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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. nunyabidness

    I don't feel like writing word for word and quoting passages and verses, but christ did observe people making contributions to a collection plate, 2 rich men come in and make significant contributions but a small amount of their total wealth in the plate, and a widow came in and put a pitiful amount in, but it was all she had, in his eyes the widow gave more.

    so its easy to put millions to charity, when its a tax write-off and it's a pittance to what you actually own... but hey the bible says preach to all that have ears, and he read this too. but people need to realize you dont need to listen to a preacher or go to a church to win favour of God. for those who will exhault themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exhaulted.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  2. Vlajos

    No one today believes Alexander the Great is God or he walked around reviving corpses.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  3. Shane

    The problem with Joel Osteen has been stated. If money is a sign of blessings from God, than what about poor Christians? Is that a sign that God disapproves of their life's because they aren't blessed with alot of money. This guy is a fraud, has no seminary degree, doesn't know the bible, and doesn't represent God. He has not died to himself, he is living in tons of wealth while people suffer around the world! Starving and riddled with disease, and this man pretends to be of God. I THINK NOT!

    January 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • chris

      I agree... Wealth is no sign that God approves of one person or another.

      I am really weary of Joel Osteen.... He's one of the false teachers the bible talks about. Google search for his interview with Larry King – it's baffling.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  4. a2rjr

    Jared, Re-read the article. Pay attention.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  5. a2rjr

    For all the tax experts out there who don't think he pays taxes, you are wrong. A preacher pays income tax just like every other American. Well, most Americans. There are quite a few lazy welfare recipients out there that don't even want get off the couch to get their pay check.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  6. Jared

    Joel needs to read "Radical" by Dr. David Platt.

    There is just too much physical and spiritual need in this world for we Christians to waste our lives and our money on ourselves. We have the means but not the resolve to make much of God and not ourselves.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Brookhills

      Maybe you should log on to joelosteen.com and see exactly what Lakewood Church is all about. Where do you get your information about Joel Osteen? Have you actually read one of his books? If you read one of his books you will find out about Joel and his family and the mission work that they do.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  7. james

    Joel is just like the others who are continually making change in the temple, and we all know how Jesus felt about that.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Christina

      Yup Yup!! He overturned tables and was angry. I bet you Joel doesn't preach about that passage because that just doesn't fit into his "how to excel in health and wealth" preaching.

      January 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  8. H Meyer

    the so-called 'give away' is either a falsified bookkeeping entry or money donated to a wholly own subsidiary of the parent organization (pass money out the front door, stand on the rear porch to collect it back) or carefully staged and choreographed visits to phony orphanages and hospitals (which are really sound stages on a rented production lot)....yea, I just bet that ole Joel and the other collection of charlatans on TV leeching money off of little old ladies and trailerpark dwellers are giving it away as fast as they are stealing it!....sure..

    January 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • a2rjr

      That would make them politicians like Reid and Pelosi.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  9. Brian

    "Osteen also told Morgan he does not drink or smoke, never dated a woman other than his wife, and that he votes regularly. "......

    The Reverend Jimmy Swaggart used to make statements like that. I can't stand Osteen's saccharine smile. He smiles like a used car salesman. They must teach smiling 101 in Bible College, the way some ministers flash their phony smile.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Michael

      Just for the record, that course was not offered at the Bible College I attended.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Sally

      Brian, you weren't paying attention, Joel said he did not have a formal divinity education. That said though, why would anyone want to sit an listen to a preacher with a depressive, dour personality. People go to church to be uplifted so why wouldn't he smile all the time?

      January 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  10. H Meyer

    Poor Allen....one could scoop out what passes for brains with a straw....tell us Allen....how do you KNOW that Joel is ANNOINTED? Did some deity send you a certificate proclaiming such an event? Can Joel violate the laws of physics? (separating fools from their money is the 1st Law of Physics)

    January 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Allen Goffinet

      H Meyer, LOL...I still love u, but you know people by their fruits of the spirit. Considering your an atheist...please I invite you tto read Galatians, and understand the fruits of the spirit. Test yourself , see how well you line up to the fruits of the spirit. God spoke of people like you in the bible...imagine that....be careful, what you say regarding the bible...Every bad thing you experience in life, is for a reason. God will get your attention...

      January 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  11. madmatt

    "given away millions" is christian hypocrite code for hiding funds and paying off personal debts. oh and paying for out of wedlock kids and court fines.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  12. aginghippy

    Just checking to see if anything I type will escape the dreaded "awaiting moderator approval".

