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. Jacob M

    Good Job Pastor Joel! Wear your Blessing well!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  2. LJ

    It only shows that religion is a huge money making industry, put the fear of God in them and they'll give you lots of money. This guy is not a true Christian because if he was he would be promoting the Bible and not his books or church!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  3. Wondering

    I'm not sure why people believe that God is used as a crutch for "weak minded" people...isn't even more unbelievable that the world we live in, the people we live with and around just appeared one day? Or that a huge explosion happened and poof life as we know it arrived? Or that humans evolved from Apes? How is that easier to comprehend then believing in a loving God who created the universe?
    Yes, God has rules...so does every city and state...you don't follow the laws of the land you go to jail or you are fined. What kind of chaos would this world be in if there weren't rules to guide us and keep us from being barbarians? Why is it more hard to accept God's rules? I agree...we are not the judge, God is the ultimate judge.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Nonimus

      "isn't even more unbelievable that the world we live in... just appeared one day? Or that ... poof life as we know it arrived?"
      Isn't that as description of how God did it?
      "Or that humans evolved from Apes?"
      No one is saying we evolved from Apes, just that Apes and man have a common ancestor. And the evidence supports that conclusion.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Wondering

      Genesis 1

      1IN THE beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. (amplified Bible)

      January 26, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Wondering

      27 So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Do you consider that evidence?

      What exactly does "amplified" mean?

      January 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Maybe

      "At first there was only Nun, the primal ocean of chaos that contained the beginnings of everything to come. From these waters came Ra who, by himself, gave birth to Shu and Tefnut. Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture gave birth to Geb and Nut, the earth god and the sky goddess. And so the physical universe was created. Men were created from Ra's tears. They proved to be ungrateful so Ra, and a council of gods, decided they should be destroyed. Re created Sekhmet to do the job. She was very efficient and slaughtered all but a few humans, when Ra relented and tricked her into stopping. Thus was the present world created."

      There is as much proof for this scenario as there is for the Bible's.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Wondering

      As matter of fact I do...
      The Amplified Bible is a version of the Bible like the King James version etc. It attempts to take both word meaning and context into account in order to accurately translate the original text from one language into another it does this through the use of explanatory alternate readings and amplifications to assist the reader in understanding what Scripture really says.

      If you like to read I suggest reading Lee Strobel's "A Case for Christ" I think you'll be amazed!

      January 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • One True God

      @ Maybe
      First thing wrong with your theory of how the world was created is you chose the user name Maybe...

      January 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "to assist the reader in understanding what Scripture really says."
      Why do we need help understanding what [the inspired word of God] "really" says? And, who says that the "amplified" version is "really" what was meant? Doesn't the Bible say somewhere something like 'don't change a word in this book' or you will burn in hell?
      Which version is more accurate, "God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth" or "God created the heavens and the earth?" (Because the first one would take at least a day and half, not just a day.) And why didn't the Bible just say "God prepared, formed, fashioned, and created the heavens and the earth?"
      Hmmm, too many questions for me... how do you sort it all out? If God helps you sort it out, why doesn't he help everyone, or just state it clearly in the first place in the Bible?

      January 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "As matter of fact I do... [consider it evidence]"
      Under what standard? legally it would be hearsay at best. Scientifically it would be anecdotal at best. Neither would be sufficient for any valid conclusion.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Wondering

      Your post are just trying to keep arguing and that's just a waste of time, I know I'll never change your mind and vice versa so...this is my last post. If you understood the Bible's origin then you would know that the Bible was not written in English...enough said. But I do hope one day that you and many others will see past all of the hype tv preachers and the like put out there and really search for yourselves the person of Christ.

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

      Sorry i gave you that impression. I'm not arguing just to argue, although I guess it could look that way. What I'm trying to do is point out logical inconsistencies in the statements people make. And clarify some misunderstanding about science.
      When you (figurative you) say it makes more sense to believe one thing than it does to believe something else, but both have essentially the same description, it doesn't make sense to me.
      When you say evolution is wrong, without any evidence, that doesn't make any sense to me.
      When you say the Bible is evidence, that doesn't make any sense to me.

      Ultimately, I think it boils down to faith, one believes or not. And, I'm fine with that, but don't try to make a faith-based decision sound like a rational decision. And don't get upset when people question what is your decision based on faith not evidence. You can't convince someone else based on your own faith, that takes evidence.

      Thanks for posting.
      Peace to you and yours.

      January 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Learn the Facts


      Wow, you make statements like that, but you obviously only understand as much about those things as most common Americans. First off, there never was a big explosion. It is called the Big Bang, but its it NOT an explosion. It was the stretching of the galaxy. Also, it does not explain how everything began, merely what happened the second after everything began. The Big Bang Theory does not explain and never has explained how everything began. Everyone gets confused and believes that it does. There is not a single scientist in the world who claims to know how everything began, as no one knows. People just dont understand what the Big Bang theory represents. Again, its not how things began, but what happened after they began.

