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. Jo

    I could go and on, and list the many arguments and reasons, but bottom line, the guy's an idiot.

    January 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • jo in AZ

      Nice, name calling and all, percentage wise, how much do you give of your income, also what tax bracket are you in? There is a theological concept that those who have worked hard and have been wise are blessed by God, abundantly. Jesus stated that the thief came to steal, kill and destroy, but that He came that you may have life and that more abundantly. In Proverbs it states that a wise man will give an inheritance to his children's children. All the way through the bible it was greed, or love of money and obtaining money illegally that "missed the mark" and cause hurt and evil in the world, but when wise, godly people obtained money ligitimately then it was a force for good in the world and fostered the concept that God was good and blessed those who blessed others.

      January 26, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  2. Rob

    Everyone should try to sin every day, otherwise, Jesus died for nothing

    January 26, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  3. SoSad

    OK, send $5.00 for a prayer cloth, send money so that we can do Gods work on TV. Its your choice to donate to this man or not! He's RICH because he gets YOU to send him money to keep his ministry going. Same old story, different preacher. Remember he has a personal contact with GOD, they all do.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  4. Landon Wasem

    People keep quoting- So hard is it for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Jesus didn't say that because rich people are bad but rather they chose to be blind. They fear losing money or what they have and then worry about it and do anything to prevent it from happening. Im sure Joel can handle his wealth and understands he would be just as happy if he lost it all tomorrow. When have any of you donated millions?

    January 26, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  5. Rich

    What part of the bible states that Jesus was the wealthiest preacher in town? Why are televangelist always claiming to be average but still are the best dressed and live in the best neighborhoods? Isn't greed one of the 7 deadly sins? Practice what you preach, give till it hurts and then give some more. Preach to everyone equally.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  6. Truth2BKnown

    Doing good for your neighbour, does not require money or thank you: just that good feeling one gets inside.. It does not matter what religion one follows...Just doing the right thing in the moment.
    But, putting money as the most important issues, and using others for self interest: is the farthest thing of being a good person (or ones religious God-Like); purpose. And, as we have learn, hopefully, as past and current history has proven: religion from all walks of life, has it horrid culture. False prophets only divide and profit, from their teachings. Sheep that jump off the mountain, to follow their false prophets.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  7. Pam

    Everything he said was scriptural. He will take a lot of heat from the public, but God will bless him for his honesty.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  8. Thomas

    He's cute, too bad he thinks its a sin...

    January 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  9. Cheese man

    Osteen is an idiot.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  10. ShellyinTexas

    There is nothing wrong with being rich. It's the love of money that is a sin. I doubt even one single person who has commented here personally knows Joel Osteen. Don't judge lest YOU be judged! If Joel were swindling folks out of their money that would be different, but he isn't. His church is a megachurch so there is more money. But it takes a great deal of money to operate a megachurch. God never said a rich man could not enter heaven, but Jesus made it clear that it's more difficult because rich people tend to love money more than they love God. I don't know Joel, but I seriously doubt he loves money more than he loves God. Worry about your own soul, folks, and quit judging Joel.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Believer

      You are correct Shelly. I'm not saying I love Joel and everything he does is correct but I do think he doesn't 'love' the money more than God. In the Bible, it doesn't say man cannot have money to love and be with God. It is the love of money that clouds our vision of God. That is why God warns us. Well put.

      January 26, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  11. Pete

    The moderator must be at lunch.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  12. Terri

    Joel Olesteen writes books, he makes DVD's. etc. People buy those items. How is Mr. Olesteen any different than any author, self help guru, etc? They have a skill , people are willing to pay for that skill, and he makes money. The fact that he loves God and espouses God's will for others does not mean he should do this for free.

    To whom much is given, much will be required. It does not say, ALL will be required. I appreciate the message and the support. No complaints.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  13. Pratt

    Good for him.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  14. rfmtennis

    What Would Jesus Do?

    January 26, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  15. Truth2BKnown

    People the likes of these and others, are just the worst kind of 'FALSE PROPHETS!'
    Pity the pitiful, who believe and follow them.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • ShellyinTexas

      Can you give specific examples of how Joel Osteen is a "false prophet"?

      January 26, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  16. doug

    Thank God for American, where a guy who is either ignorant or hypocritical or both can become a multi-millionaire

    January 26, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  17. doug

    Thank God for America, where a guy who is ignorant or hypocritical or both, can become a multi-millionaire.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Justin

      It's the Land of opportunity. Equal Opportunity. Unfortunately, that includes idiots, degenerates, hypocrites, swindlers, and the like. It's a part of life.

      January 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  18. Bob

    How many times does the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker show have to replay before people
    catch on? These people are just another couple of scam artists, maybe a little slicker, but the same ole same ole!

    January 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bob, I'm a Christian who only reads the Bible and it was a gift.

      January 26, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  19. Jim

    As to the Wealth amassed by the "Church- Jesus said" WOE UNTO YOU WHO ARE RICH- YOU HAVE RECEIVED YOUR REWARD" I know a Man who is a Poor Viet Nam Vet That will enter into the gates of Heaven before many "Pastors" " Teachers" " Popes" & Church People Who forgot Jesus words" As You Have done or not done unto the LEAST of these- You did or did not unto me".

    January 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  20. NWGirl2

    Ostseen is correct...the derivation of sin is to "miss the mark." HOWEVER, you cannot convince me that my friends who are gay or lesbian are somehow "missing the mark." They are some of the most selfless and caring individuals I know. The "missing the mark" would be not accepting these souls for the loving presences they are.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • deb

      Although missing the mark actually meant about believing in the God of the Bible and all of it's precepts, including Jesus. For all of the wonderful things any of us are capable of doing, it is not in the same context of what Olsteen was referring to. There are incredibly wonderful people around us, not all Christians. They are still fantastic for sure. Just missing the mark on some of their life choices regarding Christian beliefs. It may be hard to understand. Hopefully not.

      January 26, 2011 at 8:04 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.