Crank-Calling Joel Osteen’s Prayer Line is like a Fart Joke

Hemant Mehta is a much-needed voice of reason for atheists. I enjoy reading his blog, share many of his views and follow his twitter account religiously (pun-intended). However, a recent post from Hemant criticizing Justin Roiland, the co-creator of Rick and Mortycrank calling Joel Osteen‘s Lakewood Church on the H3 Podcast has me scratching my head.

In his post, Mehta recounts what happens during the prank call to Osteen’s prayer line. I’ll spare the details since you can read the post for yourself or watch the video of the prank call. I encourage you to do both. The bottom line of the prank call is that Justin (the caller) makes fun of the person answering the prayer line, who speaks to him for a few minutes, but then begins to “speak in tongues”.

Mehta says this about the prank call:

I get why people find this entertaining… but it strikes me as a weak attempt at humor. If you want to criticize Osteen’s handling of his church-as-shelter during Hurricane Harvey, go for it. You have my support. But wasting someone else’s time, then mocking the way she prays, just seems like low-hanging fruit.

Here’s my thoughts on Mehta’s opinion.

First, by their nature, all prank calls are a weak attempt at humor. So are fart jokes. As Louis CK says, “You don’t have to be smart to laugh at farts, but you have to be stupid not to.”

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Second, Joel Osteen and his ilk are the epitome of stupid church people. In fact, Osteen could be the king of kings of them all. As I’ve written before, if you like Osteen or read his books, you might be a Stupid Church Person. He was a douche before and during Hurricane Harvey and nothing after this will change that.

Third, I have zero empathy for the lady on the other end of this “prank call”. She is in on the joke. In fact, I could argue that every prayer line call she answers is a prank call where she is the prankster. People that call her trust her and they are probably in a very vulnerable stage of their life. Little do they know, after she prays and takes their “seed faith” donations that the joke is on them.

Finally, regarding the opinion that this “prank call” is low-hanging fruit, I would ask Hemant: “What’s wrong with that?” To me, low-hanging fruit is pointing out over and over again the absurdity and danger of Jim Bakker or Pat Robertson on the “Friendly Atheist” blog. A quick search of “Friendly Atheist” reveals so many posts related to those two, I couldn’t even count them.

Are Bakker and Robertson considered “high-hanging fruit”? I think not. They are the extremes of the Christian world and their credibility is low even among most in the evangelical church. Ridiculing them is shooting fish in a barrel. Yes, they have large voices, but I think the mainstream pastors of every day churches peddling bullshit Sunday after Sunday, week-in and week-out are the truly dangerous ones.

Also, Mehta didn’t seem to think it was too low to write about this prank on Joel Osteen:

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Like fart jokes, dick jokes are pretty damn funny too. That’s literally some “low-hanging fruit” you are going after Hemant!

Funny is in the laugh of the beholder and it’s not our job to be the humor police. Anytime we can point out the idiocy of religion in ways that make some people laugh, and more importantly think, we should do it. That’s the power of satire.

SATIRE: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity…

“The Friendly Atheist” and “Stupid Church People” are not the same blog or podcast. We do not have the same audience. I am certain our levels of humor, and intelligence perhaps, differ. Our approaches to the subject of religion, atheism and the nature of belief come from different places.

However, having listened and read “The Friendly Atheist” for awhile, I do think we share some common goals. I believe one of those is to use humor to drive home a point, even to ourselves sometimes. We may not always think it’s funny but like the good book says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” After all, like farts, there’s a little stupid in everyone.