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. mel

    I've watched Joel Osteen for several years and I don't recall him asking for money. When does he ask for money during the program?

    January 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  2. jay

    Daniel 11:32 says, "the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits"

    It is God's desire that your life be marked by greatness. Great things, successful marriages, prosperous businesses, remarkable victories in our lives; these are irrefutable evidence of someone who genuinely knows God. Millions of people know about God but those who know Him intimately step up to a new level of greatness and influence

    Jesus taught that God is love, he taught that even if youve messed up he is still there for you. He came so that we could have life and life more abundantly. That means having peace, joy, love, Godly relationships, and blessing in our finances.

    and also God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. Once he can get his message of love and serving to us he will get whatever it is we need to carry out his will to us whether that be money or whatever else God gives us to use for his kingdom !

    January 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Scott

      Interesting how you slipped in "prosperous businesses". God is no fan of wealth. He admires charity. Jesus made it clear, no man of wealth will enter the kingdom of heaven. As far as the original state "Great Exploits" is far exaggerated. Moving something very heavy from the front yard to the back by yourself is a Great Exploit. Of course, the word "exploit" isn't the most appropriate, "achievement" works better. "Exploit" means to succeed at the expense of others, like aquiring wealth means you're hoarding something others don't have enough of (or any of). Nothing about christianity would celebrate the anything to do with an "Exploit".

      January 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      He came so that we might have life more abundantly....not in material wealth but spiritually.....as in life everlasting with Him in Heaven! So lay your material goods down, pick up your cross and follow Him.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  3. RUReal

    If you will just be a better, more faithful Christian, Earthly blessings like job promotions will fall on you? It is just a shame that the starving poor around the world are less holy and faithful than Joel and his misguided followers. Jesus would fashion a whip out of cords and drive this false teacher out. He is a false profit. (Spelling intentional)

    January 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  4. Jeff

    Osteen is just another religious snake oil salesman conning hard earned money from people that desperately need to believe in something. Religion is like a drug the more you get the more you want. Just like drugs people will justify giving everything they have for one more rush. If American's spent half as much on furthering education, and I mean useful education and not that religious BS, as they do in promoting religious causes we would not be in half the mess we are today. Wake up America it is time to deal in reality and ignore fairy tales.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  5. KV

    Osteen is a great performer that has found a very good market niche – big crowd full of uneducated folks that want to hear fairy tales. I don't see anything wrong with that.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Jared

      True, and well said. Given the disdain I feel for people that watch this idiot, I think they truly get what they deserve.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Alan

    I personally like Mr Osteen. I believe in God. I certainly don't believe everything I read. That would be silly to believe EVERYTHING you read.I like that he has given millions. I would like to know how much millions was a sacrifice to him and his family. If he is worth 10 million then giving 2 million was a sacrifice. He would only have 8 million left to live on.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Scott

      Its not about how many millions he gives away, its about how many he keeps. The bible is clear; no rich man is bound for heaven. To a preacher using his talents to enrich himself; giving 'some' of his wealth is simply good advertising to bring even more wealth into his pockets. But at the core... its all about aquiring wealth.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  7. J.R. Graff

    One more note, Conservative Christians ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HATE CRIMES & SUICIDES. Your words, your rhetoric and your lack of compassion – a total contradiction on your "Christian" existence is evidently behind these tragedies. Everything has a root cause. The harassment, assaults, murders and suicides of GLBT's across the globe are in every way traced back to the hateful tone of various denominations. While I am thankful to Pres. Obama for passing the Hate Crimes Act in 2009, we need to start attacking the religions who are the clear source of ignorance and hatred not just with gay issues but with issues that plague and hurt our society from moving forward into the future. Don't "take your country back" – take it forward!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Quilter 77

      What an ignorant thing to say and complete false and without merit. Have you listened to Mike Malloy? Kathy Griffin? Chris Matthews? Jeanine Garafolo? Alec Baldwin? Baldwin said on David Letterman during the Clinton Administration that Rep. Henry Hyde, who was in charge of the impeachment hearings against Clinton, should DIE along with all his family. Baldwin was never called on the carpet for that hateful and violent statement. You ask any leftist liberal Hollywood celebrity about Christians and you will hear nothing but hate spewed from these people. I have friends in the entertainment industry who have to do Bible studies in secret because they would lose their jobs if people found out they were Christians. Have you been to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi recently? They were devastated by Hurricane Katrina – much more so than New Orleans. 5 years later, you know who is down there still helping the community? Christian organizations. I was there in October-November of 2005, and almost every organization there to help was from a Christian church, denomination or organization. Not ONE organization was Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist. And the Christians are still there today long after FEMA and the Red Cross have left. It's tragic that your hatred for anyone or anything Christian blinds you to the truth.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Wow, unsupported accusations flying every which way.

      @J.R. Graff,
      Conservative Christians are not "responsible" for hate crime and suicides unless they were actually involved or incited the crime. They may be ethically complicit, but I don't think you can hand out responsibility based on free speech.

