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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. T.Brown

    GOD DID NOT MAKE PEOPLE GAY!!!!! Again a misinformed person.God gave you a free mind,a free mind to make a DECISION-TO BE OR NOT TO BE.And before anybody thinks I hate gays your wrong I have seen some down right HATEFUL so called Christians do some of the most worst things to people it would blow your mind and on the other hand I've seen some gay people do some of the kindest acts it would make you stop and think-man that is a kind caring human being.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Well, you are half right. God did not make people.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Reality

      What else do you derive from the following conclusions of experts?

      The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

      “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

      "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

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

      I predict, and very much hope, that in years to come s3xual orientation will be completely recognized as just the way some folks are – *not* a choice, *not* a sin, *nothing* evil at all, and that belief in imaginary supernatural beings (religion!) will become a recognized mental disorder.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Brent

      So, to use your logic – a person uses his or her free mind to chose to be born with trisomy 13?

      January 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @T. Brown
      And GOD DID NOT MAKE PEOPLE LEFT HANDED!
      You have a choice to fight your sinister, left handed urges and fall in line with the righteous and Godly right handers.
      If you can't simply switch your dominant hand, then there are nuns that will be happy to whack your knuckles bloody with a ruler until you use the righteous hand!

      Oh hang on – the church no longer considers left handed people to be evil, so nobody punishes kids for being born that way.

      January 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  2. Reality

    Osteen says ho-mose-xuality is a sin. Hmmm? How is that possible?

    o All "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  3. blazer1

    Bible = story book of fiction = taken as historical fantastical fact. Scary....Believe what you want folks, whatever comforts you or builds your sense of "comfort" in the world. Sad thing is – the things you defend – is no more real or "truth" than the "Lord of the Rings" books.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Eric G.

      "But, they were all of them deceived."

      January 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Michael

      Do you mind telling me why you think the Bible is fiction?

      January 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Well, I can't speak for everyone, but I will take a shot in laymans terms. The bible makes claims of absolute knowledge without supporting verifiable evidence.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Michael

      So there is absolutely no supporting historical evidence for anything in the Bible?

      January 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Michael: Yes, there is valid historical evidence in the bible. Unfortunately, the bible provides no verifiable evidence to support the concept that your god exists. This claim of the existence of a god is extraordinary. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof lies with those making the claim.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Michael

      The claim that there is a God is very extraordinary. There are thousands of other supplementary claims that the Bible makes that are also extraordinary. These other extraordinary events and claims have a lot of valid supporting evidence. Don't these smaller extraordinary claims serve as proof for the greater claim?

      January 26, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Michael: No, they do not. Any theory carries it's own burden of proof and requires it's own verifiable evidence to support it. Do you have an example of something extraordinary that is claimed in the bible which there is verifiable supporting evidence?

      January 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Michael

      Well, for starters, there are hundreds of prophecies about the birth, life and death of Jesus that came true. These prophecies were written down hundreds of years (some of them over 1,000 years) before Jesus birth. And what is even more astonishing is that they were made by multiple authors. So it wasn't just some nut in his garage with an idea. Realistically, the odds of hundreds of predictions hundreds of years in advance by multiple authors is about 1 in a Cagillion or something like that.
      Secondly, the first other example coming to mind is walls of the city of Jericho. The Bible says that God made them fall inward when they fell, which is from what I understand (I am not a scientist) pretty much impossible without the help of a higher power.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Michael

      Sorry. And I forgot to mention that recent archaeologists will admit that it appears the walls did indeed fall inward.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Michael: What evidence do you have that Jesus was the subject of these prophecies? I would agree that the story of jesus was written well before he supposedly lived. Please google the story of Horus. The story of Horus is much older than jesus, but it is the myth used by the christians for jesus. It is not his birth, life or death that supposedly made him special. It was the part after that. If you could prove that jesus existed, does that prove the resurection? Does it prove that he is the son of your god? Does it prove that your god exists? No, it does not. Please provide the verifiable evidence that your god exists. Without this verifiable evidence, every other claim is irrelevant.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Michael

      @Eric G.

      To be honest with you, I'm still searching for a lot of these answers myself, and I'm a Bible College graduate. But here's what I can tell you. I personally think that God intentionally makes the whole thing a little mysterious. What God desires most from us is relationship. Along with that relationship comes obedience. But I think the relationship takes priority. So, if we knew all the answers about God, it would be incredibly easy to believe and obey, but I think it would take away from the relationship that God desires to have with us. The Bible says over and over that we need to have faith. And I know that sounds silly in a discussion about hard evidence. But I think that to truly believe in God, no matter how much knowledge you have, it's just going to take some faith. A stepping out on a limb. Just like any other relationship needs faith and trust. For example, my wife doesn't have any hard evidence of my love for her. She can see a lot of supplementary things that I do that would help support the fact that I love her. But she can never actually see, touch or grasp that love. She has to trust me. And that x-factor of trust and faith, though it can make things more difficult, actually strengthens our relationship. And I know those aren't the answers a skeptic is looking for necessarily, but that's where Christians are coming from. It's a relationship just as much as it is anything else.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Michael

      @Eric G.

