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. Sao

    I smell a spirit of manipulation driven by bitterness. Jesus said I come to give life and life abundantly. Confess and you too will be blessed.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Biff

      And you thought by blessed he meant monetarily? Even though love of money is the root of all evil?

      January 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm |

    The "Reply" function has sprung again, as usual.... nearly futile to try and have any conversation here.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  3. Steve

    My oh my...God's children certainly have a lot to say! Judge and be judged! Take care of your own house and let God handle the rest.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  4. stevie68a

    He makes proclamations against Gay people, and doesn't pay taxes. Gay people pay taxes. Sorry, but this greasy phony
    doesn't fool me. Churches were made tax exempt because they help the poor, and need all the help they can get. Not so
    slimy people like olsteen could get rich.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  5. JustPlainJoe

    Amazing how "Pastors", "Priests", "shamans" always find ways to justify their wealth. Ultimately, the details change but it is always those who know the "special" secrets who bilk the masses of their gold.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  6. Maybe to @Deb


    See my post to you above at: January 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    January 26, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  7. victor crocco

    It just seems to me that to judge people and proclaim self righteousness is not what Jesus is about. Mr. Osteem said that one time the lord stopped the rain for him and his wife. How come the lord did not stop the bullet for the seven year old in Arizona. draw your own conclusions people for I know it is not my duty to judge Mr Osteem. I pray everyday for Jesus to give me the strength not to be judgemental and to give me the strengh to overcome the seven deadly sins which are diseases of the soul.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • LUG1

      tell me what passage in the Bible lines out the 7 deadly sins? There isn't one that is man made. All sin is black and white. Good and evil. No gray, no ok, no half bad. I am a Christian and I am not a fan of Joel Osteen. But people are turning and jumping on him because he responded to a question he was asked. Not about something he got on a stump to proclaim with no provocation. And as far as stopping the rain maybe that was his way of giving God the glory. As far as the little girl getting shot, its sad but God does have a plan, and bad things happen to good people in his plan sometimes. I don't understand it. But I do pray for her parents to be comforted by God.

      January 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  8. Danny

    Of all the preachers I have ever heard on tv Mr Osteen gives the most uplifting and positive messages to everyone. IT is not a preachers job to judge anyone. That is the creators job. Too often we decide something is wrong and put all manner of guilt on people until they are broken or worse take their own lives. I am not trying to condone gays but we all need to look in the mirror first before we point fingers because we all do things (no matter how large or small) that by the letter of the bible law would be sins. Life is sometimes very hard for people and especially if they take a different path than the majority. People can be very cruel and abusive if they don't see things the same way and in our darker times they even burned people at the stake. If the creator made us all exactly alike to believe the exact same thing then he would have only needed to make one man. We need to remember that as we judge each other. Remember the saying "judge not lest ye be judged". There is meaning to that we should think about. I do not follow the same religion but I commend Mr Olsteen for his positive and uplifting messages of hope, renewal, and abundance that are god given rights of all people. That is more important than telling them there is no hope for them if they do not believe as you do.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  9. miked

    who cares hes still creepy.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  10. PK

    As a pastor's daughter I can tell you that the great majority of pastors in this country earn their money the same as everyone else. In addition to preparation for Sunday and midweek services, they visit the sick in hospitals and nursing homes, comfort the grieving, provide free counseling, visit people in prison and jails, plan and conduct funerals, marry people, balance budgets and manage a staff of mostly volunteers. This is just a small piece of the weekly tasks of a normal pastor. Only 1/2 of 1% of all pastors are paid the terrific wages that many of you are fixated on. The other 99.5% of the pastors earn average to way below average salaries for a job that requires being on call 24/7. If pastors did their jobs for money, most of them would quit. They are called to be pastors despite the challenges.

    Quit focusing on others and get on with your lives.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • chris

      good post, I really appreciate my pastor

      January 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Pastor's Wife

      you go, girl!

