January 26th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Osteen gets serious on sex, prosperity and politics

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

By now you have likely seen or read that megachurch pastor Joel Osteen told CNN’s Piers Morgan he thinks homosexuality is a sin. For years Osteen has been dinged by religious critics as a theological lightweight - for talking too much about sunshine and not enough about sin. But the television preacher with the megawatt smile put his cards on the table in his hourlong interview with Morgan.

Osteen, who is rich, said it would be an insult to God to apologize for that blessing.

He tried to shake off the label of prosperity gospel preacher.

And yes, he said he thinks homosexuality is a sin.

Morgan pressed Osteen for a clear-cut answer on the topic of homosexuality in the taped interview with Osteen and his wife, Victoria, for "Piers Morgan Tonight," set to air at 9 p.m. ET tonight on CNN.

Morgan asked Osteen about the “moral maze” of homosexuality, asking him point-blank: “Is homosexuality a sin in your eyes?”

“Yes," Osteen answered. "I've always believed, Piers, the scriptures shows that it's a sin. But you know, I'm not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they're terrible people and all of that. I mean, there are other sins in the Bible, too.”

Osteen continued his answer and said, “I think sometimes the church - and I don't mean this critically, but we focus on one issue or two issues, and there's plenty of other ones. So I don't believe homosexuality is God's best for a person's life. I mean, sin means to miss the mark.”

Homosexuality is a hot topic Osteen had previously deflected.

His massive Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, is independent and not tied to a larger denomination. As a result, Lakewood is theologically independent and does not fall under broader denominational beliefs on religious issues like homosexuality.

Osteen took the pulpit at Lakewood after the death of his father, who had been the pastor. The younger Osteen has been criticized for, among other things, his avoidance of difficult theological issues. Morgan suggested to Osteen that he was prepared for the question on homosexuality even though he had not spoken on this issue in the past.

“I think I've grown in my knowledge," Osteen said. "I mean, those first interviews. I mean, this was all new to me. I mean, I wasn't - I didn't go to seminary. I wasn't - I was raised in this, but not in front of the camera. But I think this point - people say I don't - that I don't talk about sin.

"But I do talk about how we live our life, and making good choices. And at the end of every one of our services I talk about that I believe the greatest sin, and that's to miss the mark of not knowing your creator through Christ,” Osteen said.

Morgan went on to push Osteen about Elton John and his civil partner in England, David Furnish, asking if he though they were sinners.

“It's strictly back to what the scripture says," Osteen replied. "I mean, I can't grab one part and say God wants you to be blessed and live an abundant life, and not grab the other part that says, you know what? You know, live that kind of life. So I just - you know, it comes back to the scripture. I'm not the judge. You know, God didn't tell me to go around judging everybody.”

Osteen rose to prominence in large part because of his television ministry. He said 7 million people watch his show each week. His books have sold more than 20 million copies, bringing the pastor and his wife great financial success.

The Osteens went back and forth with Morgan on the topic of finances. Joel Osteen said he does not draw a salary from his church; instead he said he draws money from his book royalties and DVDs.

He was unapologetic about his financial wealth. For the interview he wore a finely tailored suit and shirt, which Morgan went to great lengths to point out. Osteen said he and his wife have given away millions.

Morgan asked Osteen if he ever felt guilty for his wealth. He replied, "I don't ever feel guilty because it comes from - it's God's blessings on my life. And for me to apologize for God's - how God has blessed you, it's almost an insult to our God."

Osteen continued, “There is a religious - I call it a spirit or something that says we have to be poor and broke and defeated and sad to show people that we're really humble, and that we really love God. And I don't believe that. I believe God wants us to be examples of what it means to live for him. And that our money is to be a blessing to others.”

There is a thin line between "prosperity gospel" - which commonly refers to some pastors who say God wants you to be happy, healthy and rich - and what Osteen preaches about finances. Osteen repeatedly said he is not a proponent of that version of Christianity.

"I get categorized into this guy that's a prosperity preacher. I don't even believe in that. I mean, that's not the focus. The main things I'm talking about is how you can excel," he said.

Osteen also told Morgan he does not drink or smoke, never dated a woman other than his wife, and that he votes regularly. Osteen said he voted for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election after spending time with the Arizona senator.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Homosexuality • TV • United States

soundoff (1,034 Responses)
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    August 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  5. Josh

    Jesus said "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven" Mark 10.25....someone should tell Joel that!

    August 15, 2012 at 2:12 am |
  6. Lili

    Thanks for the piece on worship or rchuch, very insightfulHave a great holiday and a good rest in the Grace & Knowlegde of our Lord Jesus Christ Every Blessing to Aylene Steve

    April 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  7. Rena

    Okay I was able to find the link to the photos just published of Osteen's $10.5 million house. This should say it all: http://timothyhouston.com/2011/06/19/cribs-style-house-of-famous-pastor-joel-osteen/

    June 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  8. Rena

    It was a tough hour. Good and entertaining but sharp questions. He answered them in character though, with a careful how he uses his words approach. Sometimes thats good. Sometimes its just a way to not answer the question. Yes he is indeed rich. New photos of his river oaks mansion were just published this week. It costs $10.5 million so...