      Also Eric, I saw on another comment that you were going to read 'The Divine Revelation of Hell'. I'm not going to tell you not to read it. But....it definitely would not be on my list of books to convince a skeptic. I'm a skeptic of that one myself.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Michael: Thank you for your honesty. I would never try to tell someone that they should change their beliefs. I would only ask that they define their beliefs as just that and not fact. Where I draw the line is when someone thinks they can justify their hatred, bigotry and fear with their religion. If someone thinks they have that right, I have the right to demand that they explain the authority for which they speak and prove it's validity.

      Did you have a chance to look up Horus?
      For your review...
      Event Horus Yeshua of Nazareth, a.k.a. Jesus

      Conception: By a virgin. By a virgin. 3

      Father: Only begotten son of the God Osiris. Only begotten son of Yehovah (in the form of the Holy Spirit).

      Mother: Isis-Meri. Miriam (now often referred to as Mary).

      Foster father: Seb, (a.k.a. Jo-Seph). Joseph.

      Foster father's ancestry: Of royal descent. Of royal descent.

      Birth location: In a cave. In a cave or stable.

      Annunciation: By an angel to Isis, his mother. By an angel to Miriam, his mother.

      Birth heralded by: The star Sirius, the morning star. An unidentified "star in the East."

      Birth date: Ancient Egyptians paraded a manger and child representing Horus through the streets at the time of the winter solstice (about DEC-21). In reality, he had no birth date; he was not a human. Jesus was born during the fall. However, his birth date is now celebrated on DEC-25. The date was chosen to occur on the same date as the birth of Mithra, Dionysus and the Sol Invictus (unconquerable Sun), etc.

      Birth announcement: By angels. By angels.

      Birth witnesses: Shepherds. Shepherds.

      Later witnesses to birth: Three solar deities. An unknown number of wise men. They are said to have brought three gifts; thus the legend grew that there were three men.

      Death threat during infancy: Herut tried to have Horus murdered. Herod tried to have Jesus murdered.

      Handling the threat: The God That tells Horus' mother "Come, thou goddess Isis, hide thyself with thy child." An angel tells Jesus' father to: "Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt."

      Rite of passage ritual: Horus came of age with a special ritual, when his eye was restored. Jesus was taken by parents to the temple for what is today called a bar mitzvah ritual.

      Age at the ritual: 12 12

      Break in life history: No data between ages of 12 & 30. No data between ages of 12 & 30.

      Baptism location: In the river Eridanus. In the river Jordan.

      Age at baptism: 30. 30.

      Baptized by: Anup the Baptiser. John the Baptist

      Subsequent fate of the baptiser: Beheaded. Beheaded.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Michael

      @ Eric G.

      Hmm. Thanks. I'm going to look into Horus. What is the date of composition and how do you know?

      Also I appreciate your having an actual conversation instead of being a huge tool.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Wondering

      I'll pipe in here – looking for something to read on this matter? Read Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ" and "The Case for Faith"

      January 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @michael: About 2200 BC. Check any library with a decent anceint history section for other references. If you can find one with a strong Egyptology section, that would help. Good luck!

      January 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Brent

      @Michael and @Eric, I thoroughly enjoyed reading both of your comments and well presented thoughts. Thanks.

      January 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Biff

      Hey, while you are suggesting reading material . . . don't forget about – "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" You can pick it up at Amazon

      January 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  4. BOSTONIAN

    I just threw away his books, and I hope his son is GAY.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  5. brandy nixon

    Pierce is so wrong for bashing on a pastor and man of God and their beliefs yet stated his own opinion on gays being okay. Being gay is WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Brent

      You should state that it is your belief that it is wrong rather then stating a statement of blanket truth, for who are you to determine truth?

      January 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  6. Tim

    @ Jared,
    i have found in my years experience that when people like you get upset over someone commenting, and start throwing out, " i did this , and I went here, and I was doing things for x number of years, its usually because you have nothing else to add or you would have quoted further into the chapter instead of all the rhetoric you listed, since you been to seminary i can assume you already know, that seminary isnt anything more than a college, guess what, I have been to college to, and obviously Gods calling wasnt on your life to pastor, so again I reinterate, do more than read the bible from "cover to cover" how about study the word, anyone can read the bible, doesnt mean you know whats in it. Im out, have a great day!!!

