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Joel Osteen, megachurch pastor and New York Times best-selling author, was pressed during a recent interview about his stance on homosexuality and asked if he would ever come out in support of same-sex marriage. The Texas minister, who leads America's largest congregation, explained that he refuses to "harp" on such issues and was "for everybody."
In his appearance on "Katie" this week, the Break Out! author was asked to state his core message in a nugget, which the Lakewood Church pastor said was that "God is good, He's for you, He's on your side."
"When you put your trust in Him, even when you have difficult times, you can rise higher. You can excel, you can be leaders. It's an empowering message, not one that pushes people down," he added.
Host Katie Couric suggested that the popular minister does not "spend a lot of time in (his) sermons talking about good and evil, sin and redemption. It is a very overall positive message." She asked, "Why don't you give people more of a moral template?"
Osteen insisted that he does, but "in a positive way."
"There's enough pushing people down in life already," he added. "When they come to my church, or our meetings, I want them to be lifted up. I want them to know that God's good, that they can move forward, that they can break an addiction, that they can become who God's created them to be."
The Houston, Texas, pastor was also asked about the "prosperity gospel" that he preaches, which Osteen said was a term he "never liked."
"What it connotates is that you just talk about money," he said. "I don't do that, I don't do that on purpose because so many people are skeptical of TV preachers to begin with."
As he defines it, "Prosperity is having good relationships, having peace in your mind, being able to sleep at night. But I do believe God wants you to be blessed. He wants you to excel in your career. He wants you to go further than your parents. There's a tradition that says you're supposed to take a vow of poverty if you're going to be a Christian, but I don't believe that."
"But there are your critics, Joel, who feel like you put too much emphasis on materialism," Couric countered.
Osteen clarified that he believes God blesses people so that they in turn can bless others. "That's the whole key. It's never about just what can I get so that I can be so rich and wealthy. It's not that. It's how can I be blessed to do good for other people," he said.
Osteen spoke further about his ministry objectives when asked if he considers himself a theologian, since he does not have any "real formal training," despite leading a flock of 45,000 at Lakewood Church and his messages reaching millions worldwide.
"I'm ordained by my church. I don't have a seminary degree," explained Pastor Osteen.
"I wouldn't consider myself a theologian, and I don't debate the Scripture. I feel like what I'm good about, and I think this is the one reason the ministry is successful, I talk about how do we live the Christian life, how do we forgive, how do we have a good self-image."
He suggested that although he might touch on doctrine in his messages, he believes an emphasis on doctrine may be what is contributing to low attendance at other churches. "These days, people want to know, 'If I come to church, how's it going to help me to live my life?'" he added.
The second half of Osteen's interview on "Katie" focused strongly on the "sea change of attitudes in this country, especially toward gay rights and gay marriage," as Couric put it.
"Would you in fact marry two gay individuals?" she asked Osteen.
"No, Katie, because I feel that would go against what the Scriptures teaches," the megachurch pastor responded. "But anytime I talk about this, people say you're a gay-basher and all that, we're not. We're for everybody. Our ministry is about lifting people up."
Osteen emphasized at another point that he believes the overall theme of the Bible is reflected in Jesus' remarks recorded in the Gospels concerning the "greatest commandment."
"God said, 'Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself,'" explained Osteen.
He added that it seems that sometimes people of faith and those in Christian ministry get stuck on homosexuality, when the Bible describes a variety of sins.
"Pride, being selfish, there's many different things listed, but sometimes it seems like it gets sectioned off into this one thing, that's why I try to stay away from it," the pastor told Couric and her live studio audience.
Couric followed-up by asking, "Are you worried if you spoke out supporting it there would be a backlash against your congregation?"
"Well, I think there would be because I don't feel like that's what the Scriptures says," Osteen responded.
"But again, there's so many things that we can focus on. I'm not going to harp on one group. I'm for everybody. Jesus said, 'I didn't come into the world to condemn people but that the world could be saved.' Our ministry is about lifting people up. Let them make their own decisions, I'm not the one to judge anybody," he added.
Osteen has been leading Lakewood Church since 1999 and is the author of several popular titles, including the 2003 bestseller Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.