- (Photo: CNN via The Christian Post)
“America’s rock star preacher” appeared on CNN Wednesday night in an hour-long interview echoing his widely popular beliefs on prosperity, suffering, and homosexuality – with one major change – sin.
Joel Osteen, the pastor of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church in Houston, and his wife Victoria responded to a series of controversial topics brought to light on “Piers Morgan Tonight.”
Most notable was Osteen’s new, or old, view on homosexuality. He responded to the question, “Is homosexuality a sin?”
“Yes, I’ve always believed it,” stated the megachurch pastor. “The scripture shows that it’s a sin.”
“I’m not one of those to bash homosexuals and tell them they’re terrible people and all that. Sometimes the church focuses on one issue or two issues and there are 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.”
He continued, “I say it’s wrong because that’s what the scripture says.”
Morgan remarked that Osteen had never spelled out “sin” before now, and wondered if he was prepared to give an answer to the question on homosexuality.
“I think I’ve grown in my knowledge. This was all new to me…People say I don’t talk about sin but I do talk about how we live our life and [about] making good choices,” said Osteen.
The “smiling preacher” has been criticized for his avoidance of difficult theological issues, lack of scriptural reference, and lightweight theology. He is widely known for preaching positive messages emphasizing the goodness of God rather than sin.
Osteen, 47, appears to be slowly evolving in his preaching from when he took over his father’s television ministry and position of senior pastor at Lakewood Church in 1999.
“I choose to live my life by what I read in the scripture,” the New York Time’s bestselling author shared. “I can’t grab one part [of the Bible] and say God wants you to be blessed, to live an abundant life, and not grab the other part that says live that kind of life. It just comes back to scripture.”
Addressing the topic of good and evil, Morgan asked Osteen if he thought that Adolf Hitler was evil, or if there was any good in a man like that. Characteristic of the glass half-full pastor, Osteen deflected the question by pretending not to know it all.
Morgan then accused the pastor of “copping out” of difficult questions.
“You see, it may be a likable trait, but I think in your position of such responsibility and influence you need to be more determined about these things,” Morgan pressed.
The moment was passed by a light laughter from his wife, Victoria, and another indefinite response.
When asked if he could forgive the recent Arizona shooter, the Texan native first hesitated with a maybe “not right now” but then explained how people have to walk in someone else’s shoes to understand them. “It’s easier to have mercy when you think they didn’t have a good shot”- referring to people’s upbringing and environment.
Resurfacing the question of suffering, Morgan couldn’t understand how a just God could allow suffering to happen – especially in the case of the victims of the Arizona shooting.
“There are plenty of things we can’t understand. I don’t know if I could explain it right now. I just come back to the fact that I believe that God is good, that he gives us strength in these difficult times.”
Repeating many themes brought up from his first interview with Larry King on CNN, Osteen still believed that the spiritual state of America was at an all time high – based on the sheer numbers of church attendees; that people should take the high road and love the brethren and not condemn them; and that God wants you to be blessed, not just in material wealth but in physical and relational riches as well.
Unapologetic of his earthly riches, Osteen commented, “I don’t ever feel guilty because it’s God’s blessings on my life. To me, to apologize for how God has blessed you is almost an insult to God.”
“I believe God wants us to be examples of what it means to live for him and that our money is a blessing to others. What doesn’t get talked about is how many we bless with our money.”
So how much does the “stinking rich” couple give away? “Millions of dollars,” according to both Joel and Victoria Osteen.
Morgan pointed to the contradiction in preaching prosperity to a crowd who wasn’t as rich as the couple. “I say God wants us to be blessed,” not “God wants us to be rich.” Osteen said, “I get categorized into this guy who wants everybody to be rich. I’m just saying God wants you to be blessed, he wants you to rise higher.”
Fully aware and somewhat defensive of the title, Morgan responded, “What’s wrong with being a prosperity preacher?”
“Well that’s my whole thing. I say to people, ‘Do you want me to be a poverty minister?’ What kind of message does that send that God doesn’t want you to be blessed, but he wants you to go down?” Osteen continued, “I feel more than ever with the economy like it is to say that God can make a way in the desert, even when you don’t see a way.”
The preacher-turned-author has sold over 20 million copies of his books including his bestseller Your Best Life Now: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential and over half a million DVD’s.
His latest book is called It’s Your Time, stressing that your best days are ahead of you.
“I don’t believe God would have us alive if he didn’t have something great in our future.”
Osteen draws over 40,000 worshippers every weekend and 10 million television viewers nationwide.
Morgan jokingly concluded the interview by comparing the rising Osteen to the “Poker Face” pop singer-songwriter.
“You’re playing as many stadiums as Lady Gaga.”
Next up for Joel Osteen: Preaching and worshipping with 50,000 people in Chicago’s Cellular Field.