      Second, man did not come from apes. Man and Apes share a common ancestor some 65 million years ago. At some point, man and apes branched off into what they are. This is strongly supported by hundreds of fossils.

      So, yes. It is easier to comprehend those things as they both have actual evidence behind them and not just a book.

      January 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  4. Karloff

    Just wait–sooner or later something in Osteen's closet is going to be brought to light and we'll see him for the shyster and con artist he really is.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  5. Puzzled in Peoria

    Joel Osteen once preached seven "messages" in a row without mentioning Jesus Christ. This is a Christian?

    Yes, he gives an invitation at the end of each sermon, but it occupies less time than his joke at the beginning of each message. He is so worried about offending people that he never uses the word sin nor does he preach the gospel. He may be popular, but that is no indication of truth. The truth is usually unpopular.

    All across the country, thousands of pastors toil away in obscurity, faithfully preaching the gospel each week. Joel Osteen represents Christianity like People Magazine represents great literature.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Greg B.

      But does he preach untruths? A lot can be said about preaching a message that will reach people where they are at. About 3 years ago, I finally starting going back to church. Not that I wanted to, but I was given an ultimatum. I can tell you if I heard the hellfire and damnation message I had heard so many times growing up, I wouldn't have ever gone back. We are to be fishers of men, and I'll tell you what, telling someone they are going to hell doesn't catch s*it.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  6. American Express

    Screw the bible!! I'm excited for Jersey Shore tomorrow night!!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Bobbie

      Yet another person that is uninformed in the difference between the Old and New Testaments. Maybe you should actually read the Bible and you won't look so ignorant.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • JennyLou

      Clearly. Everyone knows Jersey Shore appears in the OT and therefore can be ignored.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Eugene

      screw the Bible" that is just what the Devil wants every Body to do" but thank God there are a lot of more Educated people"' i just wish people would come out (Christan) people would come out and tell the world that Hell is very Real" and most people go there Dear God in Heaven as i type this' let someone feel your Spirt' that you are Real the Bible is real and Hell is very very Real ' that is why we are having all the bad things happening because of Sin Man and Woman to have Baby's and live with Fear of the Very Powerfull God"' when is God's Birthday"'>>>>>>When you Fear God" that is respect" if you did not go school" So Many People are going to Hell"' they said no to God' let me do it my way" and that Put's a ton of Soul's in Hell

      January 27, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  7. Opinion talk

    God bless everyone! I still like Joel Osteen! He's a great preacher. And true- if you don't like him or what he preaches about then why are you listening? Change the channel! 🙂

    January 26, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Colin

      That's a fiar point. And I assume the same applies to you evangelicals. You will leave the gay community alone, stop publicly deriding them and stop passing laws to prevent them having their full civil rights?

      January 26, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Maybe

      Opinion talk,

      True about just not listening to him; but I think what many posters are doing is trying to alert vulnerable, gullible people, who get swept away by emotion, against sending him (and those like him) any money.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Eugene

      i never watch the show opinon talk" never i just saw in the new's' he is lost in his own self"' opinon talk never watch him' he is misleading ton's of Soul's

      January 27, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  8. RE: Abomination!

    Oh, and I forgot the terrible "sin" of eating shellfish.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  9. Colin

    Whenever I hear about a bright, cagey millionaire evangelical minister extracting thousands of dollars every week from his gullible congregation, I think about how easy it is to get money out of people, especially the religious, by telling them exactly what they want to hear.

    I guess the old saying is true, "The first priest was the first fraud to meet the first fool."

    January 26, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  10. ONEstarMAN

    I WONDER if he thinks a Man should impregnate his dead Brother's Wife – like it says to do in the Bible. Maybe he just thinks women (never men it seems) should be stoned to death for being caught in adultery. Lots of talk about slaves in the bible – maybe he thinks we are sinners because we don't think people should own people anymore.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  11. Meteorite

    I wish I could quote works of fiction and give speeches about an imaginary tooth fairy, and make a fortune doing it.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  12. Sndp

    If someone needs a direction or guidance to live their life (for folks who can't make a decision on what's right), guys like Joel Osteen do provide a decent direction. Sure he's wealthy, that's because he's smart. Good for him. He preaches the Bible because he's Christian. I am not a Christian but I believe in a God (a higher power). The thing to remember is no human (including Joel Osteen) knows everything – the smart ones know more than the average ones and it's worth taking pointers. But the final decision has to be your own, in all aspects of life.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  13. jeffRI

    as a former minister that didn't make a dime I can assure all of you that Mr Osteen has only one agenda – to make more money and pull in more church members – it has never been about sin – it's always about YOUR money, not your salvation – – and no it doesn't buy you anything at all – NOT one thing – get a clue you really don't need a church or foolish dogma to live a good life ! Anyone that convinces you that you DO – is using you – plain and simple!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • DDo

      baloney...not that more money and larger membership are bad things. obviously your experience has led you in directions that have had their priorities out of balance. that's unfortunate. maybe your priorities are out of balance as well. christianity is not about living a good life so that you can earn your salvation, for as we can do absolutely nothing...it's about living a good life to honor your savior and claim him as lord as a witness to others. greed is everywhere, why do you think the church is immune?

