Prayers, Tithes and Tweets: A Rhetorical Analysis of Joel Osteen’s and Pope Francis’s Discussion of Fruits of the Spirit on Twitter

Student Author(s)

Allison Barnes

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Robert Fortner

Document Type


Event Date



With many believers worldwide, the Christian Church is organized by countless individuals in leadership roles. Yet, despite many active members, Christians are led by influential leaders who attract millions of followers each, such as Joel Osteen and Pope Francis. Pope Francis and Joel Osteen shape masses through their messages and content, which are becoming increasing accessible through social media channels like micro-blog Twitter. Although theological differences occur, Catholics and Protestants agree on Christianity’s major premises. Thus, Pope Francis and Joel Osteen’s Twitter feeds should contain somewhat similar Christian content and instruction to their followers, such as encouraging the practice of the fruits of the Spirit. The current study asks, "How similar are Joel Osteen’s and Pope Francis’ Twitter feeds in teaching how to live a virtuous Christian life according to fruits of the Spirit?" Using cluster criticism, a critical approach to rhetoric, an analysis was performed on a sample of Joel Osteen and Pope Francis’s tweets to compare content and understand if these Christian leaders shared similar rhetoric. Although Pope Francis and Joel Osteen had some similar tweeting habits, Pope Francis’s tweets contained much more fruits of the Spirit content than Joel Osteen’s. Additionally, Pope Francis’s interpretations appear founded in Biblical scripture and traditional Catholic Church doctrine whereas Joel Osteen’s tweets contained mostly Prosperity Gospel and positive self-help thinking. These two distinct messages involve very different rhetoric. These results help describe the complexity and division of the Christian church today and signify a deeper power struggle between shifting ideologies of the Christian church, specifically the evangelical American mega-church and the liturgical Catholic Church.

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