Love him. Hate him. To say Joel Osteen is a controversial figure in American Christianity is to substantially understate the case. Here in Houston, Osteen is a fixture in the religious life of the city. Phillip L. Sinitiere, co-editor of Christians and the Color Line, co-author of Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace, and co-editor of Protest and Propaganda: W. E. B. Du Bois, the Crisis, and the American Marketplace has written a history of “how Joel Osteen became Joel Osteen.” His book traces the history of the Osteen family as well as that of Lakewood Church, and it will be coming out in the next five months or so from NYU Press.
Phil is the inimitable “Baldblogger.” He will be writing posts in the months ahead as the book goes through the final stages of production and hits the shelves later this year. If you are interested in Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, and how they fit into the larger context of the history of American evangelicalism, you won’t want to miss this book.
Go over to “Baldblogger” to see what Phil will be doing to lay the groundwork for his book. Here is a taste:
Salvation with a Smile is the first critical, scholarly book-length study of Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church. Over the course of eight chapters, I explain how Joel Osteen became Joel Osteen and how Lakewood Church became the nation’s largest megachurch with over 40,000 members. This study is a deeply historical investigation of these questions, while in the book I also use oral history sources and ethnographic observation to develop a profile of Lakewood in contemporary times. I track the history of Lakewood from its origins with John Osteen and run the story up to the present, in which I examine Joel Osteen’s expert approach to televangelism and historicize the numerous critics who have spoken and written denunciations of the “smiling preacher.”