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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)
  1. Jack

    He voted for McCain/Palin. That says it all.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  2. american me

    I'll never understand why Rethuglican, conservative, right-wing, religious fanatics think they can force other normal people to accept their deviant views and lifestyle. They love to tell other people how to live their lives, while their own lives are in shambles. The Christian (esp. Catholic, Mormon, Evangelical, and Southern Baptist) Taliban in this country are going to face a violent wake up call soon if they keep trying to spread their hatred, intolerant views and actions on normal Americans.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • LUG1

      Whose version of normal? Good luck with that philosophy on your death bed. What I know for sure, Jesus loves you even if you do not love him.

      January 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  3. Steve P.

    We can't wait to get to heaven and decide to confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Then it will be too late. Faith is believing that Jesus Chrsit died for your sin and mine. By posting this message is God appealing to you and is not an opinion. "If I give you an opinion, I rob you of the Truth."

    January 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  4. Steve P.

    @Fuyuko, God has told us but through our own arrogance, we refuse to believe Him. Adam and Eve brought sin to mankind when they were told by God not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. They disobeyed Him. We are in the state we're in because of that disobedience. God has given us a pardon of our sin through Jesus Christ, but we think that He's not necessary. We believe that our "goodness' is enough to get us into heaven. We will ALL stand before Jesus Christ and be judged. The question is whether or not we want to be found innocent by accepting HIm as our Savior and Lord or guilty by rejecting Him as Savior and Lord. God has made it simple. Do you believe John 3:16 or not?

    January 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      Sorry Steve, but I don't believe in Adam or eve or original sin, although I do believe in god. I do not believe humans are inherently evil/sinful or should be punished for the actions of anyone.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Fuyuko,

      You are not being punished for Adam and Eve’s sin; Jesus Christ died on the Cross which reopened Heaven to us which was closed by Adam and Eve’s fall. Jesus Christ died so that we might all have life-everlasting!

      Jesus Christ commanded the Apostles to go out and Baptize and teach all nations what He had told them. We receive the Holy Spirit [born again] upon receiving the Sacrament of Baptism.

      Now with the Holy Spirit abiding in us we can do good works, for without Him we can do nothing that is good. Only the branches of the vine that produce good fruit will be remain on the vine, the others will be cut off.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  5. Library Worker with some smarts

    RELIGION IS FOR RETARDS.- Bill Mahr

    Oh, my is THAT the truth, especially after reading the vast majority of these posts. Gulible comes to mind too.
    Most of you are Godly.........just......in.......case......... wouldn't want Jesus to hear me say out loud I don't believe...oh, no, what IF there is a Gate waiting, then I'm safe. I'll get in.

    GROWN people, GROWN people still can't let this go, Santa Clause, okay let it go, Easter Bunny? Ya can't see him either? Why NOT believe? Wow, boggles my mind to think so many of you think some part of your 'soul' puffs out your body and floats off to space......hilaroius! In this day and age.

    In 200 years they be will laughing at us, they will never understand why it took so long for the human race to get it!

    What a bunch of crappola and a waste of time, and in most of your cases a waste of money.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • chris

      k, well, I don't believe "just in case." My life is worth more than just settling for something. I've investigated with discernment, and came to the conclusion on my own that Jesus is the Truth.

      January 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Anglican

      By what great authority do you suggest what we believe in. I hope it is not Bill Maher. He will say anything to get in front of a camera. ($$$$). Go back and work on your book filing systems, and open your heart my brother. Peace.

      January 28, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  6. wcb2009

    This guy needs to read his Bible a little more carefully...

    Didnt "Money is he root of all evil" come from the Bible? An then of course there is this:
    “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV, Matthew 6:24-25, 31-33)

    January 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • LUG1

      Actually in the interest of accuracy it is "The love of money is the root of all evil". GREED

      January 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Eugene

      WCB2009 people do it all time' you got to have money"'huh"' it say's The Love for Money' Love Love Love Read it again"

      January 27, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  7. Janice

    I think Joel is a wonderful man who helps people believe in themselves and reach for being their best selves. Whether or not any of you believe in God or not, living the teachings of Jesus Christ leads to peace of mind and happiness because you are not taking others down by being selfish, being greedy, gossiping, being dishonest, being abusive, neglecting your children, dispitefully using others, being prideful, being immoral. As you live the teachings of Jesus Christ you are hitting the mark and having a wonderful relationsiip with Chrsit that carries you through the challenges of life. You cannot do an evil thing or be immoral and feel good about yourself. Christ's teachings are to show us a more excellent way of lving life that provides all that Joel talks about. That's why he teaches what he does so we can all have the abundant life. The teachings of the Savior are a great blessing in my life. Even repentance is a blessing. Christ's atonement makes this possible for all of us, to start over and be a better person. Joel is great and so is everyone who leads others to the Savior's teachings. They are helping us have the good life.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Observer

      Janice, "living the teachings of Jesus Christ leads to peace of mind and happiness because you are not taking others down by being selfish, being greedy, gossiping, being dishonest, being abusive, neglecting your children, dispitefully using others, being prideful, being immoral"

      Sorry, but that certainly doesn't apply to all the Christians who trash gays.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  8. You have not because you ask not...

