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. Lynda

    This comment is for Piers Morgan. I have enjoyed your show so far, my only complaint is that you interrupt your guests often. You need to learn to listen and not interrupt.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  2. Martin

    Sure , for a guy that has everything, good looks, beaitful wife, money , is easy to talk about God and how wonderful everything is ... specially if it even makes you even more money. You never see a real person being a preacher is always one of these kind of guys.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Smite Me

      " he has good looks"

      Sorry, but to me he looks like a weasel or ferret or something. I know he can't help it, and looks shouldn't matter, but since the subject came up... just sayin'

      January 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  3. zazu

    And don't start me on Paul!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  4. Scott

    Wealth isn't, from an actual christian perspective, a 'gift from god'. It is a test, and the wealth more likely coming from a more sinister source. Jesus himself said that a rich man had about as much chance of getting to heaven as a camel has of navigating through the eye of a needle. Weath then is to be used, to be used to help the hungry and the poor. The story of the indian prince that gave the christian a bunch of gold to build him a home. The christian gave the gold to the poor. The indian prince summoned him to find out why he gave it away, it was for a home! The christain replied that he built him a palace in heaven. Its doubtful Joel Osteen is christ-like in the distribution of his wealth, or he would not be rich.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  5. zazu

    What I really don't get is how anyone who read the Bible let alone who is a Bible believing christian ever vote for Republicans? I understand if the Pharisees and the Saducees do, but followers of Jesus and anyone who ever read the prophets let alone believe what they said–I don't get it.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  6. Michael (repost)

    Abominations! Seems I was screened by a filter with my first post. He refers to a long list of offenses listed in the Old Testament Bible as "abominations" that would make a man ceremonially "unclean" for 7 days. The same list also condemns such heinous acts such as touching a dead person or having relations with your own wife if she is having her period- even sitting in a chair she sat on. Includes eating shellfish and carried to its' extreme prohibits cotton/polyester blends of fabric.
    Heaven help us!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  7. ric

    can't wait to see the docudrama about this couple 10 years from now. They are creepy, phoney and look like they have secrets. I don't trust them.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  8. TJ

    Why are some people... so quick to bash others... especially those of the Christian Faith. God uses people in different ways... he has chosen to use Joel and Victoria in this manner. I think he is a great minister and doing what the Lord has asked of him. In every interview he has ever done... it's like a conquest to see if you can get him to say something that you can bash. He is a man of God with great integrity. I commend him for allowing God to use him... he is encouraging and helps millions of people deal with the issues of life. None of us are perfect and I think that is where a lot of non-christians miss the mark... they have the impression that all of us christians are claiming to be perfect. We are not claimining to be perfect we are just claiming to be forgiven. As for his wealth and prosperity... God has blessed him and his family and he shouldn't have to apologize for that. Too many people have the idea that if you are christian you must live a lousy life... if a better message was sent out than more people might be interested in pursuing the christian life.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Sirena

      A lot more people (Christians mostly) bash gays. Stop whining that someone disagrees with Christians. You have full rights. Gays dont.. thanks to religion...

      January 26, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  9. Richard

    JM – The people who work at churches pay taxes just like you do. Since Churches themselves do not earn a profit that goes to any individuals there isn't really anything to tax. And the funds paid out in salary are taxed just like everyone else. You can't take money from a church for personal gain and not pay taxes. MANY if not all churches spend their money (left over after paying employees) as fast as they receive it on things far more noble than profit.

    Not that there aren't leaders of churches who illegally abuse the system. But those are few and far between.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  10. Double Standard

    I find it funny people who are blasting Joel Osteen for being well to do, wearing a tailored suit because he is a preacher or a Christian. Should he wear jeans a Jesus loves me tshirt with a hole in it? Why does it matter if a Christian is poor or rich? How do you suppose he's to carry himself? What if you had money and you were on tv all the time, how would you carry yourself? Who's judging now?

