Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type




First Advisor

Peter Simonson


The purpose of this study was to analyze the rhetoric of religious icon Joel Osteen, deconstructing it to reveal key metaphors, themes and strategies that have contributed to his status as one of the most popular preachers in America. The study explored contemporary American morality as a means of understanding the specific exigences facing Osteen’s rhetorical audience. I argue that individuals face a tension between their desires to belong as part of a community, while retaining unrestricted individual expression. This tension is further aggravated by the pressures of globalization, which suggest that individuals can replace their community-formed identities by increasing their reliance on commodities. Osteen’s rhetoric was found to soothe these tensions by preaching a message of individualism that promises the eventual deliverance of goods, within a formal community structure. The implications of this study considered whether this message was truly beneficial to the individual or if it was restricting their long-term potential to achieve material and personal success.