Friday, September 21, 2018
News Roundup

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

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]

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