      @Quilter 77,
      "almost every organization there to help was from a Christian church, ... long after FEMA and the Red Cross have left."
      Neither FEMA nor the Red Cross are Christian organizations.

      Also, found this interesting, even though it was in a nearby town, Waveland:
      "Just days after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, several Rainbow Family brothers and sisters[, a loosely knit collection of countercultural folks,] found themselves in Waveland, Mississippi, with customized, kitchen-equipped busses."

      January 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Don

      J.R., I couldn't agree with you more. As a gay man with a background in a very strict pentecostalism, i know full well what it is like to spend years in mental torture trying to become something that I wasn't. It's so sad that so many gay/lesbian/transgendered men and women commit suicide because of all the condemnation and lack of love from these so called christians. I am so thankful that I didn't survive my attempt at suicide. At 50 I am happier than i've ever been and for once in my life....free of organized religion, it's poison.

      January 26, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  8. Biff

    Is it just me, or wouldn't ya just love to nail his wife in a nasty way?

    January 26, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Steve the real one


      My money is on...it's just you! She is someone's wife and mother! Take a cold shower will ya!

      January 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  9. jaintn

    Yet another snake oil salesman. They're just a more attractive Jimmy and Tammy Faye.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  10. exohioan

    Joel Osteen is a national treasure! All you haters out there need to tune into his message.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Biff

      Osteen is a National Treasure just like Ohio is the "heart of it all".

      January 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Michael

      We should all be glad there are no religious "haters" out there.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  11. Brent

    While I greatly appreciate that he realizes his job is not to judge, I am troubled that a man of God would not show the compassion of God to give his excesses to those in need. While I realize he claims to give away millions, and I don't refute that, I think a man of God, teaching the ways of Jesus, should act more like Jesus and share all of his wealth with others. Better to worship God than money.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  12. Jedi

    2 Timothy 2:23-26
    But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  13. fed up with religious BS

    Ugh, people like Joel Osteen absolutely repulse me. If being gay is a sin, then why would god make people gay? It doesn't make any sense at all.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Jace

      And, while we on this topic: Why would God make warmongers, murderers, rapists, pedophiles (millions of them), wife (spouse) beaters, cheaters, liars, the insane and the list goes on? If the premise is God made me this way, therefore I am just the way he made me, then, GOD HELP US!! And, before you respond that you don't have a choice, that might be the case, be some on the above list would argue the same.

      Take Care and God Bless!

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

      Good question, why did God make those people the way they are?

      January 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Frank

      God did not make any of these people in the sense of what they do or choose to do. God gives us the freedom to do whatever we like with our lives. We can spend it hating Him or we can be gay or we can murder or steal or we can commit endless number of sins or transgressions. We have the freedom to do whatever we want to do. The power of God and Christ is in the form of openning your heart to Him and allowing his love and kindness to become a part of who you are are. If you have God's love guiding your life, you will not falter or fall to far from His way. Yet who of us have not? None of us. And this was God's true love to us when he sent his only son, Jesus, to die for our sins so we can have everlasting life. What "Father" would do such a loving act other than a "Father" who truly loves us all and realizes we are imperfect. We have the ability to be Christ-like but we are unable to be perfect. So our Father, who is in heaven, gave us a way to join him despite all the errors in our past ("sin" for a lack of a better term). It does not matter if we are rich, poor, black, blue, male, female. All that matters is to believe and accept Christ into your life. It does not require that you join a church, or follow specific sect of Christianity. You can simply live a life which allows the love and the abundance of Christ in our lives to bring you such joy, happiness and at times great prosperity. Everything we have while we are alive is worthless for when we die none of it follows us. You can not take your credit card to heaven to charge your way in. All each of us can do is love our neighbor which we can see by reading this simple blogg very few people know how and even fewer know the power of Christ which Osteen speaks about very eloquently as do others. As far as I know, he practices what he preaches and for me this puts him up there as an example of how the power of Christ can change your life. So think again what is and is not BS in your life for your deicisons today will without any question affect your future whether on earth or beyond. It is up to you. God loves us all so much, he allows us the freedom to make our own choices. So do not expect to hear Him tell you what to do, although he certainly has given us some very clear scripture to follow. The choice is yours. I pray that we all will live a life full of the abundance of God's love and the power His love has to give us all in changing our lives.

      January 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Being gay is not a sin. Murder is a sin. Actions can be sinful but being a person whether gay or not gay is not a sin.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0sILSapUUc Catholics and Ho-mos3xuality

      January 27, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • JOregon

      When man was originally created he was sinless. God made man as not only a physical body but he was also a spiritual body.
      When A&E sinned man became spiritually dead.
      We are a physical body but the spiritual body is dead.
      The term "born again" is in relationship to the spirit in man. It is resurrected and spirit in man is made alive.
      The effect is a desire for a Christian to not want to sin. Sin still happens because the physical body has not been resurrected.
      Before salvation we come out of the womb in need of a savior because we come out spiritually dead.
      We are born sinners.

