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. john316

    I didn't see the program....but I assume Osteen and his wife singled out "Divorce" as a big sin....I'm sure he must have... There couldn't be any divorced people in his church....that wouldn't make any sense....to be railing on them each Sunday........I keep waiting for the interviewers to ask the obvious of these televangelists....instead of he easy....I think the "free of sin" members of the churches in the country ought to start asking about the "other sins" that the bible speaks of and what they're going to do about that....might not go over too well....the other way to so much easier and profitable....

    January 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Allen Goffinet

      John316, his church is for all people, if there were no sinners, who would he need to preach to. His annointing is to encourage and lift people up. He recognizes that there is sin, and is not blind to it. People get beat every week, and need to be lifted up and encouraged in spite of their sins; and that is what Joel does.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • a2rjr

      That's because it hasn't aired yet genius. So much for being a prophet for you.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Sally

      I fell safe in saying that the Osteens are not a fan of divorce but I don't for a minute believe that they would bar divorced congregants from their church. Christians are all taught to hate the sin but love the sinner and that applies to either gays or divorced people and pretty much anyone else that commits a sin. People generally go to church to be able to get closer to God and who needs this closeness more than a sinner? This is certainly not to say that gays and divorced people are regarded as sinners by most but but according to the strongly held scriptural beliefs of the Osteens and Lakewood Church, who better to offer their ministry to?

      January 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  2. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Oh, yeaayahh, my brothers and sisters, it's Gaaawwwd's plan for us to prosperrraaa. My finely pinstriped suit is itself a revalationnnaa from Gaaawwwwd. The man disgusts me. I cannot believe sheep fall for this "moneychanger in the temple".

    January 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  3. stacey

    God does not hate the rich but rather aspouses the love of money as the root of all evil. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all rich. David, the man after God's own heart was very wealthy as was his son Solomon. Jesus himself was a member of the artisan class as his dad was a carpenter. That put Jesus himself in the middle class. Just because no one else thought to post it.

    I love Joel. I listen to him when I need an encouraging word.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  4. keith

    You gotta love all the atheists who jump on any blog that is related to religion to push their ignorant views. These guys are like the babbling deranged guy babbling his wild theories to whoever will listen, or at least if he babbles them enough he will convince himself. No wonder atheists comprise less than 3% of the worlds population...

    January 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  5. Allen Goffinet

    I am so disappointed at all of this negativity. We call ourselves christians, and yet we are so judgemental. If you know your bible we are free from the law, we have been redeemed. God doesn't want us to be in lack. Regarding the scripture of the rich man. That was to people who put their possessions first, and not God! God asks that we seek him first.. I have much love for Joel, and I know he is a man of God...and is as humble as I see them come. If we all put our focus on Christ, he can do the same for us.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  6. jordans

    I loved this interview. I am gay and I would sit down at thsi couples table any day. They are kind and loving, hard working and spreading a very positive message. I felt the way the interviewer harped on the Gay issue was unessesary. Osteen made it clear its not his issue and that He loves people and is not judging. There are very few Christian "role models" worth listening to but these people are exceptional.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • madmatt

      Then you are an idiot, he would suck your wallet dry and then have his followers drag you behind a pickup truck

      January 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  7. Yami

    Thank you Joel Osteen for letting everybody know your point of view on those issues. I agree with you in all. God Bless You!!

    January 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  8. Tod

    Wow!I wonder if this is a record for responses to a CNN/Morgan story? I've never seen a complete Osteen TV service broadcast, but from this and his 60 Minutes interview, he is clearly a gifted speaker. Interesting that he does not "preach," but seems to offer perspective, insight, and views on relevant topics that are prayerfully based on his understanding of God's Word: pure and simple. This is the essence of "Go and spread the gospel," and “share my Word with the poor" (in spirit). It seems clear that his first love is for the Lord, Jesus Christ and the furthering of His kingdom here on the earth. As long as Joel maintains this perspective, drive and focus, he and his household will blessed, regardless of his finances.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  9. Eyes Open

    Let me get this straight. J.O. wanted Sarah Palin one step from the Presidency?

