Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Whitman: Let's pay more attention to the suffering in our community

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, conducts a service at his church as the city starts the process of rebuilding after severe flooding during Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston.

JOE RAEDLE | Getty Images

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, conducts a service at his church as the city starts the process of rebuilding after severe flooding during Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston.

I do not appreciate Joel Osteen. Never have.

The whole "Christian Prosperity Gospel" thing irks me. When Osteen didn't open his multi-million dollar Lakewood Church to shelter Texans devastated by Harvey, I grimaced. Because ugh.

And, fittingly, the church made excuses. There is some flooding, church representatives responded to angry Twitter users. The city didn't ask us to be a shelter, Osteen said, though ultimately he allowed evacuees inside.

Yes, I could say a lot about Pastor Southern Charm. I choose not to. I choose not to because, well, I am Joel Osteen. And you may be too.

Hurricane Harvey relief efforts scream important. You know what whispers important? America's hunger crisis. Homelessness. Human trafficking. Children are kidnapped and sold for sex. Sick refugees and battered women seek help. Debt forces working families from their homes. Medical patients die due to insurance costs.

Do we open our doors and share the wealth?

Ignoring suffering is so common place in America; most never recognize it as a character flaw. I sleep in a nice home and utilize clean water. I trash excess food. At my traffic exit, I look away from the pan handlers. I make excuses.

My kids are in the car and he might be dangerous.

No one could eat that food anyway.

I worked hard for what I have.

Criticizing Joel Osteen comes easy. But to a homeless person, I may sound like a hypocritical spoiled brat. I talk faith, love and kindness. I donate here and there. I use my writing for good. But are my doors really open? Are yours?

Maybe it's time to angry Tweet the man in the mirror.

I put together a list of Tampa Bay area charities committed to helping people in need. Each week for the next year I challenge myself to contribute, either financially or in some other way, to do my part. That is how I choose to respond to the Joel Osteen backlash.

Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]

Bahai Faith Worship and Community Center, 3112 Nundy Road, Tampa, will host an International Day of Peace event Sept. 16. The event will include a prayer and meditation event from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and a drum circle from 3 to 4:30 p.m. All are welcome at the free event.

Sun City United Methodist Church, 1210 Del Webb Blvd., will show the film Hidden Figures at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8. The event is free and includes popcorn. For more information, visit


Alpha House of Tampa, serving pregnant women in crisis, 201 South Tampania Ave., (813) 875-2024,

Bridging Freedom, fighting human trafficking in Tampa, (813) 474-HOPE (4673),

Clothes To Kids, clothing children in need, 1059 N Hercules Avenue, Clearwater, (727) 441-5050,

Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, bringing non-profits together, 550 N Reo St., Suite 301, (813) 282-1975,

ECHO of Brandon, assisting residents in Eastern Hillsborough County, 507 N Parsons Ave., Brandon, Fl, (813) 685-0935,

Feeding Tampa Bay, 4702 Transport Drive, Building 6, (813) 254-1190,

St. Petersburg Free Clinic, 863 Third Avenue North, St. Petersburg, (727) 821-1200,

The Spring of Tampa Bay, serving victims of domestic violence, P.O. Box 5147, Tampa, (813) 247-5433.

Whitman: Let's pay more attention to the suffering in our community

09/06/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 6, 2017 6:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Early morning fire breaks out at Clearwater Beach motel


    Clearwater Fire and Rescue is at the scene of an early morning fire that broke out at a motel on Clearwater Beach.

  2. Florida education news: Free speech, Schools of Hope, student voices and more


    FREE SPEECH: The University of Florida reluctantly hosts white nationalist activist Richard Spencer for a rally officials are encouraging students to ignore. Campus president Kent Fuchs, who tried to prevent the activity from taking place, Troopers prepare for Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency for Alachua County ahead of the event.

  3. How old is too old to go trick-or-treating on Halloween?

    Human Interest

    Brandi Eatman guesses the boy was at least 15 years old.

     Costume accessories at House of Make Believe at 1055 N Hercules Ave. in Clearwater. [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]
  4. Report: West Pasco channel dredges could cost up to $13.5 million

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The cost of dredging a dozen coastal canals serving seven west Pasco communities could reach nearly $13.5 million, according to a consultant's report.

    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
 A consultant recommends that Pasco County consider a dozen canal dredging projects in west Pasco's coastal communities at a cost that could reach nearly $13.5 million. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times 2011]
  5. Records show Hernando Beach fire chiefs defrauded taxpayers of thousands

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The three former chiefs of the defunct Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department, arrested in September, are collectively accused of defrauding the taxpayers of Hernando Beach, Aripeka and Forest Glenn of tens of thousands of dollars.

    David Freda, a former Hernando Beach fire chief, has been charged with organized fraud. He recently was fired as Brooksville’s fire chief.