer lifestyle often associated with climbing the social class ladder. Getting promoted or landing a better job are recurring themes in Osteen’s writing, as seen, for example, in the following excerpt: “Know that when one door closes, God will open up another. If you keep the right attitude, He’ll give you a bet- ter job, with better benefits, making better money!”45 Elsewhere Osteen states that God wants persons to go from having a blue-collar job to a white-collar job: “God does not want you to spend your whole life working for someone else. God wants you to own your own company. He doesn’t want you to spend your life cleaning an office. God wants you running that office.”46Promotions, climbing the corporate ladder, and becoming a real-life rags to riches story are thus key components of Osteen’s theology of money. More precisely,living out the Amer- ican Dream is a key component of Osteen’s theology of money and consumption, which is also evident in the following passage in which Osteen equates inter- generational upward social mobility with godliness:

I have a friend who is now thirty-two years old. I’ve known his family for thirty years. His parents are good people and they love the Lord, but they’ve maintained the same lifestyle for thirty years. They’ve stayed at the same level as their parents and grandparents. There is nothing wrong with that, but I believe God wants every generation to build upon the accomplishments of the last.47

Osteen proceeds to describe how his friend went from the bottom of the corpo- rate totem pole to becoming “the youngest ceo in that corporation’s history,” which presumably allowed him to elevate his family’s consumer lifestyle.48Just

44 45 46 47 48

Osteen, Break Out, 42. Osteen, It’s Your Time, 96. Ibid., 112–113. Osteen, Break Out, 32. Ibid., 32.

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as this young man lived the American Dream, Osteen’s readers are encouraged to believe that if they are faithful and do not stop dreaming of a more prosper- ous future, they too can live the American Dream, which, in Osteen’s theology of money and consumption, is also God’s dream.

Caveats & Qualifications

At times in his writing Osteen somewhat qualifies his consumerist theology of money and consumption. While the vast majority of his written work falls squarely in line with the consumerist status quo, some passages, at least in part, contain messages running counter to mass consumer materialism, although these passages fall far short of full-fledged Christian asceticism. For example, while Osteen regularly encourages his readers to spend money on themselves, he also encourages them to give some of their money away. “We were created to give, not to simply please ourselves,” he writes, adding latter, “Stop hoarding what God has given you and start sharing it with others.”49While in many cases Osteen frames giving as a virtuous end in and of itself, the anti-consumerist nature of Osteen’s call to give is somewhat muted by the fact that he also endorses the prosperity gospel principle of giving in order to get more. The fol- lowingpassageabouttithingisillustrative:“If youwilldaretotakeastepof faith and start honoring God in your finances, He’ll start increasing your supply in supernatural ways. God will take that 90 percent you have left over, and He’ll cause it to go further than the 100 percent with which you started.”50 So those who faithfully obey God’s command to tithe will be richly rewarded, receiv- ing back more money than they gave in the first place, which will ultimately increase, not decrease, their purchasing power.

Osteen also somewhat qualifies his assertion that financial prosperity above and beyond what persons deserve or earn is achieved primarily through divine miracles by encouraging readers to meet God halfway. “You need to do every- thing you can in the natural, but what you cannot do, God will supernaturally arrange,” he writes.51 Persons should therefore not passively wait for God to magically increase their finances and purchasing power; rather, they should do everything humanly possible to get their financial house in order and become rich and prosperous. Osteen writes, “Many people today are praying for a mira-

49 50 51

Osteen,Your Best Life Now, 223, 258. Ibid., 256.

Osteen, It’s Your Time, 215.

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cle; they’re praying for a financial breakthrough. I say this respectfully, but often we don’t really need a miracle, we just need to develop better spending and sav- ing habits.”52 For example, Osteen describes how a Lakewood couple who had some $40,000 of credit card debt went from poverty to prosperity by cultivat- ing good financial habits:

The couple committed themselves to getting out of debt, and for three years they didn’t go out to eat, they didn’t take vacations, they didn’t buy extra clothes. They lived on a bare-bones budget. It was uncomfortable. It was a sacrifice …They started practicing discipline and self-control.Three years later, that young couple is totally debt-free and God is blessing them. They are seeing increase and promotion.53

Expecting financial miracles must therefore be supplemented by persons prac- ticing Weberian financial discipline. This story also demonstrates Osteen’s belief that ascetic living is warranted for getting oneself out of debt. When viewed in the larger context of Osteen’s theology of money, however, an aus- tere lifestyle is merely a means to the greater end of leaving behind frugal living and, as Osteen argues above, “seeing increase and promotion.”

