Why Joel Osteen gets cyberbullied every time Houston floods

Legend has it, if you listen closely enough, you can hear megapastor Joel Osteen locking his church doors every time Houston, Texas, is engulfed in water.

Meanwhile, Jim McIngvale–a.k.a. Mattress Mack, local Houston hero–is known for turning his massive Gallery Furniture store into a shelter for displaced Houstonians seeking refuge during the floods, which is becoming a common occurrence thanks to climate change.

Houston had its fifth recent “500-year” flood with Tropical Storm Imelda, which hit Houston on Sept. 19. Flash flooding caused by the storm’s remnants resulted in significant property damage and at least five people losing their lives. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey similarly devastated Houston. Harvey also marked the first time Osteen was basically cyberbullied into turning his megachurch, Lakewood Church, into a shelter.

Many criticized how long it took the millionaire to do so. “There was a safety issue the first day or two,” Osteen told CNN at the time. “We would never put people in here until we know that it’s safe, and it was not safe those days, let me tell you.”

Donald Iloff Jr., Lakewood Church’s chief of communications, told the Guardian at the time that Osteen was only receiving backlash because of the “haters.” “There are people who don’t like our ministry, don’t like Joel, don’t like Lakewood Church specifically. And then there is a significant portion of the population that hates faith and religion,” Iloff said.

When Imelda hit, Mattress Mack was unsurprisingly quick to turn Gallery Furniture into a shelter, again. “We’ve got food, water, we’ve got mattresses. We’ve got everything you need to ride out this storm. We pray that it ends quickly, but until then Gallery Furniture North Freeway is open to any and everybody–and to your pets,” he said in a video posted to Facebook. The local celebrity also made his personal cellphone number public in case any flood victim needed to be rescued by the Gallery Furniture trucks he mobilized. So far, Mattress Mack and his Gallery Furniture trucks have personally rescued 120 flood victims.

People flocked to social media to poke fun at how Osteen would react–or not react, rather.

“Joel Osteen in a cold sweat watching the weather channel wondering if he’s going to be bullied into being a christian again,” Twitter user @lizhebert wrote.

Whether it be the cyberbullying or Osteen’s alleged good Christian heart, Osteen once again opened up Lakewood Church. “Lakewood Church is open to anyone in need of assistance because of the flooding,” the church tweeted Thursday. “We are located at 3700 SW Freeway. Lakewood Church is open now.”

And much quicker this time too. Blessed.

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Eilish O'Sullivan

Eilish O'Sullivan

Eilish O'Sullivan is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot studying journalism and government at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle and the Daily Texan.