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The Forgotten Americans and Mr. Osteen’s Gift of Hope and Courage

To those of who are young, prosperous, healthy, I urge you to remember that your good fortune is not shared by all those around the nation and the world. In the United States of America alone, there are millions of elderly, impoverished, and sick Americans. Many think they understand America, but they understand the fortunate and the healthy in America. They do not understand the forgotten and those that have been left behind – forgotten and abandoned.

Some believe they understand the struggle of poverty for Americans. But they have seen the prosperous corners of America, not the financially impoverished areas. While the privileged make their plans and “angst” over the smallest of issues, they do not understand the desperation of millions of Americans. They do not understand that for many, how they will make it through to the next day, is their top priority. Their real concern is keeping a roof over their head, obtain food to eat. Their goal is to keep their families safe in crime-ridden areas. I know this first-hand, as this is exactly how I grew up as a child, and I know how many continue to suffer in such desperate conditions. Many of the desperate are forgotten, abandoned, left in broken-down areas, struggling in areas distant from prosperity and from the conditions of the privileged. For many, desperation is not a word, it is their life. Desperation is in the air. It permeates entire communities, family after family, town after town. Desperation strangles their voice, their hopes, and it even colors their vision as to the world itself. Desperate people need hope.

Some believe they you understand the meaning of despair. I feel for your suffering. But for too many struggling in nursing homes and in home-bound individuals lives (called “shut-ins” by many), despair is not just a fleeting feeling. Too many are sick and physically disabled or weak. The things that the young and the healthy take for granted, being able to walk, being able to go to relieve themselves, being able to eat, being able to read, these things are increasingly stolen by the failure to fight cognitive diseases and the physical illness of many of different ages, including a particular denial of such human necessities to the elderly, the frail. For too many, despair is not a feeling, but despair is a way of life. Despair is tangible. You can see the despair painted on the walls, on their abandoned rooms, and on the struggling human beings.

Let us remember too, that those suffocating with desperation and those abandoned in the desert of despair are our fellow human beings. For those in America, they are our fellow Americans.

Their problems would not be entirely insurmountable in a compassionate society. But please, let us not deceive ourselves in America that we live in a compassionate society. We have some people who are compassionate, and we have some groups that do good things. But a compassionate society would not turn its back the way most of our nation has on the desperate and those engulfed by despair. Those in desperation and despair have become among the too many “forgotten Americans,” which the privileged do not see, understand, or care about for one moment.

To the spiritual, you may think that many can find spiritual strength in their local house of worship. But many do not have access to the local house of worship, and many of the elderly, especially the cognitive impaired, do not have access to spiritual guidance and encouragement. You would think that of the many verbose religious leaders, some of them could find a moment to spend to the helpless and the forgotten. You would think that someone among the pious would find a way to have some form of worship or at least prayer with the weakest and least privileged among us. You would think that these leaders of moral rectitude would have a moment for those who cannot help themselves.

Instead we see the arrogant and self-righteous who ignore the forgotten in their own communities, condemning those who spread religious messages of hope and encouragement over television, such as Mr. Joel Osteen. They refuse to acknowledge that television is one of the few readily available mediums for many in the public, though certainly not to all, and not across all of America. They refuse to acknowledge the incredible contributions of a drop of hope that such television evangelists, such Joel Osteen, bring to the forgotten all of the country, partly due to their arrogance and partly because these self-righteous have no grasp of the depth and breadth of the forgotten in this country. They live in comfortable and privileged communities and lives, where they have the ability, the time, and luxury to attack those who would offer a few drops of hope to those dying of spiritual thirst.

But the ultra-pious Christians will tell you to urge the abandoned to “go to the Internet” or to “read their Bible.” It never occurs to them that millions have no access to the Internet, millions cannot read the small letter Bibles given by the chest-thumping self-righteous, and millions have such cognitive or reading skills that they are disconnected from such options altogether. The ultra-pious think they should attack the “orthodoxy” of those who use the medium of television to connect to those, for many different reasons, who are forgotten. These self-described righteous individuals attack the last message in a bottle of hope, tossed into an ocean of the forgotten and abandoned, whose communities, houses of worship, and families, have left them alone with nothing but desperation and despair.

It is the self-righteous, privileged man’s version of the message to the starving of “let them eat cake.” And they write it and say it without a single drop of shame.

Too often, we see self-righteous “religious leaders” who use their brief time of Earth, not to uplift, encourage, and strengthen, but to attack and condemn those whose “orthodoxy” does not conform with the self-righteous among such “religious” individuals. These ultra-pious and self-righteous need to get out from their privileged lives and see how the rest of America lives. I won’t share the circumstances in my own family’s life for the cowards and degenerates to mock. But I have seen too many struggling individuals try to lead their own worship services, as their community leaders have no time for those who need religious support. I have seen family after family abandoned by our so-called “organized religion” and houses of worship in what they view as their “community,” which only seems to include the privileged, the young, and the healthy. When things are really difficult, I have seen too many of our religious leaders find excuses not to have to work to give hope and faith to those who are the most desperate and in the most despair. Certainly, if you think this is any different in the Nation’s Capital as it is in the hamlets of the rest of the nation, I can tell your from personal experience, it is not – even in the shadow of our capital – our forgotten and abandoned are ignored by those who are so convinced of their pious and self-righteous privilege.

