Joel Osteen’s Awkward Response April 10, 2009

Joel Osteen’s Awkward Response

I really enjoyed watching this interaction between Larry King and Joel Osteen/Victoria Osteen for one reason: It’s awkward as hell.

Just like Rick Warren, Joel just can’t bring himself to say he absolutely opposes gay marriage. So he tries to work around it and he fails.

Here’s what journalists need to do: keep questioning Christian leaders on their position on this issue. Don’t let them hedge around it. They obviously have an opinion. They can’t have the best of both worlds. Get them on record as saying they’re against it (if that’s the case, which it probably will be).

Then, let that statement spread.

When gay marriage becomes as commonplace as interracial marriage, their opposition to equal rights will come back to haunt them. Better for everyone else.

Also, if anyone want to make a really popular YouTube video, I suggest making a compilation of all the Joel Osteen clips in which he says “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand” or “I never think about that.”

(For the record, I actually like Osteen’s sermons. He normally doesn’t get into political issues, so yay for that. But if he wants to comment on social issues, he should be taken to task for what he says.)


Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m sorry I don’t understand or know where it’s going or….I’m just not 100% clear on it…

    Indeed he does try to straddle the line of his religious views and not trying to say something nasty about a significant group. Tough for him, but hey, if you’re going to claim that you talk to Yahweh, get your story straight before you go on CNN…

  • Yeah…I like that Idea…Ask John MacArthur, Mark Driscoll or John Piper how they feel about Gay marriage…

    There’s a difference between asking Joel Osteen and Rick Warren a question about the Bible…and any of the (3) men listed above. With Rick and Joel, they will always try and spin the Bible to make it pleasing to the world…With the others, they will stand firm in what the Bible says, regardless of how offensive it may seem to the person asking the question.

    An Example Here

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “Will it undermine the basis of society? I don’t know.”

    But you wanted to suggest that it would by asking the question.

  • Will little children burst into flames the moment gay marriage becomes legal?

    Will everyone under five be forced to become gay?

    Will incestuous marriage follow?

    What a spleenweasel!

  • Tim Van Haitsma

    If only we had you tube clips of promenate christains of the day and their opinion on Slavery, Womens Sufferage, Inter-racial marriage. Perhap’s there are clips about the inter-racial marriage. They would make a kick ass video about the march of progress. Maybe a project for the weekend.

  • Erp

    We do have their letters to the editor, speeches, sermons so a dramatization would be possible. That we now have wafflers shows the tide is turning.

    Note that many of the clergy of that day were divided but then they are divided nowadays about same-sex marriage (see Rev. Ed Bacon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKiue4c2Fjw or http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/july-18-2008/reverend-ed-bacon/32/ ).

  • Tom

    God’s best.

    Not your best.

  • Chris

    Mr. King totally screwed the pooch on trying to explain the idea of separating marriage from the state.

  • Craig

    I actually thought King’s question was awkward and not terribly clear, so I’d give Osteen a bit more credit in this instance.
    He’s actually suggesting that marriage could be performed only by churches – isn’t that exactly what religious folks like Osteen would like?

  • Turrboenvy

    I agree that King phrased the question terribly. If I understood correctly, he’s suggesting what I’ve been saying since the question of gay marriage first came to the forefront (probably about the time that city clerk in CA started performing them).

    The state should stop worrying about who gets “married,” instead everyone gets a civil union. Gay or straight, in the state’s eyes you’re “united.” Churches can worry about “marriage.” That way everyone gets the exact same union under the state and the religious people can shut up. I think that’s what King was trying to suggest.

    I also see what Hemant is saying. Joel doesn’t say “I think gay marriage is wrong,” he says “marriage is between a man and a woman.” It’s the exact same thing, but phrased in a more weaselly way.

  • Richard Wade

    I think Hemant is right. Osteen is only one more of these mealy-mouthed preachers who know they are losing the “culture war,” and they don’t want to be called to account when finally their hate-based and fear-based industry is rejected by the majority.

    Even more spineless, I suspect that some of them secretly know that their opposition, whether tacit or active, to equal treatment is ethically wrong, but they don’t want to lose their bigoted power base, so they pander, hedge, equivocate and evade. These cowards call themselves shepherds? They don’t have the vertebrae or gonads to actually lead people toward a better society. They just want to preserve enough of the status quo to keep their business going.

    The Abrahamic religions have painted themselves into a corner. Having taken too rigid a stand on social issues where society is inevitably changing, they are like large, too-specialized animals that cannot adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Gigantism and specialization precede extinction. While their phylum may not entirely disappear, I think the Brachiosaurus-like species will be gone within one more generation.