    June 22, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  9. Richard McCarthy

    I too believe that the Bible is divinely inspired. So was the Torah, and the Quran. All of them claim to be the "truth", so trying to claim the moral highground with any one of them is useless. Why? Because regardless of their inspired origins, man is imperfect, so while scripture is useful as a guide, it is not infallible. Enter your temple, synagogue or church to worship, but don't check your brain at the door.

    February 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • JOregon

      Do you understand that the Torah is the first five books of the bible?
      The Qur'an is difficult (some say impossible) to translate into other languages. Seems to me if God was going to reveal information to the world he would make it a bit more available.
      The Qur'an does include many of the same stories as the bible does although somewhat altered.
      In the end all teach there is a penalty to be paid for sin.
      Any salvation plan that requires some kind of ability by man to make himself right with God would be unrighteous, unjust, and unfair.
      Christianity is the only religion that allows Salvation for all, no matter what the ability or intelligence of the one being saved.
      Not to say there are not doctrines and religions within Christianity that require some kind of work, there are. That is one of my complaints about Osteen, his is a works based gospel.

      February 1, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  10. canadianrachel

    I say the proof is in the pudding. Who leads the best life, and who teaches their children the most rational, loving, intelligent precepts. I can answer that. Non-christians.

    January 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
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  11. Ricardo Williams

    I am a Christian and I believe the bible tells me the history of my ancestors before me. I like reading about my ancestors. I don't read to try and alter anything. I love my Savior Jesus and I live my life to honor His legacy. I hope that when I'm dead that my daughter would have love me enough to live her life to honor Christ's legacy through my legacy.

    January 30, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  12. CatholicMom

    Okay, I am done posting here as nothing will go where it should...how can we communicate this way?

    January 30, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • JOregon

      Did you hit the reply button?
      What irks me is the computer with the dirty mind that finds naughty words in the middle of normal words. Then with no way to edit it is hit and miss until you find the offending word. I must have 1,923,573 posts awaiting moderation.

      January 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • JOregon

      You're right about the cnn system.
      I tried to respond to Frank (January 30, 2011 at 6:57 am) by hitting the reply button.
      Mine posted independently (January 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm) at least it was posted close to Frank.

      January 30, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  13. CatholicMom

    My post to Frank flew up above...but what I questioned is this: Is a straight person who fornicates more apt to get into Heaven than a gay person who chooses to live a chaste lifestyle?

    January 30, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  14. CatholicMom

    Just because a person is gay does not mean that they are sin. If they act upon their lust just like you can act upon yours, then they are sinning. A gay person can get into Heaven just as easily as a straight person, maybe easier because their cross is much heavier.
    Do you think that a person who may fornicate is less a sinner than a gay person who is chaste?

    January 30, 2011 at 8:48 am |
  15. Chris

    Olsteen should never apologize for the gospel he preaches. This man has the opportunity to become the Billy Graham of our day. He must stay focused on the gospel he preaches, the hope he offers to the masses. As confusing as the world is, anyone who effectively encourages people to live a sort of life that will increase love, fidelity, confidence, peace, patience and good will to the masses is a success. Isn't success one of the primary messages Olsteen offers his flock? I appreciate that Olsteen doesn't give into the pressure to alienate people because of their "sin". We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, including Olsteen. From what I've read, he gets that – do you?

    January 30, 2011 at 3:25 am |
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  16. JOregon

    Anybody here.
    Anybody know.
    Does he pay taxes on his money?

    January 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  17. john loe

    The Trinity of Evil...The Old Testament, The New Testament and the Koran. Responsible for more harm done to humanity than all its wars!

    January 28, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  18. john loe

    The Evil Trinity...The Old Testament, The New Testament and the Koran. Responsible for more harm to humanity than all the wars combined.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  19. Gary

    Clearly he's filling the hearts, minds, souls and spirits of more than 20 million people because he doesn't judge each and every one of the 667 sins of the bible. I have a healthy level of respect for Joel and his ministry and have for years. Who can fault him for being business savy as well as spiritually blessed. He isn't without flaws and chooses not to harp on the flaws of others. His message is one to build esteem and create a healthy mindset about living life to its fullest and as always he closes each show suggesting that his listeners join a bible influenced church. I commend him dearly!

    January 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • JOregon

      What makes you think he is spiritually blessed???

      January 29, 2011 at 12:35 am |
  20. Preston

    Looking forward to the day that "ministers" and "Pastors" stay the hell out of my life and the lives of others to forward their own agenda. I guess since there are no more succesful communists, we're next. This man can take his opinions and stick them right up his Old Testament.

    January 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.