I am not here to argue with those believe faith is a college debating class. If you believe that is faith, I will tell you that you do not understand faith at all. Those with faith are not judged by their prose and arguments, but by their deeds, especially their deeds to the forgotten and the vulnerable in their communities, let us remember that God will “render to every man according to his deeds.”

I will simply tell you what I have seen with my own eyes. I wish I had not seen all of the poverty, hunger, despair, and desperation that I have seen in this country. But I can tell you that it is real, and those who ignore it, ignore a large part of the reality in America. The bubble of privilege that the privileged live in is not the reality of the lives of many millions of their fellow Americans.

I have seen those sick in hospitals watching quietly as Mr. Osteen has lifted up their spirits and their souls.

I have seen those in poverty as they huddle around the television and listen to a few words of hope from Mr. Osteen.

I have seen the changes in the faces, even those with impaired memories, of too many elderly as they are uplifted by Mr. Osteen’s efforts to reach out to their hearts and their despair-darkened souls.

Mr. Osteen’s words of comfort, encouragement, and hope are oxygen in the vacuum of their forgotten lives. The self-righteous cannot see the good that he has done and continues to do every week, just as Billy Graham, and other television evangelists have done before him. Hope is essential in the lives not only of our fellow Americans, but also in the lives of our fellow human beings.

I would like to believe that the privileged and the self-righteous could feel a drop of shame, if they could see what I see.

To the privileged, I will tell you this. The America you know and the America I know would appear to be too different countries. However, there is no question, they are the same nation, which is supposed to be indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Yet the privileged have divided this country, and for too many, liberty and justice are just words. This divided America cannot last forever. At some point, the bubble of privilege will burst and the blinders to suffering of your fellow Americans will be seen to all. For now, though, the forgotten still need hope. Even if you don’t see them, I know they are there.

Our nation may be divided. Millions may have given up on liberty and justice as applying to another “class.” They may be forgotten, abandoned, and they may live painful, brutal, and difficult lives.

But they have a right to HOPE. “For in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.”

The importance of HOPE is beyond measure. What do we have if we succeed in cutting away the thin cords of HOPE that so many among the forgotten need so much? Of all the basic human rights that we struggle for, what could be more essential than hope itself?

So I urge the very pious John Elles of Arlington, Virginia, to reconsider his callous remarks on Mr. Osteen. Mr. Elles, who writes in a popular conservative blog, to call Mr. Osteen a “wolf” because he provides a form of television evangelism to help the forgotten Americans, while Mr. Elles says nothing about what he is doing for such communities whose existence he conveniently ignores. In addition, those who face religious persecution should also understand exactly what it feels like to be forgotten and abandoned. I urge the Ahmadiyya Times, and editor Imran Jattala, who seems to think such attacks on those who seek to inspire abandoned Americans are somehow worthy messages to share with the public, with no sense of rejection of such hurtful comments. I have seen many in the Ahmadiyya community to be compassionate individuals, and I urge them contact Mr. Imran Jattala on this issue.

To the ultra-pious and those who seek to denounce Mr. Osteen for using television programs (which of course cost a lot of money to produce) to reach the abandoned and forgotten in America, I urge you to please share your own efforts at outrage to these abandoned communities across this nation. Mr. Elles, I live in the Washington DC area, so I am quite well-aware of the disgraceful next-to-nothing spiritual support to the greater Washington DC area’s forgotten and abandoned. If it is this bad in your community, imagine what it is like in the rest of the nation.

Mr. Jattala, we have human rights individuals working to promote religious freedom for the Ahmadi community across the world. Since you consider Mr. Elles’ comments so worthy, perhaps you can take some time to let us what you are also doing for these abandoned communities, who do not have the access to spiritual support.

Whatever your faith may be, let us be clear, those who believe they are spreading a religious faith that abandons and ignores the weakest, most vulnerable, most helpless among us, may claim to be self-righteous and pious. But the reality of such abandoned communities will not go away. If you do not know of the abandoned and forgotten, you do not know your nation, you do not know your community, and certainly you do not know your fellow human beings. The world does not revolve simply around us and our petty arrogance. Let us remember those who need help – every single day.

As for me, I am just a poor sinner, who has to tried to do the best I can to help my fellow human beings. When someone like Mr. Osteen is attacked for helping to relieve the suffering of these abandoned and forgotten communities, those of us with eyes, ears, and a conscience, have a responsibility to defend those who spread words of HOPE.

To Mr. Osteen, I know you do not need these words of defense. But I have seen the good that you have done, with my own eyes, in so many communities of desperation and despair. Over the years, you have given a gift of hope to so many in dark and difficult circumstances, which I have witnessed with my own eyes. I could not, in good conscience, remain silent on this. I thank you, as an American, who has witnessed across the nation, all of the hearts and souls that you have uplifted.

Hope always matters – not just for the privileged and the powerful – but especially for those struggling to make it through every day and every hour.

Keep Hope Alive.