  • Craig

    Richard:

    I think the Brachiosaurus-like species will be gone within one more generation.

    Unfortunately they’re on track to take the rest of us out with them.

  • Richard Wade

    Craig,

    Unfortunately they’re on track to take the rest of us out with them.

    Perhaps, but I’m descended from a class of animals that has survived many mass extinctions, and maybe my die-hard optimism is one of our beneficial adaptations. Rise up, ye small mammals! Come out of your burrows! The time of our liberation is at hand! The tyranny of the lizard brains is crumbling!

  • Nick

    Speaking as a working journalist, I can testify to the difficulty in nailing someone down to a clear, undiluted statement on a controversial issue. People like Osteen, including those outside of religion, try to leave themselves with “out” without having to come down hard on a difficult subject. The smart ones do it well, while the less savvy make blunt, thoughtless or incoherent statements. Good journalists push as hard as they can.

    I’m not admonishing journalists who don’t push hard, especially television talking heads which rarely seem to do. Commentators push harder, but only because they tend to have an axe to grind and remain one-sided. The few good journos pushing all sides of an issue with gusto are, sadly, few in number.

    Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to accept what they say. It would be definitive if Osteen had said “Homosexuals shouldn’t have the same rights as heterosexuals.” Instead, his babbling answer must suffice. It happens in other cases. I’ve never heard a good argument or solid evidence to the contrary regarding global climate change. And, despite the overwhelming evidence that it is a real, happening phenomenon, a journo still should get the opinion of anti-global warming activists and ask what the rational for those opinions are. In my opinion, good journalist get all sides of an argument on a controversial subject and put it out there as best they can.

  • Turrboenvy said,

    The state should stop worrying about who gets “married,” instead everyone gets a civil union. Gay or straight, in the state’s eyes you’re “united.” Churches can worry about “marriage.” That way everyone gets the exact same union under the state and the religious people can shut up. I think that’s what King was trying to suggest.

    At least in Canada, this is how it is now except there aren’t two different words for it. According to the Marriage Act, there are two ways to get married: by a justice of the peace, or at a religious institution. Legally, there is no difference between the two at all except for a few words that must be said during the ceremony.

    Religious institutions are allowed to devise their own criteria for allowing marriage within their religion. So, for example, the Catholic church is under no obligation to marry non-Catholics or anyone else for whatever reason they please. I don’t see any problem with this at all. If you want to be married within the Catholic church, you should be bound by the rules of the Catholic church determining marriage. When people do get married in a church, they are actually doing two things.. getting married within the eyes of their religion and they are fulfilling the legal requirements to be considered married under the law.

    The problem is that some religious people want their own prejudices to apply to everyone. That the requirements for marriage within their religion should be the requirements for everyone.

    I don’t think anyone cares if their marriage is recognized by someone else’s religion or not. Most importantly, the law already does not.

    I don’t think the solution is to differentiate between church marriages and civil “unions.” The precedent is already in place. There are requirements for a marriage to be recognized by law, and each religion has their own requirements as well. There’s no reason to change that now.

    Back when this debate was in full force here in Canada, I spoke to a lot of religious people about it and changed their minds. One of the biggest fears they had was in having gay weddings in their church. Seriously. For most people that was their objection which was unfounded. The churches will always decide who can be married within their religion/building.

    So I think our strategy in Canada should be to remind equal marriage opponents of the above, and then tell them to STFU.

    If the laws of marriage in the states are that different, they should be changed.

  • Nick says,

    It happens in other cases. I’ve never heard a good argument or solid evidence to the contrary regarding global climate change. And, despite the overwhelming evidence that it is a real, happening phenomenon, a journo still should get the opinion of anti-global warming activists and ask what the rational for those opinions are. In my opinion, good journalist get all sides of an argument on a controversial subject and put it out there as best they can.

    I completely disagree with you. There is a big difference between “everyone is equally entitled to their own opinion” and “everyone’s opinion is equal.”

    A good journalist will dig and keep digging until they have the truth. If the story is on climate change and anti-global warming activists don’t have any valid evidence, they should be ignored or exposed for their ignorance. Fairness doesn’t mean ensuring every idea has equal time on camera, fairness means being objective and presenting the facts without bias.

  • Richard Wade

    When I got married, about 37,000 years ago, we hired a witch doctor in a suit to please the in-laws. He showed up at the house with a marriage license, a form printed by the State of California. My sweetheart and I signed it, and at that moment we were married. The mumbo-jumbo that we tolerated fifteen minutes later out in the back yard was entirely superfluous. If we had gone down to the courthouse, we would have signed the exact same form, and would have been just as “married.” Churches don’t own the word “marriage” nor do they own the legal contract of marriage. All these witch doctors in suits should be challenged every time they try to slip in the assumption that they have ownership, copyright, patent, or proprietary rights to either one. No they don’t!

