January 16, 2021

The Believability Meter?

This is extracted from the famous 60 minutes interview with Joel Osteen, where the reporter asked the questions most evangelicals ignore. Here’s the entire interview, parts 1 and 2.


  1. I LOVE the concept of this believability meter! Wouldn’t it be nice to have one that attached to people we talk with in realtime? I wonder if the world would be a better place though…This is truly funny and interesting.

  2. Joel presents to me personally, one of my more perplexing moral quandaries. You see, my dear mom, 88 years old, “discovered Joel” about 3-4 years ago and is a true-blue Osteenite. I only get to see her once or twice a year and she always has for me his latest book . . . usually a hard-back edition, which she both with her limited social-security check. I smile and accept it . . . without question. Fortunately we don’t get any of his channels on my TV so I can always honestly say I haven’t seen him.

    My problem is that I’ve never seen my mom happier. She has suffered from depression and anxiety her entire life. I really don’t know if it is Joel’s feel-good message that has worked the magic or just the phase of her advancing age.

    However, while I share the same perspective as Michael (and others) regarding Mr. Olsteen, I don’t have the heart to tell dear ole mom, at this stage in her life—and what’s left of it, that truly the emperor is wearing no clothes. I think it is the same, pragmatic approach, if mom had just discovered Valium, Xanax . . . who knows, maybe even crack . . . it is not worth the effort to challenge her new found happiness with the truth. I know that’s a cop-out.

    While I know that mom is a believer, I do wish that she had discovered peace in Christ’s righteousness bestowed on her, rather than empty promises about realizing your potential. Hey, I haven’t done much better at times.

    But for the rest of the planet, I am glad there are a few, faint voices within Christendom (and maybe within CBS) who at least try to hold such nonsense accountable.

    I like Jen E.’s comments about the truth meter. Wouldn’t that be a hoot. I would love to see how it would change the world.

    I’ve tried an experiment over the past few years of tying to speak honestly . . . really honestly (more so that ever before) and it is tough. You loose a lot of Christian friends when you exchange you clichés of honest thoughts and feelings, even not-so-happy feelings. I think my non-Christian friends like me better though.

    Okay, I admit, my semi-approval of mom’s love for Joel may be my one area of persistent dishonesty . . . but who’s counting.

  3. Chris Martin says

    What do they mean by “believability”? I looked on their website and found this: “the BELIEVABILITY METERâ„¢ displays color coded results from left to right with the most believable statements in green and turning to red as they become more questionable”, but I still don’t quite understand it. Is this showing me how much Osteen believes his own statements or how much he thinks we’ll believe them or what?

  4. J. Michael Jones:

    Just for info…I don’t think it’s anyone’s job to straighten out anyone else on things like this.

    If Joel was meaningful to my mom, I wouldn’t disturb her unless she really wanted to know my view. And then I would be plainspoken but kind (as I was to a student yesterday who asked me about him.)

    But what I will proclaim about the Gospel and the Prosperity Gospel in the pulpit is different, even if mom or anyone else is on the front row.

    I simply don’t think it’s my job to “meddle” or ” stick my nose in other people’s business,” but to proclaim the Gospel and warn of false Gospels.

    I would only talk to mom if I believed her soul was literally at stake, which isn’t a judgement I’m qualified to make.


  5. Joel Osteen is hardly the spokesman for most conservative Evangelicals. He is clearly a prosperity Gospel preacher and relatively few Evangelicals believe that teaching.

  6. Bob Sacamento says

    No fan of Joel, but I suspect the Believability Meter is about as reliable those mood rings used to be. Did I just show my age?

  7. Oh come on BOB (!!) It’s SCIENCE!!

  8. When the goal of evangelicalism and the cultural war seems to be to make everyone as depressed, desparate, dreary, and doom-mongering as possible, someone like Osteen can step in and make people feel happier with just about anything. It’s lilke starving a dog, and then watching him tear into a rotten piece of meat.

    One way to shut down Osteen is to change the overall miserble nature of evangelical culture. Teach true joy in the Lord. Teach true hope in the finished work of the cross, the resurrection, the sanctification of the Holy Spirit and the return of Christ. Teach forgiveness. Teach the beattitudes. Teach David dancing before the Lord. Stop building evangelical hopes on the temporal.

  9. Frequent reader Internetmonk. Osteen non-listener.

    Looking at J. Michael’s post above and had a terrible thought. What is the mental health condition of Osteen’s listeners versus the rest of us? I wouldn’t be surprised if their health was much better. And we’re mad most of the time.

    We hear horror stories from former members of, e.g., Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and bad harsh churches. What are the horror stories of former Osteen followers? Are there any? I am truly curious.

