Salvation with a Smile: Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, and American Christianity

Phillip Sinitiere. New York Univ., $35 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8147-2388-3
Sinitiere (Holy Mavericks) explores the people, place, personality, Pentecostalism, and prosperity of Lakewood Church in Houston, Tex., focusing on its central personality, Pastor Joel Osteen, as an exemplar of evangelical Christianity and present-day American religion. Combining historical research, documentary investigation, and the observations of participants, Sinitiere situates the stirring success of Lakewood Church (the U.S.’s largest megachurch) and Joel Osteen Ministries within the broader American evangelical and neo-Pentecostal context. He depicts the church as distinctively positioned to benefit from currents in contemporary Christianity through its harnessing of multiple media platforms and the powers of positive confession and thinking in place of grander expressions of Lakewood’s historical “charismatic core”—divine healing, speaking in tongues, prophecy—under Joel’s father, John Osteen. Although Sinitiere does not talk to Osteen himself, he is able to deduce much from his sermons, conversations with Lakewood members, and the greater critique of Christianity’s “crisis of authority.” Readers interested in American Christianity, especially those who have seen Joel on television, read his books, or been blown away from the bombastic experience that is worshipping at Lakewood Church, will enjoy this work. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/14/2015
Release date: 11/13/2015
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