Osteen also discusses how, in order to get promoted in the marketplace, persons should be proactive rather than merely waiting on God. He writes, “It’s not enough just to believe. Put actions behind your faith. Do what you can. Are you being your best on the job, showing up early, going the extra mile, doing more than expected? Are you dressing for success?”54 Stated differently, if persons want to get promoted and experience upward social mobility, they need to work hard in addition to praying hard; they must put into practice the Protestant work ethic instead of merely wishing their dreams into reality. They may also have to wait patiently on God before having their prayers eventually answered. Osteen writes, “God is not like anatmmachine, where you punch in the right codes and receive what you requested (assuming you’ve even made a deposit!). No, we all have to wait patiently.That’s part of learningtotrust God.”55 They may also not get every single thing they want. Osteen writes,

I’m not suggesting that you can make a wish list and pray for every whim. I’m encouraging you to ask God for what He’s promised you. There

52 53 54 55

Osteen, Become a Better You, 208. Ibid., 209.

Ibid., 338.

Osteen,Your Best Life Now, 195.

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are dreams and desires God has placed in your heart. They didn’t just randomly show up. The Creator of the universe put them in you. They’re a part of your divine destiny.56

Praying to receive the promises of God instead of “every whim” is not neces- sarily limiting because, as noted above, the promises of Osteen’s “more than enough” God who is a “God of abundance” are vast and materially expansive.57

Osteen also somewhat qualifies his narrative of limitless consumption by warning persons against the dangers of idolatry, although his framing of idol- atry is highly subjective. Osteen writes, “As long as you’re keeping God in first place and you’re not living selfishly and you’re not making material things your idols, then God wants to give you the desires of your heart. He takes pleasure in blessing His children.”58 Here he implies that some forms of consumption may in fact be excessive, but this has less to do with the amount or price of the objects being consumed and more to do with whether or not the consumer goods in question turn you into a selfish person or function as God replace- ments. According to this logic, a sports car or a multi-million-dollar home are idols only if they prevent Christians from keeping God at the top of one’s pri- ority list, which is a subjective measure.

Furthermore, Osteen at times encourages his readers to be content with what they have and not to compare themselves with what others have.59While in some cases these cautions have an anti-consumerist tone, in others, they are not necessarily synonymous with not wanting more, and may actually be a means of getting more. Osteen writes, “If you’re complaining about what you have, I believe God will not increase you with more. Complaining about your old car, your small house, or your spouse won’t get you anywhere. Remember this phrase: If you complain you remain, but if you praise you’ll be raised.”60 So material contentment is not necessarily about being happy with less; rather, it is about pleasing God so you will ultimately get more. Contentment, in this context, is about tapping into the power of positive thinking to advance one’s aspirations, rather than being materially limiting. Elsewhere Osteen puts it this way,

56 57 58 59


Osteen, Break Out!, 104.

Osteen, Hope for Today Bible, 1159; Osteen,Your Best Life Now, 33.

Osteen, Every Day a Friday, 283.

See, e.g., Osteen, Become a Better You, 224–226, 365; Osteen, Every Day a Friday, 8–9, 127– 129; Osteen, Break Out, 71.

Ibid., 64.

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Being unhappy, frustrated, and wondering if something is ever going to change is not going to make it happen sooner. When we’re discontented, we’re dishonoring God. We’re so focused on what we want that we’re taking for grated what we have. The right attitude is, God, I’m believing for a new house, but in the meantime I’m happy with the house I have…61

Again, here we see that Osteen’s version of contentment does not significantly limit the ability of Christians to dream bigger material dreams. He simultane- ously suggests that persons should be grateful for what they have while also asking for and “believing for” more.

A final caveat is that Osteen occasionally mixes into his writing cautions against taking high-paying jobs that make you and your family miserable and accumulating material riches at the expense of immaterial wealth, such as a loving family and good relationships.62 Perhaps, surprisingly, Osteen rejects the label of “prosperity minister” because he thinks there is more to life than money, as seen in the following excerpt:

“Well, Joel,” you say, “are you one of those prosperity ministers?” I don’t like that term. That’s somebody who talks only about finances. Prosperity to me is having your health. It’s having peace in your mind. It’s being able to sleep at night. Having good relationships.There are many things money can’t buy.63

In light of this and other similar passages, my argument is not that Osteen’s writings focus solely on financial prosperity. Nor do I argue that discretionary consumption is the only path to godliness in his view. Rather, my argument is more modest, namely, that ever-increasing discretionary consumption and financial prosperity are central to Osteen’s theology of money and view of the Christian good life.