    Maybe those of you who need proof God exists, why don't you ask someone what God has done for them? Don't be so close minded as you say the Christians are...what are you afraid of?

    January 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      Relying on the personal revelations of others- no matter how meaningful for them,for me is the wrong way to decide somethings. . I personally believe in god, although, I have no proof either way.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "...what are you afraid of?"
      Isn't the point of Christianity to have a fear of God, or be a God-fearing person? Aren't Christians just falling in line because they fear being shunned by God, or fear going to hell? Oh, you may call it love of God, but isn't that just a case of Stockholm syndrome.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Nonimus,
      A God-fearing person is not afraid of God, as in ‘God is going to getcha for that’ as so many like to say. It is fear of displeasing Him because He is so wonderful and loving. It is a ‘lover’s fear’ in that who would want to hurt the one you love the most?
      Think of someone totally innocent who loves you so very much, your child, for instance, and if you should say or do something that would cause your child to cry and feel you don’t love them…you have abandoned your child….I have heard of parents who tell their child ‘I hate you, I wish you were never born’ [mine never did that] but can you imagine the anguish that a child would feel? That would be the kind of fear one should have towards God…to never hurt Him like that.

      January 28, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Nonimus

      @CatholicMom,
      Hello,

      Interesting distinction about the 'lover's fear,' and it might make sense if the only consequence was God's disappointment, but unfortunately the consequences are far greater, as I understand it. Wouldn't your analogy of a parent and young child, which I find a bit demeaning by the way, be more accurate if the child feared disappointing the parent – while the parent was holding a belt, or a whip?

      Also, I might be able to see 'God-fearing' interpreted that way, but it seems too much of a stretch to say that about, 'the fear of God'.

      Always good to hear from you, CatholicMom.

      January 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Nonimus,

      Yes, I was thinking of myself as the child of God but it came out the other way around, didn’t it?! If we could just dwell on these verses to start with: Mt. 18:3-4; Mt 23:12 [to humble yourself and become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom.] How does a child love? With a love in awe of their parents….such as a protector not as a punisher. We must love God with this same awe…not out of fear of punishment but out of sheer love of God who is deserving of our love and worship. Further, to become true ‘children of God’ we must be ‘born again from above’, through Baptism, Jn 3:1-13; Mt 28:19; Gal 4:19… ‘My little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you’.

      Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify!

      January 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @CatholicMom,
      I think I understand the allure of the child-like awe and love, but which is more desirable the friend who walks behind saying 'I agree' or the one who walks with you saying 'I understand'; the lover who waits and dotes or the one who goes and comes back? And, what do we think of those who want the former?
      Which one is God asking for?

      Additionally, even though we are supposed to have an unconditional love, I still would have a hard time ignoring the belt in His hand. What do we think of the parent that threatens to leave the stubborn child alone? What would we think of the parent that actually left the child alone?
      What is God threatening?

      January 29, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Nonimus,

      A friend who walks behind or with you, saying “I agree or understand” is what Jesus does as long as you are on are the right Path. He can see the pain and He understands. If we shun His ‘company’ and turn from Him, He will leave us to our desires or ‘our will’. You can have Him or leave Him, anyway you want. He is waiting within ear range should you want Him back.

      He doesn’t carry the belt ….you do. Why do you beat yourself up in your distrust of His true love for you? He doesn’t threaten to leave you alone…you walk away on your own. His is a Father in that He is never far from us as we wander across the busy highway….because even when we know we shouldn’t walk there…He lets us use our free will to do all the wandering we want in our prideful ways.

      That is what freewill is and if you don’t like it and need restraints put on your behavior, you can use your belt yourself.

      January 30, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Nonimus

      @CatholicMom,
      Perhaps I was unclear, you made the analogy that we are the child and God is the parent. Why would God want the naive worship of children, if He could instead have the friendship of an equal?

      Now you are making the analogy that He is the friend, the best friend... Okay, so He can be anything and fulfill any role to perfection. That seems more of a convenient fantasy than the description of a real being, and one that cannot be debated because there is no evidence, no reference to determine whose perspective is accurate.

      You also say that "we shun" Him and "He doesn't carry the belt," we do, and yet if we don't follow His rules we will end up in eternal torment and a lake of fire. In what way am I holding the belt? I get to chose to follow His rules or not. That's like saying, 'it's your choice, give me your money or I kill you.' 'Give me your heart and soul, or you will burn in Hell.'
      Who has the belt, really?

      January 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  9. Russ

    yay.. more religious fanatical talk.. yay... (sarcasm)..

