Take Your Choice of Preachers: Bible Sneaker or Plastic Smiler; Yeah, You Take Your Choice, Not Everyone Is That Naive

Mine is a quiet, one-block, cul de sac street.  In fact, even though a couple of families have teenage kids, I didn’t know it until I had lived in my house for about six months.  Aside from lawn mowers and edgers, the loudest it gets around here is on the rare occasions when the Vietnamese family that lives catty-corner plays Asian music out of their garage.  I’ve gotten to know a few of my neighbors enough to invite to my house or be invited over, but with the rest, it’s mostly a wave here and a “how’s it going” there.

My neighbors across the street fall into the “how’s it going” category.  They are a pleasant enough couple.  I had heard that the husband was a “preacher,” but that didn’t bother me, and they certainly like my dog.  And generally, anybody that likes my dog, I like.

  However, what these neighbors did after I arrived home from  an out-of-town, Christmas holidays trip still colors my view of them.

One night a couple of days before New Years, I was sitting watching a movie and the doorbell rang.  When I flicked on the porch light, there they were smiling, saying they had something for me.  During our quick chit-chat, an aluminum-foil covered paper plate was shoved into my hands; then a few more niceties were exchanged, and they headed back to their house.  I knew when the plate was given to me there was something else with it, but not until I had gotten into my lighted kitchen did I discover what accompanied the somewhat haggard (I love all the connotations that word brings ) plate of candy was a Bible.

It rubbed me the wrong way immediately, and even though a few days later, I threw everything into the trash, including the untouched candy, their little “present” makes me feel uncomfortable when I see these otherwise nice neighbors.  I think it’s pretty presumptuous of people to push off religious materials anywhere, but for neighbors to try to sneak me a Bible takes a lot of nerve, but it’s the kind of thing a lot of religionists do.  They somehow think they know what other people need.  These people don’t know anything about my personal beliefs, but I doubt that they would try to give a Bible to the Sikh family that lives a block away.

I wonder how they’d feel if someone tried to bring them a Koran.  Actually, if I wanted to push the “neighborly” envelope a bit, I’d cook up something tasty and slip a DVD of “Queer as Folk” under it and take over to them.  But, I do think they are decent enough people and are just who they are.

These people are a far cry from another Houstonian preacher, Joel Osteen.  Last Sunday morning, between gardening and coffee, I was flipping through the channels; there he was–with his smile, more plastic and longer-lasting that that of a Miss American pageant contestant.  That, along with the forever-blinking eyes and sing-song, nasal voice, made me click over to another channel in less than 30 seconds, but not before I saw “Joel Osteen Tickets” flash across the bottom of the screen.

It seems like  ever since the Osteen’s bought the Summit (more recently dubbed the Compaq Center), the former home of the Houston Rockets’ games and other sports events, to be his Lakewood Church, Osteen has been on the big-time gravy train.  I knew there were books and all kinds of TV interviews, where he has all kinds of unkind things to say about gay people.  Then last year, he bought a $10.5 million house in Houston’s swank River Oaks.  You’d think what is made from the crowd at the Houston location would be enough to make do.

But follow up on the “Joel Osteen Tickets”, and you find that he’s selling out huge venues, just like Lady Gaga–for Gaga-like ticket prices.  “Discounted” tickets are going for as high as $485 for one “show” in Raleigh, NC.

Do they sell tickets when the pope makes appearances?  I never heard that Billy Graham did, or Oral Roberts, even when he was doing all the laying-on-of hands “healing”.

It sure looks like it’s big business, but for every snake oil salesman, there are the hundreds, or thousands, who want a nip of that snake oil.

I’ll take the Bible sneaker over Mr. Plastic Smile. The former probably has his heart in the right place, but is a bit misguided; the latter is just a salesman, in not too convincing of a disguise, especially when those pockets are so filled up.

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