Osteen’s Spirit of Consumerism

The spirit of consumerism presented in the writings of Joel Osteen is in many respects familiar, containing echoes of the Protestant ethic described by Max

61 62 63

Osteen,The Power of I Am, 105.

See, e.g., Osteen, Every Day a Friday, 50, 52–53, 58–60; Osteen, It’s Your Time, 283–284. Osteen,The Power of I Am, 155.

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Weber and especially Colin Campbell. Elements of Weber’s Protestant ethic are evident in Osteen’s emphasis on pursuing economic advancement, get- ting a better job, working hard, making lots of money, and viewing success in the marketplace as an indicator of God’s favor. However, while Weber’s Calvinists viewed this-worldly wealth as something to be stewarded in a frugal manner—leading to the avoidance of luxury spending—Osteen views this- worldly wealth as something to be stewarded in a responsible, yet mostly lav- ish, manner, leading to the permissibility of luxury spending. Whereas Weber’s Protestants sought to store up treasures in heaven, Osteen’s brand of Protes- tantism encourages Christians to store up treasures on earth. Weber’s sub- jects pursued economic success to demonstrate otherworldly election; Osteen encourages his readers to pursue economic success to live “your best life now,” which is the title of his first book. While Weber’s Protestants accumulated wealth to live out a divine calling or vocation, Osteen encourages Christians to accumulate wealth in order to live out the American Dream and be happy. Weber’s Protestants viewed success in business as evidence for one’s status as a good Christian (that is, as one of the “elect” predestined to spend eternity in heaven), whereas Osteen encourages Christians to view business success, and the lavish spending it allows, as evidence of one’s status as a good and faithful Christian in the here-and-now.

Consistent with Campbell’s argument that the spirit of modern consumerist capitalism blends puritan and romantic values, Joel Osteen blends secularly- ascetic puritan principles of hard work and discipline with hedonist principles of indulgence and pleasure, although he tends to emphasize the latter over the former. And when Osteen does discuss puritan fiscal values and practices, they are oftentimes invoked as a means of obtaining more wealth, promo- tions, and material blessings. Taken as a whole, Osteen’s writings suggest the enduring relevance of Campbell’s thesis that consumerism is characterized by “‘purito-romantic’” interdependence, and that Christianity contributes beliefs and values that reinforce, if not fuel, this duality.64Osteen’s theology of money and consumption suggests, however, that at least some strands of American Christianity—especially those associated with the prosperity gospel—may be moving Christianity further away from puritan ideals and practices when it comestoconsuming.Osteen’swidereadershipandexpansivetvaudienceindi- cate that many American Christians are consuming his call to participate in a never-ending romantic quest to live out the American Dream.


Campbell,The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Consumerism, 223.

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Upgrading, Discarding, and the American Dream

The above analysis reveals that Osteen serves and promotes a “more than enough” God who wants to bless Christians with nice homes, swimming pools, and a steady stream of new clothes. Osteen’s God desires that true believers get promotions, climb the corporate ladder, and land high-paying jobs with good benefits. More precisely, Osteen’s God wants Christians to live the American Dream, which emphasizes equality of opportunity, upward social mobility, success, pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps, home ownership, and consuming an ever-increasing amount of consumer goods and services to fill one’s home.65Joel Osteen has himself lived out the American Dream. Lacking a college degree and having no formal theological training, he took over the reins of Lakewood Church in 1999, grew the church into the largest congregation in America, and, in the process of doing so, became a multi-millionaire (due in large part to his publishing success) and one of the most influential pastors in America. As described in the preceding analysis, Osteen preaches that average Americans can do likewise and experience similar Horatio Alger-style rags to riches stories.