    Is it also posssible God richly blesses those superficially interested in Him? Remember Matthew 20 vineyard parable- the workload was different but the pay was the same. Don’t think I won’t grumble when I get a nice shiny new uncirculated denarius. And durn if I don’t want it now.

  10. …and teach Christ-like service. People would probably feel better if they weren’t so wrapped around their own spokes.

  11. I would like to put some kind of meter on the fire and brimstone “conviction of sin” preachers. You know the ones with the knuckle dents in their KJ bibles. Maybe a “truth meter” or a “loving God meter”. I mean the guys who flaunt their own righteousness and condemn everybody else. I think they do just as much damage as Joel. Somebody coming into a church can be discipled. It is conceivable that an Olsteen fan might go to a local church. Who is going to go to church after being abused?
    Dumb ox is not so dumb. some evangelicals are so miserable they are a walking advertisement for agnosticism. They know how to dress, who to hang with, how old the earth is, what bible and books to read, and if you don’t agree you can’t be saved.
    I know Joel is a problem, but he is not the only one, maybe not even the worse.

  12. No, I would never meddle in my mom’s new-found happiness. Others though, if they were a lot younger, I would give them warning about the post-false prophet let down (using more gentle terms). I’ve seen many discourage, disillusioned people who have followed one false gospel or another. So a warning to those who have time would suffice . . . but dear mom won’t have the time to be post-anything. I think she can ride the Osteen wagon to the barn.

    I know that God too can work in any circumstances. I myself started my “spiritual journey” with a copy of Power of Positive Thinking under my arm at age 15. There’s been a lot of water under the old bridge since, but God has used crazier things.

  13. Brilliant! But you should have saved it for sweeps week. 😉

  14. My favorite spike into the red is when, at 1:38-1:41, he says “I’m not leading them to some false God”. Made me think for a second that he knows.

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Oh come on BOB (!!) It’s SCIENCE!! — IMonk

    IMonk, that’s just too good an opening to pass up:
    It’s SCIENCE!!

  16. Dumb ox aint so dumb!

  17. I keep hearing “stuff” but I can’t find it in Scripture. If it (Scripture) IS “The Living Word” and “The Word is God” wouldn’t you want to use it from time to time in a Sunday Stadium Get Together?

    Joel seems to be a wonderfully kind man. But, hey, the guy who delivered bud to my dorm room back in the 70’s was pretty nice too. And he ALWAYS had what I “needed.”

  18. S. Doolittle says

    As a lifelong Houston resident, I find the cultural phenomenon that is Joe Osteen fascinating. I also believe that his father, the late Rev. John Osteen, is rolling in his grave at what Joel has done to his church.

    Lakewood Church was a large church in an unfashionable area of town. They did good works. John Osteen had a TV ministry, and never asked for money on TV. He also never asked for it in his Sunday services. He stayed out of politics, and his church was well-regarded, even by the non-evangelical community.

    Joel is a seminary dropout, unlike so many evangelical preachers who never spent a day in a seminary. I am always suspicious of any preacher with no formal theological training of any kind.

    After John died and Joel took over the ministry, there was a horrible flood in Houston, and the side of town where Lakewood Church was located was hit very hard. Many people rescued from rooftops ended up in the church parking lot, looking for food and shelter until more permanent arrangements could be made. The church complained loudly to the news media about what a burden this was to them, on a weekend no less. That was when I knew the Lakewood Church of the John Osteen years was gone.

    Prosperity Gospel means Joel and Victoria have moved to the Tanglewood area of Houston, near George HW and Barbara Bush. It’s probably the highest priced real estate outside of River Oaks, where generations of oil barons and old money folk live. The church is now located in a former basketball arena, where the Houston Rockets won NBA championships. It’s close to a ritzy section of town. Joel and Victoria can be seen any day of the week, together and separately, lunching and dining at the many “see and be seen” restaurants in Houston, usually with some starry-eyed person footing the bill. She has a personal shopper at Neiman’s, Saks and Tootsies, which is even more expensive than Barney’s New York. And yes, she cussed out a flight attendant–my sister was on that plane.

    The people who follow these folks are sucked in by their beauty (although he’s actually a very short guy with very greasy hair) and their charm, not their spiritual message. These people are looking for a life, and have unfortunately found it in false idols.

  19. Let the tares and the wheat grow together and then at the end it will all be sorted out.

  20. A response to dumb ox: Christianity can’t place all it’s hope in teaching Christians to have joy, hope, forgiveness or service. We are the most taught generation of Christians there probably ever were and where has that gotten us? If teaching could do it, America would be the most mature and fruitful body of Christ in the world. The solution is not teaching……. it is a return to fellowhip, love and most of all intimacy with God and each other as the goal of our faith……..

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