    January 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  10. Steven

    There is not a single pastor who knows scripture less than Jole Osteen. He kept saying that it "goes back to what the scriptures say". Well then quote some freakin scripture! How does this man have 7 million viewers on Sunday? Wake up America, how are you so dumb? The prosperity gospel is NOT the gospel. I don't care what Osteen claims, thats what he preaches. Yes Jesus came to give us life & life more abundantly. Who says life more abundantly means lots of money!? The world does. Congratulations Mr. Osteen, You are in the world AND of the world. you are not set apart. Again, wake up America.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  11. Fuyuko

    I've listened to him speak and he is charismatic. He even has good things to say on certain topics. However, I lean more towards the Deist Viewpoint and believe God gave us reason for a reason- to use our minds and brains to solve problems and not dogmatically follow the words of ancient scholars. If God views something as sinful. He has ample ways to tell his followers this.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  12. Linda in Los Angeles

    Mr Osteen is fleecing his flock spiritually (if not financially) by speaking another gospel – not the full gospel of Christ. He convinces the weak to give his church money in exchange for the "feel goods" they are supposed to be receiving. This is an abomination and perversion of Christ's message. The people who fall for it are just as responsible for not relating to God daily on a personal level, but instead, looking towards a man once or twice a week for their "religious" fix. I also believe Mr Osteen is fleecing the flock financially but putting out and charging for books that also carry a perverse message of Christ. And more to the point, Mr Osteen's version of the gospel is selfish and narcissic, focusing on man and what he can or should be getting from God. Whereas, the true gospel is about Christ, about revealing Christ and the heart of Father God. About totally submitting to God for God's purpose for mankind – which is to rid the world of all evil and bring mankind back into God's loving arms.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Jack

      You've got it all figured out. You are a scary person. Maybe you are a god?

      January 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  13. H Meyer

    ...now, where did I leave my air sickness bag?.....

    January 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  14. Alex

    Frankly, I'm impressed that he took such a moderated and thoughtful approach. He acknowledged that the Bible says more than one thing and refused to stand in judgment over others. I admit, though: it's gotta still sting to hear that folks think of you as a sinner for something that you seemingly cannot undo.

    Regardless, I give him points for trying to balance that out with the broader message of the text. I can think of a certain Baptist church in Kansas that could do with some of that.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  15. Truthwillsetyoufree

    This guy is the only television evangelist that seems to have in true thoughts, no condeming. He helps people understand how to figure things out kindly. I'm not a religious person but this guys is truely worth listening to if you are inclined to religious teaching.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  16. Former pastor (NEVER again to be)

    Fleecing sheep, taking advantage of poor ingnorant people? are you serious?? his church has some of the most wealthy, professional, intelligent people in his community. Get a grip, since when are all church goers needy and poor?

    January 26, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  17. Michael

    When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.
    (Richard Dawkins)

    January 26, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  18. $.$

    Taxing the churches should definitely be on the table. They don't use all their proceeds for charity anyway

    January 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • LUG1

      And you know this about every church in America how?? Assumptions!

      January 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  19. Vlajos

    I can't say whether or not there is a god, but I can say the god of the bible is nonsense.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • chris

      research the history of Isreal, then read Ezekiel chapter 36 and tell me how a nation can dissolve for over 2,000 years, but then reform as scripture prophecied with the same language, customs, and God.... This happened in the early 1940s. No other culture had ever reformed like that, especially after 2,000 years, and maintained every cultural characteristic that it previously had. Exekiel 36 and 37 prophecy this event.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Chris,
      research self-fulfilling prophecy

      January 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • chris

      Strange how all these prophecies in the bible are fulfilling themselves then.... must be a coincidence....

      January 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Nono

      Chris- You make me laugh and cry at the same time. Keep believing in your invisible people in the sky. Logic and reason does not work with you.

      January 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Bob Dobbs

      @ Chris:
      How can a nation be rebuilt?Particularly Israel???
      Men wishing to fulfill the "prophecy" made it happen. Nations controlling land by proxy decided to force people out of their homes and business in order to make a prophecy fulfilled. It was not "god" who re-created Israel it was man. Now don't go off on a tangent saying it was gods hand controlling those people. Your "jealous" vindictive god will be rearing his ugly head if you choose to go off on that tangent. I am not a big conspiracy theory guy, but take a loook at the people blindly backing Israel and tell me why? All claiming to want to give back land that was rightly theirs... well, then why not give back the Americas to the Native Americans? double speak.... Propping up Israel is convenient to big business, military strength and ALSO furthering the agenda of people wishing to see the "end days" prophecy fulfilled. Which I am sure you know will only happen once the Temple of Solomon is rebuilt. One more thought... what is burred underneath the Temple of Solomon? Namaste

      January 27, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  20. SueT

    I watch Joel Osteen almost every Sunday morning. I thoroughly enjoy his messages and come away with something I understand, can remember, and live with the entire week. His messages are relavent to today's life and that's important to me. I will continue to watch and listen to him, read his books, and not be concerned with his bank account.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:08 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.