If I would have written this article yesterday, it would have been all about Joel Osteen and his megachurch, Lakewood Church and its failure to open its doors to Hurricane Harvey victims, even though it is in a prime location to do so and it has more than enough space. The church located near the heart of Houston and would have made a more than ideal center for refugees attempting to escape Hurricane Harvey. Instead, the almost 17,000 seat megachurch was closed during and after the hurricane passed, which left many people confused as to why the supposedly compassionate church would keep its doors closed to those in need.
Social media users investigated the church grounds and roads surrounding it, going so far as to post photographic evidence that the church and its surrounding inroads where not even close to flooded. In fact, key parts of the giant structure were completely dry.
The officials from the church put out a shaky statement claiming that due to Hurricane Harvey there is grave concern for the safety of its members and that all Lakewood Church worship services would cancelled through the weekend.
This story quickly went viral and spread throughout social media causing a huge stain on Osteen and his big business prosperity gospel televangelist ministry. This pressure has caused a change of heart and the church will now open its doors to Hurricane Harvey refugees.
Some people later reported the flood waters caused some troubles for the church, but no one is 100% certain why Osteen kept doors closed.
A local news station said that a church spokesman, Donald Iloff, stated that the church has never been closed and that staff were instructed to help anyone who came asking for it.
While the church and its arena have not suffered any flood damage yet, ministry spokesman Donald Iloff said their property is inaccessible because of surrounding waters.
And it makes no sense to open church doors when the city and county are already treating thousands of flood victims at the nearby George R. Brown Convention Center, according to Iloff.
“It has everything inside there – medicine, doctors, places to sleep,” Iloff said of the convention center. “It’s amazing what they’re doing there the make people comfortable.”
The George R Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston had already received more than 8,800 evacuees, according to the Red Cross, which is significantly more than their capacity of 5,000.
With the change of heart from public opinion/pressure, Iloff made a statement saying that the church will be open to collect baby food, baby formula, baby diapers and adult diapers on behalf of the city. He further went on to say that the church and the city of Houston have been in constant contact and that Lakewood Church would open its doors to shelter people once the other shelters are full.
After they are full? The pastor and his administration clearly had no intentions of sheltering victims until social media applied stern pressure, and now they are offering to shelter those in need only after the city resources have been depleted? Joel Osteen is known as a "prosperity gospel" preacher and he's all about making a profit with a little help of a silver tongue and the Good Book.
People posted photos from within the church showing hundreds of blow-up mattresses being prepared for those in need. Regardless of their current actions, it took a rash of public shaming to get the perfectly situated church to change their stance on helping the needy.
Osteen has not responded directly responded to the controversy over his ministry's decision to initially keep their doors closed to refugees, but he did make a social media post just prior to the media frenzy that coincidentally said, "How you respond to a situation will influence those around you. When you have peace on the inside, you will bring peace to the outside.
Some Twitter users chimed in and directed tweets at Osteen with such gems as replying to Osteen's statement that he was praying for the victims with a tweet to the effect of asking why is he not opening his doors and that he should practice what he preaches. Another rich tweet said "Joel Osteen won't open his church that holds 16,000 to hurricane victims because it only provides shelter from taxes. #HoustonStrong."