    January 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  7. EB

    In the right hands clever manipulation of biblical scripture can pretty much justify anything and generate enormous revenue.
    Any seriously spiritual or moral person to whom any religious beliefs are not necessary will see through any and all of these peoples exploitation of the weak and weak minded.
    I don’t need to look through a bible for a quote because if you read it or even just skim through it you would already have a good idea of its message, and it doesn’t involve money.
    I can’t speculate what Jesus would do but I think it would go something like this to Mr Joel. Give all that you have away, your money your possessions your love your knowledge your work. Live with those less fortunate and show them that riches are the ones they carry with them every day they are immaterial and the only ones they own and can give away freely, till god asks for them back.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  8. Sarah in Texas

    The picture accompanying this story captures it perfectly – a cheeseball-looking dude with his head held high, proudly spewing whatever self-righteous nonsense he happens to be saying at the moment, while his trophy wife sits by earnestly watching and listening with her mouth plastered shut, in her salon-bought blonde hair and (really?) red, leopard print jacket. Why do these preachers' wives and politicians' wives have to sit at their side during interviews and speeches anyway? Does your spouse come to your job and sit next to you at your desk? Stupid.

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

      Bitter much? lol

      January 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  9. Dale

    Haaa Haa all this blather and arguing about a con-man quoting a storybook. You and your delusional quotes from Matthew, Mark and Luke. What is it like living in a brainwashed world?

    January 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  10. JoeT

    The term "rich preacher" should be inherently oxymoronic. Good luck getting that camel through the eye of the needle Joel. Let me know if you shake hands with Mother Theresa on the other side.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  11. Reality

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty, wingie, thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adu-lterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals like Osteen and atonement theology,

    January 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  12. commentarian

    I'm not a big fan of the whole preacher thing but he's a _preacher_ not a _prophet_. He's telling you about his interpretation of Jesus, that doesn't mean he is Jesus.
    Priests and Bishops don't normally have vows of poverty either, they just don't get paid well.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  13. snarl

    Who cares what this false prophet thinks? His kingdom will come crashing down soon enough.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  14. maxmax

    osteen is a false preacher, most are. here is the true gospel –

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=1228101611347

    January 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  15. Mtex

    I am a Christian. I know that Christ-like love is not confined to our society's gender dichotomy.
    I also know that the Bible Jesus told the disciples
    'Carry neither purse, nor money, nor shoes and salute no man by the way.' (Luke 10:4).
    He instructed them to keep no material objects and also to disregard the time consuming greeting rituals because nothing should hinder them from spreading the Good News.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  16. Biff

    Isn't Olsteen a Jewish name? I guess if there is money in Christianity, convert!

    January 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      That would be O'Steen. Maybe Jewish I don't know BUT no hindus write books? No Muslims? No atheists? You telling m enot one atheist got rich peddling his/her atheistic goods? Not one? Gotta call yo out on that one Biff! I submit maybe not in the numbers of Christians But not ONE atheist?

      January 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Well Biff,

      It appears I am wrong as it is not O'Steen but Osteen. Yet you were wronger than me! 🙂

      January 26, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  17. Michael

    sanjosemike,

    I'm a Christian. I've grown up in the Church and been a part of small churches and large churches. I agree with you and disagree with you. I definitely see your point, I think a lot of Christians get too caught up in improving themselves and kind of miss the whole point of it. They go and spend money buying Joel Osteen books to improve their own lives but never go help out at the food bank. But I also think there is a place for the large church. There are a lot of rich people who need Jesus that will never be affected by the work of the smaller Christian organizations but might wind up reading a Joel Osteen book and learn something about Jesus. And most big churches, while they may not be as hands on with their community, they support the smaller organizations and missionaries financially and allow them to do what they do. So I think it goes both ways.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Dale

      You should use your brain and realize that your 'Christianity' is just brainwashing. I know I went through it. You'll be a better person when you realize it's all a facade.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  18. wise

    He may not be paid a salary but I bet there are "love offerings" given to him often, that's money for you who aren't aware. Not only that, but he may well have church funding designated as housing allowance that is far more than most of his congregants earn in salary. He was not very clear on that to be honest with you all. Too many are easily fooled but the Spirit discerns who is of God. Personally, I find no value in his teachings. When Christ came he offered suffering to any who followed and yet many did. Today churches offer all sorts of temporal benefits and yet they seem to not save anyone.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  19. JLM

    I don't think it was God's best plan for Joel to have that haircut. Just sayin'.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  20. ohboy

    It's also a sin to be unaccepting of your brothers and sisters, regardless of if they are gay or not. Casting the first stone are we Osteen? The hypocrisy kills me.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • mtbinary

      Did you miss that the interviewer is trying to pin him down on something he doesn't usually talk about? Seems to me that Joel merely repeated what the Bible says, but thinks it is only one sin that is no worse than any he might commit. He correctly admits that he's not the judge. Why do all you Joel critics choose to miss that point?

      January 26, 2011 at 12:25 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.