    January 26, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Jared

      It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" ~ Mark 10/25

      January 26, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Scott

      God will judge him. And I will be judged by god for chosing to be who I am as well. He preaches the word as others quote the word preach as well. The bible is clear about wealth and how keeping it bars you from heaven. God will judge him, but he will also judge you and me and everyone else. His message is not of gods love, its of the love of wealth disguised as a love of god.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Sarah in Texas

      The problem isn't his money or success. The problem is that he uses religion to earn his wealth.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Double Standard

      You have to take the whole scripture in context: Jesus was saying you can't take your wealth with you when you go to heaven, not that you don't deserve to be wealthy. Once you die you can't hold on to your money and go to heaven so use it while you are here on earth to help the poor, sick, etc. I certainly don't agree with tv evangelists who beg for money and prey on the poor, but God will deal with each accordingly. Also, Jesus was saying don't put your trust in a bank account, put your trust in God who provides all that you need.

      23 And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, With what difficulty will those who possess wealth and [r] keep on holding it enter the kingdom of God!
      24 And the disciples were amazed and bewildered and perplexed at His words. But Jesus said to them again, Children, how hard it is [s]for those who trust (place their confidence, their sense of safety) in riches to enter the kingdom of God!
      25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
      26And they were shocked and exceedingly astonished, and said to Him and [t]to one another, Then who can be saved?
      27Jesus glanced around at them and said, With men [it is] impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  11. Bubba Schmo

    Joel's a pretty down to earth guy. He doesn't come across as fake, pretentious or greedy. People listen to him because he put them at ease; he speaks to their level. Personally, I like him.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  12. anothermuse

    Not a fan of pay for pray preachers, but Osteen's answers seem genuine and not cloaked in dogma. Yes, that is one sin, but that doesn't make you evil or anything else. Nor do most sins..they are conversations between you are your God and not something for others to decide..

    His wealth is trickier of course. Particularly since he has earned it by followers providing him money, though he does claim it is book and DVD sales and not offering from the pew that provide the wealth.

    Seems, from these quotes, much more of a reasonable person than the brief glimpses I flip past on Sunday mornings.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • d meredith

      Your such and idoit!!!! and yes I'm judging you!!! obviously you don't read you're Bible...we are to all be prosperous everyone God used in the Bible He made RICH!! how else are we suppose to help our fellow christians and the needy..It says to give a tenth of your income to the churches not because God needs our money but because He knows we have a LOVE for it and it shows obedience...IF YOU WANT TO COMMENT ABOUT SOMEONE WHO IS A PASTER OF CHRISTIAN READ YOUR BIBLE SO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT ...OTHERWISE YOU'RE AN IDIOT!!!!!

      January 26, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • miche

      @ d meredith, obviously you don't read the bible either based on your response. Also, you need to be aware that Mr. Osteen's church has his name in big bold letters on it, not God's, please think about that before you go off again.

      January 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • screename12

      @ d Meredith – Your very loud comment especially exemplify what is wrong with the church today. I don't want to go to church if I am going to have to put up with people like you. Believe me, It is possible to rebuttal someone's opinion without calling them idiots. Try is sometimes.

      January 28, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Steve the real one


      I am a Christian and I agree with you.
      1. Name calling is used in frustration
      2. It is NOT an argument but rather a cop-out!
      3. Used when there is no good response!
      4. I speak from experience!

      January 28, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • JOregon

      d meredith,
      I read the bible a lot.
      You are so wrong it makes it obvious you have never let what the bible says sink into your head.
      Many that God uses were poor.
      You believe the Lord will give you money.
      He may, so will the Devil.
      Instead we are to be like the poor widow.
      Mark 12:41 ¶ And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
      Mark 12:42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
      Mark 12:43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
      Mark 12:44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

      January 28, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  13. Jared

    "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" ~ Mark 10/25

    Osteen is a tool. His "flock" are truly sheep.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Sarah in Texas


      January 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  14. Heinz M

    Another light weight idiot spouting nonsense, collecting money from the gullible, and appearing on TV. Would be (almost) interesting to see what kinds of skeletons he has in HIS closet!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  15. Face

    @ Luke
    Even though your strawman argument of abiogenesis, mixed with evolution, is quite poor and inaccurate...
    It sounds much more believable than the bible's claim....
    nt though...
    Too bad you have such a pessimistic view of life, IF a deity weren't involved...

