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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. HeavenSent

    Obadiah, great post.

    Amen.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  2. Mary Ann in VA

    So, if a kind, gay person was the Sameritan in the bible and the straight person was the robber, Pastor Osteen would take his chances with the robber. Wow!

    January 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • ruremorgue

      Yup, you got it right.

      January 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Shane

      You are foolish.

      January 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Believer

      What a very foolish thing to say. Being gay and being a robber are both sins. I don't get your point in saying what you did.

      January 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Believer,
      Being a gay person is not a sin. Being a robber is a sin. You see, being people is not a sin….what you do, what action you take, can be a sin or not.

      January 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  3. James

    The eye of the needle back 2000 years ago was an alternate door to the city that was in place for security. Everyone including camels had to get on their knees to go through. That line in Matthew is not about selling all of your stuff, it is about being humble in spite of your success and getting on your knees. Jesus was dealing with his pride by telling him he would never get on his knees to enter a city and that is what he would have to do to worship God.

    Convenient Scripture to use out of context though.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  4. victor c.

    Folks the lord is testing your soul do you ENVY the wealthy? Do you have PRIDE that you are wealthy?. Did you aquire your wealth via GREED? Do you wish something bad happens to Joel because he appears to be prideful which is VENGENCE. Do you really think that you are going to get to the next level with these diseases.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  5. Shine

    Do any of you people have anything better to do? I was trying to find an article to comment on for college, but somehow ended up reading half of this craziness. Take all of this energy and do something else with it.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  6. Todd

    Why is it when someone is really blessed financially, he is in the wrong? I do believe there is a point of excess that we should give to those in need. But Joel Osteen is someone who truly does act generously. He isn't arrogant about what he has, but he is not ashamed of it either. As long as he knows God owns everything and he just gets to manage it, I dont have a problem with his wealth. If he had a great amount of wealth and just horded it alll, then I would have a problem with him. However, that is not him, so why are people so quick to think because he is a rich minister, he is a bad guy.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • paulm5545

      Hi Todd – I don't have a problem with his wealth. I envy him, but wish him all the best. What I have a problem with is when he starts telling people he is wealthy because he is blessed by God. If you are wealthy because God blessed you, what does that mean for the rest of us? God must be pretty upset with most of us. If I was born into wealth, then God blessed me. If I was born into poverty, then God is not happy with me? What could I have done to upset him so...I was just born?"

      January 27, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  7. HeavenSent

    Why would anyone complain that churches are tax exempt? They teach their congregation (aka community) Jesus' spiritual wisdom. How to be the best that He wants us to be for ourselves and others that come in contact with our lives. Why it is better to live righteously (the teachings of Jesus). Make righteous decisions rather than the opposite of unrighteous decisions. Righteous, meaning doing (actions) what is good for you and all involved versus unrighteous, doing (actions) what is good for the individual only and caring less about the consequences that befall anyone/everyone surrounding you at the time you do an unrighteous deed.

    Churches continue to raise the spiritual awareness of the community (congregation) in Jesus' spiritual teachings to continue your growth in learning His wisdom throughout your life.

    Amen.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • ruremorgue

      Westboro Baptist Church.

      January 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • LJ

      Catholic churches covering up all their lies while abusing children.

      January 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      "LJ Catholic churches covering up all their lies while abusing children."

      Are you blaming all Christians for what these mortal men did while blinded by their sin of LUST? I'm concerned, as you are that these monsters be prosecuted for acting out carnally against another while denying the teachings of Jesus. Are you aware that predators come in all walks of life? Or do you believe it's just Catholics? Do you believe sin blinds a person?

      January 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • LJ

      What is amazing is that people continue to support a church that continues to be exposed for its elaborate cover up. It just shows how Christians trust so many when they view it through their spiritual beliefs. Billions of dollars has been stolen in religion-related fraud in recent years, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association, a group of state officials who work to protect investors. That is why it pays to be cautious and question the intent of the person proclaiming to be so religious and righteous. If Christians really want to prove themselves they would use their money to feed and cloth the homeless in their communities. They would look around at their neighbors especially the elderly to see if they need help. They would go to their local Dept. of Human services an adopt the children that need loving homes. That would have a far greater impact on the well being of our society then sending your money to this pathetic preacher. You can claim to be Christians but it's amazing how many are so selfish and lazy to actually take action in their own communities. The proof is in the orphanages, the homeless in your streets and the elderly living in homes crumbling around them. I know first hand because I am out there doing these things and the amount of volunteers we get is pitiful.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • CatholicMom