      January 26, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  14. Matt

    Osteen: "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"

    Yeah, there's a "spirit" that said that alright – try checking Matthew 6:19-22 or Luke 12:33-34. You might have even heard of the "spirit" before, Joel – it's called JESUS!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  15. AreWeThereYet

    Of all the media-based preachers, I find Mr. Osteen to be the most rational and realistic. I am not glued to his program evey time it airs, nor do I watch or attend a lot of religious services. However, I have seen a few minutes of his showw from time to time, and I like how he speaks in realistic, every day terms and doesn't claim Jesus told him to collect 1 million dollars or any far out nonsense like that. Those of you bashing him – have you ever seen his show? If not, shut up. I have seen enough to know that I like his delivery style, and I have NEVER heard him ask for donations. He has a positive message, and doesn't sit in judgement like so many others do. He deserves respect, in that he MADE his money, he doesn't take it from the church, and he helps people feel better about their lives and themselves. Give him a break – if you can't make a difference like he does, do the world a favor and pipe down. Theres already too many people spouting hate and negativity in the world.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • jeffRI

      seen the show – it's a disgusting pack of lies designed to pull in your money and nothing else

      January 26, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • johnrj08

      PT Barnum was right.

      And Mr. Osteen knows it.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Pamela

      Finally a person who has ACTUALLY watched the show with an objective ear. There is a reason that millions of people watch Joel Osteen every week. I am one of them. I do not consider myself a religious person, however, I am very spiritual. I am not a crackpot – I am college-educated and work in a senior managerial position. Osteen's message is of hope and redemption. I went to see him at Dodger Stadium a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed his message. So what if he makes people feel good and hopeful about their futures if they give their lives to the Lord. If you don't like him, turn off the t.v.

      January 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  16. johnrj08

    This man is a practiced, meticulously manicured con artist. On top of that, he is a judgmental narcissist who had made himself wealthy by shaping other people's morals. His success at building his cult is no reason to give her air-time on an international television network.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • tstockt

      snake oil salesman extraordinaire

      January 26, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  17. Barry Black

    He and his wife are just another duo of deception--charlatans if you will. Sure you can afford to give away millions when you're "stealing" millions in order to make yourselves look good and then con more millions--Geez!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  18. Divorce Reporter

    What does he say about Chicago divorce in the Illinois Family Law Gazette, anyway?

    January 26, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  19. Bill

    @ Bonnie F: The bible is only one of many religious books you can pick from. Why not read the Koran? Or the Torah? Why not? Because you think the bible is the only answer, when it's really only one of several options. Claiming that you have all the answers written down in YOUR book is just as bad as saying YOU have all the answers. Which you obviously don't, and neither does Joel. He claims he;s not a judge, but he still tells people when they're wrong. Hypocrite. Maybe his/your instruction book is wrong, ever consider that?

    January 26, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • JOregon

      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.

      January 28, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  20. Woodie

    I am glad to see this man not bend his message to favor a popular secular opinion. You have a choice to follow the bible or not but you cannot quibble about the parts you like or do not like.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Sirena

      Not quibble eh? How about the part about condoning slavery?

      January 26, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • TheTruth72

      Slavery was punishment back then from making bad decisions and realizing that you had to work for someone else just to get by. It was quite different than the reasons for slavery that America had back in the day.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Sirena

      Yes selling your daughter in to slavery even though she did nothing wrong (you did because thats how you pay a debt). Thats soooo good huh?

      January 26, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Euthyphro

      @Serina: Jesus can open your eyes so that you can see whether all these things that you are red circling in the bible were condoned or not. Ask him. Don't just stand afar and point your fingers at it!

      January 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Sirena

      Dude. No. I have read the bible... when to christian school for 10 years. Church 2 times a week on top of christian school for 10 years.
      I found nothing but inconsistency and lies.
      Rules about how to interact with slaves mean the bible condoned it. If god/jesus didn't he would have said "by the way, don't have slaves" or " owning slaves is a sin".

      January 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Steve

      Nothing more interesting to me than a Christian defending slavery.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:16 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.