  • Under the dictionary, for the definition of the word “skirting”, it mentioned Joel Osteen and Rick Warren’s tactics.

  • Nick

    I completely disagree with you. There is a big difference between “everyone is equally entitled to their own opinion” and “everyone’s opinion is equal.”

    Does that mean someone’s “opinion” could be less valid than another? It’s an expression of preference, isn’t it?

    Fairness doesn’t mean ensuring every idea has equal time on camera, fairness means being objective and presenting the facts without bias.

    Bias comes in rendering a judgment. Being objective means not judging what someone says. If someone makes an assertion and backs it up with evidence, then how is it not being objective to? present what they say. There was a news story recently about the Flat Earth Society argues that the earth is essentially flat. If I wrote that story, I would find out what the group is asserting, why they are asserting it, what evidence they have and present someone who could demonstrate the overwhelming evidence that the world is not flat. If I instead write a story to the effect “here are the reasons why this group is wrong,” then I’m not being objective. I’ve crossed a line.

    If an atheist and a theist debate and a journo covers it, should they not present both sides’ assertions, arguments and explanations equally?

  • AnonyMouse

    Families will be hurt by gay marriage like reproduction is hurt by sex. Honestly.

    If the local laws did decide that only heterosexual couples could get “married” per se, and homosexual couples were only allowed “civil unions”, and assuming that I was going to get hitched locally, I would be getting a civil union with my opposite-sex partner. I will not partake in this bigotry as long as it and I exist.

  • Nick

    Besides … a journalist’s job is to “dig” for the truth and present what he or she finds, not determine what that truth is.

  • llewelly

    I’ve never heard a good argument or solid evidence to the contrary regarding global climate change. And, despite the overwhelming evidence that it is a real, happening phenomenon, a journo still should get the opinion of anti-global warming activists and ask what the rational for those opinions are. In my opinion, good journalist get all sides of an argument on a controversial subject and put it out there as best they can.

    There’s no scientific controversy over global warming. There’s nothing more than a fake controversy promoted by deluded and / or dishonest hacks, many of whom previously promoted the notion that smoking was harmless. This notion that journalists should ‘get all sides of an argument’ has played into the hands of the denialists, and helped them achieve the decades of inaction we have so far seen. It’s called false balance for a reason: it helps promote manufactured controversies. This is great for attracting eyes in short-term , but it leaves them misinformed. And in the long run, people realize they were lied to, and they stop trusting journalists. It is not an accident that so many formerly loyal paper readers are searching for alternatives.

    It’s high time (but perhaps too late for many venerable news organizations) ‘journalists’ realized that there are many topics – evolution, the sun-centered solar system, people landing on the moon, the round earth, global warming, just to name a few – there is only one legitimate side.

  • llewelly

    There was a news story recently about the Flat Earth Society argues that the earth is essentially flat. If I wrote that story, I would find out what the group is asserting, why they are asserting it, what evidence they have and present someone who could demonstrate the overwhelming evidence that the world is not flat. If I instead write a story to the effect “here are the reasons why this group is wrong,” then I’m not being objective. I’ve crossed a line.

    In 1990, about 1% of adult South Africans were infected with HIV. Then – for a variety of reasons – the idea that HIV did not cause AIDS came to be taken seriously. By 2000, 25% of adult South Africans were HIV positive.

    If gross nonsense is given an equal footing with evidence-based ideas, people die. It happened with AIDS, with smoking, with many other topics, and now it’s happening with global warming. False balance is certainly not the sole cause of the resulting deaths – but it’s a strong contributor.

    The non-flatness of the Earth has been a demonstrable scientific fact for over 2 thousand years. (Look up Eratosthenes on that topic.) Your suggestion that it be placed on equal footing with modern scientific understanding of the shape of the earth is harmful and stupid.

  • anonymouse

    “They have what they call their families”..

    What a condescending and ugly thing to say.

  • Does that mean someone’s “opinion” could be less valid than another? It’s an expression of preference, isn’t it?

    Absolutely. If you’re insistent on doing a story on the Flat Earth Society, are you seriously going to give me ink because I believe the earth is shaped like a cube? I mean, we’re not talking about the Weekly World News here, are we? I should be dismissed and ignored. It would be irresponsible journalism to present the cubist earth theory on equal footing with the spherical earth theory.