    January 26, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  16. Opinion talk

    I agree Ed! Why even read an article on a topic you obviously don't like? Puzzling..

    January 26, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  17. Tony

    He is one scary looking dude

    January 26, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  18. If

    I do not follow Olsten, but I ponder his ability to create such strong reactions. Years ago, two things I heard a Chippewa-Cree say...(1)The most powerful response to disagreement is silence and (2) Be grateful for organizations (churches) which funnel human energy, and hold their members accountable in some way. They represent a type of Law. Otherwise, all of it would be on the street with no boundaries, and that is a hazard to a working society.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • barry

      "(1)The most powerful response to disagreement is silence "
      The above statement is not true for all cultures. I grew up in Asia, where silence in a disagreement is taken as a sign of concession because the silent person has no good response.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • @if

      I don't necessarily think it's Osteen who garners the strong reaction but more so who and what he represents. Simple minded people have a hard time believing in a one true God. Sad day when blogs, news reports and tv show belittle Christ and Christians. Some Christians are tired to being the silent minority which causes them to over react and extreme legalistics seem to feel it's their "place" to spill hatred. There will come a day when everyone will cry Abba Father and for some it will be too late and their words will ring so loudly in their ears...

      January 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  19. DanR

    Just like everything else lately the religious arguments have gone to the extremes – the non believers shout at the die hard believers and vice versa. The whole group in the middle, the majority I believe, gets drowned out.

    I think Joel Osteen tries to reach that middle group, the middle ground and succeeds. Others on either extreme might want to take notice and practice a little tolerance of each other. I'm just saying that there is a middle ground – and its ok to live there.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • DDo

      you make a good argement, but i wholly disagree. jesus clearly states that he wishes we were either hot or cold. those of in the middle (lukewarm) he describes as (my paraphrase) as a cup of room temperature coffee....the thought of actuallly swallowing a swig would make his stomach turn. so what does he do? spew it (us) out of his mouth. the bible should cause us to take sides. conflict is not a bad thing. the devil doesn't waste his time on people who have no impact.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Greg B.


      But you have to reach the people in the middle somehow. And the best way to do it is by appealing to all the sides of their humanity. It doesn't mean that he is lukewarm. I would bet that if you got him in a one on one honest conversation he would have no problem being "hot" for God and God's Word. But he only has one chance to make a first impression, and thousands of people will probably see him for the first time tonight. Do you want them to hate him and through him Christianity, or like him and because of that begin to ask more questions about Christianity and maybe even become open to the idea?

      January 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  20. Ed

    My god people. What do you all do for a living? I looked at the comments because I like Joel Osteen's teachings and wanted to see what was beimg said about the article. Most of you sound like nothing more than bitter people who are just waiting on the next free handout from the government since you obviously have nothing better to do. You can't stand to see someone with more than 2 nickels to rub together, can you?

    January 26, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Colin

      The issue is not having money, the issue is how he gets it. Telling the stupid and scientifically ignorant exactly what they want to hear.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • d meredith

      I agree!! well said.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • ks

      "bitter people who are just waiting on the next free handout from the government..." HMM...where do you think the church gets its money? people like you are suckered in to giving. where do you think that money goes to? some is given to those in need and the rest is used the build up the church. sounds like a government-like operation to me

      January 26, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Lucy

      Your assumptions about people posting here just show your ignorance. Some of us have very successful careers, living in the suburbs and paying our taxes. What our society doesn’t need is another minister making money for a mega church that does absolutely no good for those that are less fortunate. Greed is what is killing our society but unfortunately those of us who are actually trying to make a difference are viewed as bitter when pointing out this guy is nothing more than a con man hiding behind religion.

      January 26, 2011 at 4:44 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.