      Psalms 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

      That is why some people are born with their hormones so messed up that they might be a man in a woman's body.
      That is why it is so wrong to run around pointing out individual sins. ALL have sinned.

      Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
      Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

      January 28, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  14. RunningMan

    As a conservative gay man, I like the aspects of optimism and personal responsibility Joel preaches. Whether or not he agrees with my lifestyle does not detract from the positive things I always get from his writings and sermons.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Sirena

      How does it feel to associate with people (conservatives) who think you are a second class citizen less deserving of rights?

      January 26, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Jared

      Do you like the teachings that he believes that you will burn for eternity in a pit of fire? Is that "optimistic" enough for ya?

      January 26, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Greg B.

      Sirena – I am conservative and disagree with the gay lifestyle. But RunningMan seems pretty nice and that's about all it takes to be my friend.

      Jared – Everyone sins, so believing that the gay lifestyle is a sin doesn't mean that you automatically think a gay person is going to hell. Actually belief and acceptance of Jesus as your savior is the ticket in, not not being gay(sorrry for the double negative).

      January 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Sirena

      Greg. My point is this: Why would you want to be friends with someone who does not think you are worthy of the same rights as they are worthy of. There is a fundamental difference in disagreement versus not thinking they deserve human rights. Disagree all you want, but everyone should be treated equally.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0sILSapUUc Catholics and Ho-mos3xuality

      January 27, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Running Man,
      You don’t choose whether or not you are gay but you do choose a lifestyle.

      January 30, 2011 at 9:24 am |
  15. Carrie

    How does everyone not see that Joel Olsteen is gay? He make Ted Haggard look like Mike Ditka.

    January 26, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Brent


      January 26, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  16. Tim

    @ Jared, on tne comment of "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",,,, read the whole chapter, instead of one scripture you try to manipulsate it for your own purpose, you might learn a thing or two,

    January 26, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Jared

      @Tim, I have read it bud. I've read the good book cover to cover, was in seminary 4 years and attended church every Sunday for my 18 years in Mom & Dad's house. Lets get your take on the verse though, clearly you consider yourself a religious scholar and I realize your ilk loves to educate the rest of us as to the "real meaning" of the words.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Scott

      Really, the statement sounds pretty definate and those words are a quote of Jesus himself (unlike a lot of things that are quotes from other people)... I don't remember a bunch of "but"s or "except when"s.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Why not explain about the man and his money and the camel and the needle….what caused the man so much trouble? Was it having too much money or too much love for the money? Was money his God?

      January 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  17. jay

    I personlaly knew the osteen family and they are the nicest most geniune people anyone could ever meet. It hurts me to hear people talk about him in this way. He is bringing life to to our country and everyone is trying to tear him down. It kind of sounds life the story of Jesus...

    January 26, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Scott

      As I'm sure any good preacher would tell you... Likeable people doesn't equal souls bound for heaven. Thats a pretty shallow way to choose a man of god don't you think? Might as well choose your preacher on which one drives the nicest car.

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

      Ya Jay, exactly like Jesus, Osteen was born in a barn, poor for his entire life and never judged people despite being persecuted and ultimately crucified for his teachings. You people are truly unbelievable!

      January 26, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • jaintn

      Yeah, just like Jesus. That is, if Jesus wore $1,500 suits, wore a rolex, and drove a beamer.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  18. sanjosemike

    As an atheist who does not like religion or religious "leaders" perhaps I am not really the right person to ask. But it has always been my belief that "local" churches do the real work in communities. By definition, a large group such as his KEEPS money out of the hands of the small local churches that actually provide needed community services. Amy I wrong?

    Every dollar to a large outside church is one less local dollar. sanjosemike

    January 26, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Scott

      That is a pretty accurate assessment. Also every dollar he keeps in his pocket or invests in tailored suits is a dollar that doesn't feed the poor or shelter the homeless.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  19. Liza Null

    Who am I to criticize this man?!? I don't even know him. Who am I to question his commitment to his faith? I don't even know him. Maybe God loves him, just as much as He loves me. Who is to say? What Joel O'Steen is doing/not doing, believes/doesn't believe, that REALLY IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS. Hey, I have an idea – why don't we leave the assessment of Joel O'Steen up to God, that way if Joel O'Steen isn't doing it right, we can just let Him handle it, that way we won't have to concern ourselves with it, one way or another? We can just get back to minding our OWN BUSINESS, what say?!?

    January 26, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Jared

      Yeah, good idea. I wonder what came first though religious persecution or people fed up with organized religion and it's judgmental ways.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Scott

      The bible is clear, no man of wealth is bound for heaven. Therefore he is not someone to emulate, nor is he someone to be believed and followed should you want to chose a path to God. God will judge him, but he will also judge me and you too. And he won't accept a "... but joel said.." excuse.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  20. George Greek

    Osteen voted for the wife beater McCain. How's that for showing his 'Christian principles'???!!!

    January 26, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Jared

      Not saying all republicans are religious fanatics but if you are a religious nut you are more than likely a republican.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:47 am |
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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.