(Photo: Facebook/Faith Church)
Saying he was "too blessed to worry about it," Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston revealed Friday that he has left it up to his lawyers to deal with people using his name, as was the case of a recent Internet hoax claiming that the pastor had renounced his Christian faith and quit leading his Texas megachurch.
Osteen made the remarks during a live online interview with The Huffington Post. Although he was asked to comment on various topics, such as instilling hope during a tragedy like the Boston Marathon bombing, Osteen chose to address the hoax that he perceived as a challenge to his calling.
"It was so far out to me, it was almost comical. So I thought it was just a joke, somebody having too much time on their hands," said Osteen.
"You can't control these things … what somebody decided to do. I decided that I'm too blessed to worry about that, and let the legal people worry about people using my name," he added.
It was revealed last week that a man by the name of Justin Tribble had created a website, video, several false news reports and even a resignation letter as part of an elaborate scheme to make it appear that Osteen was stepping down from ministry and no longer believed in God or the Bible as holy writ.
A fake statement attributed to Osteen read: "I believe now that the Bible is a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times. There is zero evidence the Bible is the holy word of God. In fact, there is zero evidence 'God' even exists."
In subsequent reports with the media, Tribble claimed his intention in carrying out the hoax was to convince the megachurch pastor to stop preaching "lightweight sermons."
"I wanted to send Joel a message, to hopefully motivate him to talk about more serious subjects, such as Monsanto, GMOs, the poisons in our food and water, alternative cancer cures," Tribble wrote in an email. "He has a worldwide stage he isn't using to do enough good, but rather he's wafting lightweight sermons peppered with clichés across the Sunday airwaves."
A Huffington Post Live host asked Osteen on Friday if he was not "worried that your message was too thin, not spiritually rich enough" and appeared more like motivational speaking.
"I want to motivate people to be better a husband, a better father ... to overcome addiction," Osteen responded. "I think the gentleman who did the hoax wanted me to talk about the environment, different things like that. That's not what I'm called to do. What I'm good at is hope and encouraging people to live out their faith."
Tribble, who describes himself on Facebook as a "church-going non-believer," revealed that the hoax "Joel Osten Ministries" website he created to mirror the authentic "Joel Osteen Ministries" website cost him $12 and took a few hours to organize. Tribble's fake Osteen website has been shut down, while Know Your Meme has documented the controversial prank.
Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, founded by his father in 1959 and which attracts a weekly attendance of more than 43,000 people. The popular preacher and best-selling author reaches millions worldwide through radio and television broadcasts and through his many books.