    January 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  13. truesoy

    Religion, a great business to be in, where a $10.00 investment on a bible will make you millions, tax free!
    (it will also guaranteed you a seat at the table in a republican administration to peddle their candidates to the faithful)

    January 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  14. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Osteen's wealth is not my concern as is anyone else who is wealthy because when it's all said and done we can't take it with us. We are born into the world naked and we will leave naked whether you are rich or poor.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      BINGO! I will add that we (believers) will be judged based upon what we do with what we have!

      January 26, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  15. H Meyer

    I don't recall any passage in the bible that mentioned the vast sums of money Jesus collected by selling DVDs and books....(or the 1st century equivalent.....perhaps some autographed stone tablets, a hand-blessed scarf or shroud, a chalice with "J.C. Loves You" inscribed on its base, etc)....wonder why he wasn't hawking wares in those days....yet he seems to be the self-assigned role model for TV evangelists....

    January 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  16. Christina

    I agree with those who say that being rich is not a sin, it's loving wealth before God that's a sin. But I am not a Joel fan. He did not have a seminary background and therefore should not have taken over his father's role when he died. If my dad were a doctor and had opened up a practice, doesn't mean when he dies I can take over it unless I actually have a medical degree. He only preaches on what tickles people's ears. He cares about preaching "positive" news to people so that they feel warm and fuzzy inside and they continue to pay the admission fee to watch him preach. I watched him one morning and he preached about asking God to make things happen now. And that it's our fault that things aren't happening because we aren't demanding it from God. A true Bible believer will know what is completely wrong with that kind of preaching. What if someone asked God to take away their pain and it doesn't...that person may turn away from God because that prayer didn't work. How about preaching that God places us in situations, he allows trials to happen to us to shape us and to form us to be more like Christ. We are not to run away. We are to learn from it, change it, ask God what it is that he wants us to learn. Joel needs to preach on how to excel in pleasing God because that is why we are here. We are not here to please ourselves or others in this world. God doesn't care about our comfort, he cares about our sanctification.

    People need to read books by James MacDonald, John MacArthur and John Piper. They will tell you the truth and sometimes it's not easy to hear it but it's much needed truth. Don't be fooled by people like Joel who only preaches what will fill his church seats. God calls preachers to preach all of it!!!

    January 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Allen Goffinet

      Christina, I am so sorry if you have mislead. God called him to the ministry, this is not about because his Dad passed. God annointed him, and he has been filled with the spirit and is led by the spirit. That is where his word comes from. Many are called but few are chosen. He will be accountable to God if his sheep are led astray.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  17. MJB

    The church should deal with church stuff. Stay out of politics. Most TV preachers talk more about physcology instead of the bible and want your money. Look at rev Schuller. After spending a fortune on the crystal Catherdal they went bankrupt. Gee who would think.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  18. H Meyer

    At least we atheists have superior intellects; our brains have not been turned into porridge by reading some collection of dogmatic nonsense (i.e. the bible) or by shelling out hard earned dollars to self appointed/annointed know-it-alls like this dweeb. Atheists have what is likely the unique ability to actually think for ourselves rather than having to pay someone else to think for us.

    January 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • a2rjr

      You can't possibly be thinkers, most of you vote Democrat. Talk about mindless.

      January 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  19. matt

    Sally says: "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. "

    Enron said: "our books are real and out stock prices are high!"

    anyone see the correlation?

    January 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Well since no one responded, I will. here goes... No!

      January 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • matt

      here's the correlation for ya, steve.....people talk out there asses all the time! just because joel says it's true, does it make it true. NO!

      January 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  20. MARK

    Blessings come to those who take action,,,,,and comes in many ways! Get up an get to work,,,,harbor your actions,,,Stop waiting on God,,,he is waiting on you! Get to know God, instead of knowing about God! "Your lucky said the street guy to a millionaire on all you have" The millionaire guy looked at him and said "Its funny you say that,,,the harder I work the Luckier I get"! God is not moved by people of "need" rather by people who take action on coming to him and accepting him as his Lord and Savior! If you have made well financially and have turned your life over to Christ, now harbor your wealth into helping others turn their life to Christ and secure a place in eternal life! Its funny how most wealthy people have such a strong faith in Christ! Check out your local church and you'll find most wealthy people give more to causes than a poor person will do their entire life! Poor and Rich is nothing but a term! While I'm poor in riches of these earth I am rich in riches of heaven!! Can you have both,,,absolutely,,,but if your the richer your responsobility is that much greather,,,,"To whom much is given,,,,much is expected!!!! Have a blessed day!!!!!!

    January 26, 2011 at 1:17 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.