Famed televangelists Joel and Victoria Osteen have received criticism on social media after they posted photos of themselves throwing up a hand sign meant to show support for the University of Texas at Austin when their son graduated from the school this past weekend.
The Osteens, who minister at Lakewood Church in Houston, attended their son Jonathan's graduation ceremony at the University of Texas at Austin on Saturday. Following the ceremony, both the mother and father took photos with their son, all of whom posed for the pictures by flashing the "Hook 'em Horns" hand gesture.
Anyone who attends the University of Texas or routes for the Longhorns knows that it is not uncommon to see people around the Austin campus flashing the hand sign, which consists of holding down the middle and ring finger with the thumb while the pinky and index finger stand erect, creating the shape of the head of a longhorn cattle.
As the Austin American-Statesman reports, most of the tweets received in response to the graduation photos posted by both Joel and Victoria Osteen to Twitter were positive and congratulatory. However, many who know such a handsign to have inappropriate, and even unChristian meanings, responded to the Osteens photos with criticism.
The longhorn hand gesture also has a number of different meanings for people not familiar with the University of Texas tradition. Although people in Texas know it to be in reference to the Texas Longhorns, the same hand gesture has also been used by rock stars to signal "rock on."
Ironically, the same hand sign has also been used around the world to represent the devil or evil.
"What symbolic signs are u showing the world?" Twitter user @AndreUPX asked in response to Victoria Osteen's photo. "Congratulations for belonging to the [the devil] or what?"
Another Twitter user with the handle @hoodysoldy replied to Victoria Osteen's tweet by asking, "what's with the Satanist hex?" Twitter user @JosefSoabeb told Victoria Osteen that "your teachings have uplifted us but that sign makes me concerned and worried."
Replying to Joel Osteen's photo, Twitter user @kavivyajunior also voiced her displeasure.
"The sign sir ... I honor you but that hand gesture sent a very bad signal! Can't believe it's you," the Twitter user wrote, according to the Statesman.
Twitter user @ian_indimuli asked Joel Osteen and his son, "Why on Earth would you use the devil sign? My goodness a thumbs up would work or you don't have thumbs?"
But as the Statesman points out, a thumbs-up gesture wouldn't have gone over very well on the Austin campus because that is actually the the sign of the Longhorns' rival, Texas A&M University.
At least one Twitter user who knew that the hand sign is meant to show support for University of Texas still expressed opposition.
"Doing horns?! Even though is UT, that symbol ain't good! Thats devil's symbol!" Twitter user @isaachogg wrote.
While many Twitter users were quick to criticize, there were many people on Twitter who clarified the context of the hand gesture.
"Hook 'em Horns is the slogan and hand signal of The University of Texas at Austin," @mojoclay wrote in response to a user's comment to Joel Osteen's tweet.
The Christian Post reached out to a media relations representative at Lakewood Church but comment was not immediately available by press time.