    January 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  10. truthteller kg

    God rewards the faithful, some, God makes riches in many forms, some have money, some have great loving families, some have prosperity in many shapes and fashions...if those of you that believe to the contrary then that is between you and God, not you and Joel Osteen. As is often within Christian minds, you are quick to persecute your fellow brethren. If Joel Osteen is a fake, I don't know that and neither do you, that is for God to know and to judge. However, before you are so quick to judge others, one but needs to looks at a reflection of oneself and judge that reflection before one can even begin to look to the outer edges to see another. Trouble not another soul that does the good works of the Lord, for it is not your place as a person or 'Christian' to bring judgement and forebearance upon your brethern unless you yourself are omnipotent.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  11. Suz

    Controversial or not... I like the guy. I don't buy into everything he says (nobody says you have to!), but he does have good ideas about how to live a good life.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  12. Barbara

    Let me tell you about the first time I ever saw Joel Osteen. I was sitting in a restaurant with some friends a couple of years ago; there were a few tvs on with no sound and he was on one of them. I never laid eyes on him before. He was doing an interview on 60 minutes. I said to my friends "I don't know who this guy is but that is the phoniest cry I have ever seen." Low and behold..

    January 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  13. kay

    I go to lakewood every Sunday. They pass out free motivational DVD's, bibles, have free childcare. So you have to take that into consideration that the church needs money for those things. To pay for the camera crew, the equipment so people at home can watch it on tv. So he is trying to reach out to people to spread the good word of the lord. Just like Jehovas Witnesses they pass out the reading material and bibles to people wanting to hear and learn about god. You dont have to give money if you dont want to. If you give out money your helping in all those little ways to reach others that do not know about god, or abandoned him and want to come back. Olsteen isnt saying you HAVE to give thats if you want.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  14. Sally

    Too many folks forget that the Bible (Timothy, 6:10) does not condem money, only the love of it. For those who are critical of Joel Osteen's weatlth, he clearly says that he derives his fortune from the sale of his books and DVDs, not from the church itself. It seems very clear that there are a lot of envious people who resent this man and his success but at the end of the day, he fills a spiritual need for an awful lot of people and makes his ministry about uplifting his congregants and letting them know that they are being accompanied by God in their life's journey. (Although I live in Houston I am not a member of his church and I am very mainstream in my personal beliefs but I give the Osteens and Lakewood Church a lot of credit for the role they play in the lives of so many.)

    January 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • screename12

      I completely agree with you.

      January 28, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • JOregon

      Does he pay taxes?

      January 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • JOregon

      My main problem is he doesn't preach the gospel.
      The gospel has never been a feel good message.
      It has always been: You are in a dire situation! You have only one hope. Seek the Lord while he may be found because tomorrow may be too late.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  15. Barbara

    Shame on these networks who even give these people a platform. They are a bunch of phonies.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  16. Prob the Antichrist

    Joel Osteen is the best con-artist EVAR. For those of you who have actually watched his program....How can you trust this guy? And someone get the guy some eye drops! Never seen someone blink so much...

    January 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  17. Joe

    Since when is this pretentious self-important fraud an expert on life? I'd be more impressed if he spent his time working for Habitat for Humanity or in a soup kitchen instead of promoting himself on TV in an expensive suit.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  18. VuduEx

    I am a lifelong atheist. I have had some tough times personally and economically in the last few years. I started watching Joel because he was on right before the ABC Sunday morning talk show about a year ago. I found that he often spoke about subjects that were troubling me and I found that I sometimes felt better after listening to his ideas/advice/stories. He made me recognize the universality of many of my troubles, and even that made me feel a little better. I am an educated, open minded person, and have made fun of my share of televangelists. But I like Joel. Hope he remains scandal free.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Tod

      Way cool – thank u 4 sharing this, loved reading your words on this ministry =)

      January 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  19. Jann

    Joel seems like a good man and I enjoy and benefit from his inspirational teachings; I watch him a few times a week. I like Piers so far as an interviewer, but he needs to lay off his guests and stop being rude, sometimes attacking, and interrupting so much. He's done that to most of his guests so far. I do hope he does well replacing King.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  20. jay

    ive read a divine revaltaion of hell and it confirms what joel says tha jesus is the way the truth and the life

    January 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Joe

      Better have your doctor check you meds again. If you're hallucinating, he might have to make an adjustment.

      January 26, 2011 at 12:57 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.