This has to be the most telling admission from a "man of God" I have ever read:
When it floods, it floods in a torrent. And it floods quickly. We installed flood gates, but you know, you have to have a lot of faith in those if you are going to put a lot of people into the building.
— Donald Iloff, of Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch, speaking in defense of his boss for not having immediately opened the refuge to hurricane victims.
Prior to Mr. Iloff's mouthing of temporal concerns, his boss was tweeting that "God’s got this" and victims should "stay anchored to hope." Just do it someplace else was the gist of Osteen's revelation, which, like Iloff's, was sublimely devoid of "faith" in God having this gotten. Besides, said Osteen later, "the city didn’t ask us to become a shelter." So, if asked, he would have opened the megachurch sooner, even though his spokesman had no faith in the flood gates? Well, no, actually, because Osteen also contended that his megachurch was "inaccessible due to severe flooding" — which, as this video shows, was a lie.
Osteen has taken a lot of heat for his lack of help. Typical is this NY Times op-ed by religious studies professor Anthea Butler, who dumps on Osteen for being Trumplike. Both men, she writes, are in possession of a "morally bankrupt soul." Trump's was on display well before Houston, and Osteen's well before Trump's political foray. But why bother with such denunciations?
It's not to so much that the poor must always be with us; it's that Christianist rubes and right-wing crackpots — Trump's base — will always be with us (which does indeed render poverty a de facto perpetuity). The charlatanism of both camps has never been disguised or concealed; it's always been out there for all to see — and reject. But rubes and crackpots are more engrained in society than poverty itself.
Nothing gets through to these people. Nothing. Trump will go on to establish a media empire at their expense and Osteen will go on raking in their tithes. We can denounce them or try to educate them. But in the end we're reminded of the words of philosopher William James, who once said in final exasperation toward a contentious audience member at one of his lectures, "I cannot allow your ignorance however great to take precedence over my knowledge however small." In our own defense, that's just about all we have.