    Bias comes in rendering a judgment. Being objective means not judging what someone says. If someone makes an assertion and backs it up with evidence, then how is it not being objective to? present what they say.

    Bias comes from injecting your own preformed opinions into the story. Being objective means having perceptions or making judgements based only on the facts and evidence as discovered. If someone’s evidence is spurious, fraudulent or plain idiotic, that makes their opinions irrelevant and not newsworthy. It’s not your job to provide a soapbox for every hair-brained idea.

    There was a news story recently about the Flat Earth Society argues that the earth is essentially flat. If I wrote that story, I would find out what the group is asserting, why they are asserting it, what evidence they have and present someone who could demonstrate the overwhelming evidence that the world is not flat. If I instead write a story to the effect “here are the reasons why this group is wrong,” then I’m not being objective. I’ve crossed a line.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have written the story at all, unless there was something actually newsworthy about it. If they were having a big convention in town, I’d write about the convention. I’d end the piece with a witty quote from a physics professor at the local university. There are angles that could make this a good story, but presenting a flat (or cubic) earth theory as a valid alternative to real science is not one of them.

    If I instead write a story to the effect “here are the reasons why this group is wrong,” then I’m not being objective. I’ve crossed a line.

    That would be a poor angle for a story for the simple fact that it would be trite. Of course they’re wrong. You wouldn’t need to say it yourself either, I’m sure it’d be easy to find people to quote.

    If an atheist and a theist debate and a journo covers it, should they not present both sides’ assertions, arguments and explanations equally?

    In this example, the journalist is covering the debate, so yes. If, instead, the journalist is doing an investigative story on the existence of God, then no. The journalist does not have to track down every nutjob to present their own opinions about god. This a bad example because there is no definitive objective answer.

    Consider what IDers are trying to do with the whole “teach the controversy” thing. The concept fails because there really isn’t any controversy. That’s the part that is newsworthy — the whole controversy was manufactured and non-existent. A responsible journalist wouldn’t be fooled into giving ID any contemplative ink.

  • Marriage is between a man and a woman, but what about a man and a woman who are atheists and don’t want to be married in a church? Mrs Osteen says marriage should be sanctified by the church. So the only marriage they accept is one where the couple submits to god?

    If they believed in their convictions as the word of their god then they shouldn’t have to be cautious or spout waffle. They should outright say, they don’t think homosexuals and apparently atheists should be married. What are they afraid of? Poor book sales? Having to defend their positions?

    They seem rather spineless to me.

  • Vincent

    What you fail to acknowledge, Nick, is that what you (as a journalist) do has value.

    I know, sounds ridiculous, but really it does.
    Let’s take a TV spot. You have exactly 4minutes, 48 seconds to reach the millions of people watching. Someone out there can tell you the dollar amount each of those minutes and seconds costs to put out there.
    So, must you spend exactly as much on the PHD in astro-physics discussing the theory of the big bang as you do on the guy who believes the Universe was sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure?
    Are you really saying that the guy who’s invested his life in the subject and published numerous peer-reviewed articles on the subject deserves no more respect than the local loon?

    As a journalist, your job is to find out what stories out there are worth our valuable time to watch or read and the media’s expense to produce. As a journalist, you are supposed to exercise judgment. Otherwise you are no more than a microphone stand and I can get one of those for $20.
    Isn’t what you do worth more than a $20 microphone stand?

    Now Osteen, he just seems hung up on the word “marriage”. Fine. Let churches have marriage, but give it NO legal significance. For that have civil unions. Or, let us keep marriage and you take ecumenical unions, holy unions, whatever you like.

  • I think “mealy-mouth” sums up Joel Osteen pretty well. Shame on anyone who gives that guy a dime.

  • Grimalkin

    WHOA! This isn’t just an anti-gay interview, it’s anti-non-Christian. Anyone else catch her saying that marriage is something that needs to be sanctified by a CHURCH?

    Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, etc. need not apply.

  • …. have what they call their “families.”

    Only Christians can have real families now too?

  • Hemant, I’m totally with you on this. I really think YouTube clips are going to change the dynamic of the same sex debate! Bring it on, I say.

  • DCKate

    I was fairly convinced that they really are so dense that they cannot conceive of the two distinct parts that make up many marriages. (Certainly not all, as many people choose to only be married by the state.) But I really do think that it’s a concept so far from their worldview that it just doesn’t make sense to them – their religion completely obscures the lens through which they see everything. They can’t even understand why anyone would WANT to have a “state-only” marriage, let alone ponder the legal implications of it.

  • Maybe he’s trying to sound nice, but he and his wife just look like insulated, clueless bigots.