      January 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  11. Susan

    hush, hush, he'll be back again someday, hush, hush.. you won't want to look away...... he/she who has not sined may throw the first stone...... called judgement.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  12. Stephen Not the Saint

    bottom line: Osteen is a businessman and his business is selling God. That's called religion. The Mormons own Prudential Insurance; Catholics own wineries and tobacco companies; Osteen probably has investments in oil and diamonds. They all make a buck off it. That's what Jesus wants them to do. Make some money while they lead the sheep around. Charging admission is a bit over the top though. If I have to pay, I'd rather see Tool. At least it's real.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  13. STLBroker

    Piers suit looks pretty nice too. Is Osteen supposed to go on a TV show wearing rags? The Roman guards fought over Jesus's garment so apparently he had some pretty nice threads too.

    Pretty ridiculous and sad if people think that having wealth means you aren't a good Christian. God doesn't care if we have a lot of money. He cares if we make it more important than Him.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  14. Brian

    My name is Jimmy Swaggart and I can't show my teeth like Osteen does but I just want to say I am doing the Lord's work so send me all your money. The Lord can't wait for a check so give me your credit card number. I need that money to do my work of saving ladies of the evening in the red light district. Praise the Lord !

    January 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  15. steve houston

    Listening to one of his sermons is like rubbing salt on an open wound. It's the same-ol "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade" speech over and over and over again. And his zombie-like followers eat it up like hot cakes. I mean, they literally stand in lock step with Osteen saying "This is my Bible, I am what it says I am..." like a bunch of robots. I'll pass.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  16. PSAztec

    Nobody has complained that President Obama made $5.5 million in 2009 by selling books. He gave 6% of that to charity. Joe Biden gave $4820 to charity and he earned $333,182. George W. Bush regulary gave over 10% to charity as stated on his tax returns. Continued proof that liberals like to complain about the right but they refuse to open their wallets to charities.

    Further evidence: According to their tax returns [notes Coulter], in 2006 and 2007, the Obamas gave 5.8 percent and 6.1 percent of their income to charity. I guess Michelle Obama has to draw the line someplace with all this ‘giving back' stuff. The Bidens gave 0.15 percent and 0.31 percent of the income to charity.

    Meanwhile, in 1991, 1992 and 1993, George W. Bush had incomes of $179,591, $212,313 and $610,772. His charitable contributions those years were $28,236, $31,914 and $31,292. During his presidency, Bush gave away more than 10 percent of his income each year.

    For purposes of comparison, in 2005, Barack Obama made $1.7 million – more than twice President Bush's 2005 income of $735,180 – but they both gave about the same amount to charity.

    That same year, the heartless Halliburton employee Vice President Dick Cheney gave 77 percent of his income to charity. The following year, in 2006, Bush gave more to charity than Obama on an income one-third smaller than Obama's.


    So tell me, why are people liberals harping on Joel Osteen's giving? The leader of liberals barely gives and his side kick really does not give.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Alan

      Do not even think about putting Chaney in with those others. 70% of what his VP salary?. Rumor has it he owns 50 million worth of Halliburton stock. They put him on board of directors right after the War. Guess he knew a lot about the oil Business in the Middle East. But Republicans are right , a man works hard he can accomplish anything. What if a man gets rich on the misery of others. LIke the oil industry right now. Cant hide record profits especially to our shareholders.

      January 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • LUG1

      Rumor has it??? If you are going to make assumptions why comment. I am guessing he owns a good bit of Halliburton, but I don't know. And if he does have that much in assets that doesn't translate into income.

      January 26, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  17. GianCarlo

    It all comes down to using the name of Jesus Christ to make millions. That is why this country has the wealthiest preachers in the world. It's all about money. And to the stupid people that follow these crooks all I can say is, stupid are stupid be.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  18. gene

    Who cares what this ridiculous little wiener says. Just a little, little man puffing up his chest and sitting in jusgement.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Heidi

    Why does the Osteen's website end with a .com instead of a .org?

    January 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  20. Joe

    Fundamentalist: Environmentalism is a religion!
    Environmentalist: No it's not.
    Fundamentalist: Oh yeah? You WORSHIP the Earth!
    Environmentalist: Whatever... at least the Earth is real.

    January 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • LUG1

      So JOE, Jesus wasn't real?

      January 26, 2011 at 5:22 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.