Joel Osteen’s disturbing inability to say that Mormonism is something other than Christian reflects a particular affliction from which our culture suffers. I’m not sure what to call it other than the cult of agreeableness, a widespread tendency to avoid disagreement, conflict, and contradiction whenever possible, a disposition to never draw hard lines for fear that we’ll upset or make ourselves unattractive by the action.

But Christians must be willing to upset and be unattractive. After all, we believe things that are upsetting and unattractive. When Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow, he’s bidding us to do something that many others will avoid because laying down one’s life is hardly appealing. Dying to our ego, ambitions, passions, and delusions is undesirable for most of us; I don’t even want to do it most of the time that I’m aware of the choice. So when we ask those people to join us, we shouldn’t be surprised that they say no. Further, when they do say no, we shouldn’t say, “I understand. Your position is quite reasonable. By not picking up the cross you’re really pretty much doing what I’m doing when I pick up mine, so it’s all good.” Real differences exist and cannot be papered (or smiled) over.

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