Though Osteen’s theology of money mostly baptizes the American Dream in holy water, his discussion of unearned supernatural provision can perhaps be viewed as undercutting the American Dream’s emphasis on achieving mate- rial prosperity due to one’s own ability and merit (that is, pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps). On the one hand, Osteen believes that God super- naturally swoops in to do the heavy lifting and pulling that persons cannot do on their own accord, which results in blessings above and beyond what one deserves or has earned by virtue of their human effort. On the other hand, as noted above, Osteen believes Christians should do at least some of the lifting and pulling; hard work and financial discipline are components of Osteen’s the- ology of money. Moreover, Christians have to do the requisite spiritual work and spiritual “pulling” (such as prayer, living a faithful life, giving generously, and believing God will provide abundantly) in order to demonstrate that one is a true believer and receive a full measure of divine provision. Osteen’s theol-


Robert Putnam, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015); Jennifer L. Hochschild, Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation (Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1995); Brian Starks, “The New Economy and the American Dream: Examining the Effect of Work Conditions on Beliefs about Economic Opportunity,” The Sociological Quarterly 44, no. 2 (2003): 205– 225.

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ogy of money thus aligns with the culturally dominant “theology of class” Sean McCloud refers to as “Economic Arminianism.”66McCloud explains,

As an example of economic Arminianism, Word of Faith theology sug- gests that each individual has the God-given free will to be economi- cally successful. Focusing on the power of positive thinking, the move- ment encourages members to “name it and claim it” by repeating positive affirmations and prayers. Conversely, negative thinking corresponds to poverty, illness, and misfortune.67

Christians can therefore be the masters of their own economic destinies, expe- riencing divinely aided upward social mobility as God responds to their posi- tive confessions with bigger and better consumer goods and experiences.

Many upwardly mobile Christians have historically experienced at least some ambivalence with their wealth, although this is less evident in Osteen’s writing. According to Catherine Brekus, “Capitalism has resulted in greater social mobility and economic opportunities and an increased standard of liv- ing, but it is based on a positive view of self-interest and personal agency that poses significant challenges to the traditional Christian emphasis on self- denial.”68 Rather than self-denial, Osteen’s readers are encouraged to pursue the American Dream with a sense of divine entitlement, emboldened by the promise of God’s supernatural provision. A bad economy cannot kill the Amer- ican dream because God’s power supersedes their own shortcomings and even the challenges of a recession. No matter the circumstances, Osteen’s God wants and empowers Christians to dream bigger consumer dreams, which aligns with consumerism’s emphasis on habitually being dissatisfied with what one has and always wanting more. This is consistent with how Colin Campbell defines consumerism as “self-illusory hedonism, [which] is characterized by a longing to experience in reality those pleasures created and enjoyed in imagination, a


67 68

Sean McCloud, Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 112.

Ibid., 116.

Catherine A. Brekus, “The Perils of Prosperity: Some Historical Reflections on Christianity, Capitalism, and Consumerism in America,” in American Christianities: A History of Domi- nance and Diversity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 280. For more on the history of American Christianity’s ambivalence about consumerism see Stewart Davenport, Friends of the Unrighteous Mammon: Northern Christians and Market Capital- ism, 1815–1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

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longing which results in the ceaseless consumption of novelty.”69 In order to make way for new consumer goods and experiences, the old ones must be dis- posed of, leading Brad Gregory to observe that “acquire, discard, repeat” is the spirit of modern consumerism.70Based on findings presented above, this is also the mantra of Joel Osteen’s theology of money and consumption.

Concluding Thoughts

This article has uncovered significant overlap between Joel Osteen’s theology of money and the spirit of consumerism. We have seen that throughout his writings, Osteen encourages consumers to reject the consumption of merely essentials and embrace the abundant trappings and lifestyle of American con- sumerism and the American Dream. Whether or not readers of the texts ana- lyzed in this article actually heed what Osteen teaches when they go shopping is beyond the scope of this project and a subject for future research. From a Weberian perspective, however, we have good reason to believe this might indeed be the case. “Ideas,” according to Weber, are like “switchmen” that deter- mine tracks of action.71The above analysis has explicated Osteen’s ideas about consumer upgradingand dreaming—ideasthat aregroundedin the coretenets of the prosperity gospel and that sacralize what the salesmen and saleswomen of America’s consumerist economy are selling.

69 70


Campbell,The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Consumerism, 205.

Brad S. Gregory,The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Soci- ety(Cambridge,ma: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), 235. Max Weber, “Essays in Sociology,” inFrom MaxWeber: Essays in Sociology, ed. H. Gerth and C.W. Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, [1946] 1958), 280.

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1 Comment

  • Reply October 25, 2023


    He ought to know about that.

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