At New Yankee Stadium with Becky Garrison and Joel Osteen

19 08 2010

A couple of years back I met a terrific writer, a nice, if occasionally cranky, person named Becky Garrison. Becky is an accomplished author of such books as Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church and The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail. She is also a contributing editor for Sojourners and has done funny, insightful stuff for The Wittenburg Door among many others. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and talking shop with Becky on my last couple visits to New York City. Most recently, last spring I believe, Becky attended a screening of Lord, Save Us I was hosting at a vibrant church on the Lower East Side. The audience was an eclectic blend of impassioned folks and the spirited conversation after the screening went on for the better part of an hour.

Becky and I only had a short visit afterwards but she was making great progress on her newest book Jesus Died For This? which, incidentally, is being released this week by Zondervan. Turns out I’m mentioned briefly in her new tome. She recounts our chance meeting in the press box at the newly opened Yankee Stadium where Joel and Victoria Osteen were holding their “One Night Of Hope” event in April 2009 (think they just did a similar event in Dodger Stadium). At this point Becky and I had only corresponded, so as I sat casually chatting with this hilarious, fired up and very well informed woman I actually had no idea it was Becky. Apparently, without my Bumpersticker Man suit I was unrecognizable as well, I guess I was in my Clark Kent attire that evening. Hah. Anyway, after fifteen minutes of entertaining conversation that threatened to erupt into spirited debate I introduced myself. Becky’s eyes grew wide and then she laughed, “Oh, Dan, it’s Becky Garrison.” “Becky! Hah. No wonder. Okay, now this conversation makes sense.” We had a good laugh and then really got into the conversation about the fascinating spectacle unfolding on the Yankee infield below.

Here is a brief excerpt from Jesus Died For This?:

Once the praise music faded away, Joel and Victoria took the stage. After Joel rejoiced how he was finally getting to live his dream of playing in a professional baseball stadium, Joel and Victoria regaled the crowd with a replay of their favorite hits. Most of what I’m hearing seems to be eerily similar to Joel’s Madison Square Garden concert that I covered back in 2006. Has their faith not evolved in these ensuing three years? Surely folks as well traveled as the Osteens might have some new stories they can tell, don’t you think?

By sheer coincidence, Dan Merchant, the author and director of the documentary Lord, Save Us From Your Followers, was sitting right next to me. When I complained that I had seen this motivational multimedia show before, this roc-show expert reminded me that “people come to rock shows expecting to see the hits,” citing how the Rolling Stones sing “Satisfaction” at every concert. He added, “Like the Stones, Osteen’s ‘Night of Hope’ hits the same buttons. Charisma, emotion, nostalgia, dramatic staging (gorgeous night, amazing new ballpark), a sense of community – all Osteen is missing are the flash pots and a B-stage in center field.”

I know, I know, I relate every public performance to the Rolling Stones. Hah. Sue me. Think of Osteen what you will, but I guess I didn’t begrudge him “playing the hits”, but Becky was on a deadline and I wasn’t at that moment.

Reading an advance copy of Becky’s book, I was so pleased and impressed with how she refused restraint at times, but how she also illuminated the tender truth. The subtitle to Jesus Died For This? is “A Satirist’s Search For the Risen Christ”, and this compelling collection of thematically linked essays will greatly encourage and, possibly, educate you. Becky’s travels all over America yield some amazing anecdotes about believers who will absolute remind you of Jesus. Please pick up a copy for yourself and someone else you want to talk about faith with. Hard working, uncompromising creatives like Becky deserve our support and encouragement. She has done us all a service by sharing her observations with us in Jesus Died For This?

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