      HeavenSent,
      I cannot think of one unrighteous action that is good for an individual only….as you suggested there is such a ‘deed’……

      January 30, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  8. Mike Pennesi

    Eric, Thank you for a great, detailed article. Now I can skip the interview and watch Hannity tonight on FOX NEWS as usual.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  9. Agathe

    Selling God and religion is a booming and lucrative business that does not require intelligence or hard work. All you need is the ability to persuade people to listen to you and give you money in the name of God Almighty. I wish that God bless me with that talent so I don't have to work so hard.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  10. Leigh

    What I don't understand is why people are so happy to give their money to 'earn' to be, say and live what they know in their heart they should already doing. This cheese ball is like a ray of sunshine flanked by rainbows and puppies. He's grinning all the way to the bank while people are giving their hard earned money to find out what they already know. It's whether or not you choose to walk in the light that makes the difference.......not by following or 'buying' into this tool.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  11. Susy

    People have no business holding themselves above others. Who are they to preach morality to anyone? They had better look after their own and keep their own house in order. They are headed for a fall, no doubt.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
  12. HeavenSent

    Matt, Jesus teaches us His wisdom pertaining to wealth. What wealth are you referring to? Wealth in your love for family,friends and community? Wealth in health? Wealth in wisdom? Wealth in ability? Wealth in happiness? Wealth in positive outlook of life? Wealth of your imagination? etc. etc. etc.

    Amen.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Charles

    Sorry, I have a hard time trusting a guy who looks and acts like a used car salesman. Watched his show for about 10 seconds and almost lost my breakfast over the incredibly fake facial expressions.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  14. captnavenger

    Why must we put up with days and days of these phonies? Please move onto someone less plastic.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  15. tom

    Didn't his wife have some run in with a flight attendant in First Class a while back? She was demanding special treatment. So much for humility! Guess money will do that to you.....

    January 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  16. paulm5545

    I've got no problem with him earning millions. What I have a problem with is being tax exempt. He is an extremely successful businessman, nothing more. I have a problem with him as a prosperity teacher even thought he doesn't think he is. I have a problem with him thinking he is rich because, for some reason, God has chosen him and blessed him. By that reasoning and my current financial status, I must be damned and God is really upset with me. He is not blessed. He is an inspirational speaker – he is a rock star – getting people to feel good about themselves by sending him money. Send him your money, buy his books and God will bless you too. He lives in a mansion? God blessed him. He had his teeth fixed with money you sent him? God blessed him. Drives a nice car? God blessed him. Nice clothes? All of it is OK, because God blessed him, so don't question him, because now you insult God. Depending on your point of view, it is pure madness, or pure genius. Either way, it has nothing to do with the teachings of God. By the way, if you want to really be blessed and I mean REALLY be blessed, send me your seed money and I will place my hand on my heart and pray for you. You WILL be healed...for a seed gift of say, oh I don't know, $50.00. But wait, send me your seed money within the next 15 minutes and my beautiful wife will pray with me! God cannot resist two people praying for you! Amen!

    January 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  17. Obadiah

    I enjoy reading the comments posted whenever an article on faith or religion is written. As a follower of Christ my faith is strengthened with every word of doubt cast by unbelievers. Writings from famous and not so famous authors are pasted into the comment boxes, science and evolution is argued and debated. And with every negative comment, the Word is fulfilled, 'see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.' When I see the scriptures fulfilled as such, the Words written in them have life. Eternal life. So I personally thank all non-believers. Keep your comments coming. For the Word must be fulfilled. You don't even know it but you are truly a blessing me. Peace

    January 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • LJ

      Yeah, the Westborough Baptist Church is such a great example of it and the issues with the Catholic church. They mask themselves as understanding Christ’s teachings when in reality they are stuck in deceptive philosophy. It's amazing that those that think they are so righteous in Christ are in reality deceive by their own egos.

      January 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  18. lady8

    It's like blaming a doctor for his wealth out of sick people. God blessed Job with so much wealth (and double that wealth). why can't he do the same with a preacher?

    January 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  19. Boo

    This guy is rich from handouts. Nothing but a beggar on a large scale. Seriously he looks gay and he talks like a gay man too. Not that there's anything wrong with being gay but I'm saying he's bashing gay when he's gay.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  20. HeavenSent

    What is it with you moderators monitoring everything I write?

    January 26, 2011 at 4:32 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.