I am no fan of Joel and Victoria Osteen. Far from it. Any Christian pastor like Osteen who uses Israel’s most wicked King — Ahab — as a positive example of faith in God will not often evoke much, if any, sympathy from me. However, last night I found myself at times strangely sympathetic towards Joel (Victoria not so much) Osteen as he was being “interviewed” by America’s favorite
nit-wit Brit, Piers Morgan. If one of my church members had not called to let me know my “favorite” pastor was on CNN’s low-rated replacement for Larry King Live, I would have missed watching Mr. Morgan’s drive-by attack on America’s most well-known Christian minister.
In the old days, when Larry King was still at the helm, the Osteens were given the kid glove treatment by King, who in the last stages of his long-running talk show was not known for asking hard-hitting follow-up questions of the Osteens. Not so with Piers Morgan. While I mercifully missed the first 15 minutes of the Osteen’s interview, what I did see was almost too painful to watch. But, I figured I owed it to my faithful readers and to members of my congregation to be able to warn them about the latest theological error likely to come out of Joel Osteen’s mouth. I was not disappointed.
One of Joel’s trademark lines — “I don’t know” — was trotted out often, especially after Piers Morgan began questioning the Osteens about their views on Capital Punishment. Right before a commercial, Morgan teased that he would ask the Osteens about “Executions.” At this point, I realized two things. One, this would be good, and by good I mean that the Osteens — particularly Joel — would not be prepared for this line of questioning regarding Capital Punishment. I hate to say it, but I was spot on. The second thing I realized is that both Joel and Victoria were being set up for what would be an unrelenting, 45-minute drive-by attack by the irritating and unlikable Morgan. Someone has to be such an arrogant jerk in their questioning that would even allow me to have the tiniest inkling of sympathy for Joel Osteen. Morgan, ever the smarmy Brit, fit the bill.
Morgan, who was raised Catholic, appeared antagonistic towards orthodox, conservative Christianity from the moment he started asking the Osteens about political/moral/religious issues. From his disdain for the Scriptures (“We need to bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century”) to his twisted logic in using Osteen’s view on abortion to trip him up on the Capital Punishment question, Piers Morgan was relentless in his attack on the first couple of American Christendom. Like a dear in the headlights, Joel never knew what hit him. From the look on Victoria’s face (pained, but priceless), it was obvious she knew what was happening, but had absolutely no power to stop it (save from walking off the set, which might not have been a bad move).
While Joel Osteen maybe a great motivational speaker, no one will ever mistake him for a deep thinker or gifted theologian. A learned pastor able to answer the most basic questions about faith and moral issues would be nice, but that’s still too much to ask for Joel Osteen. Having badly wounded Joel with his questions regarding Capital Punishment — which Joel said he hadn’t thought too much about — Morgan went for the kill shot, a question about every pagan’s favorite topic, homosexuality. Having heard Joel Osteen’s painful answers to this topic on Larry King Live, I just knew that he would fain ignorance and try to move the interview along.
Much to my surprise, Joel Osteen, at least at first, acquitted himself quite well when responding to Morgan’s predictably asinine line of questioning regarding same-sex marriage. Joel, in a fairly strong way (at least for him) stood on the authority of God’s Word that homosexuality is a sin. He turned to Scripture for his understanding of marriage, even pointing out that no where in the Bible does it mention two people of the same gender getting married. If Morgan would have moved on, the Osteens would have gotten a solid “B” for their stand on homosexual marriage. Morgan didn’t and the Osteens subsequent answers brought this portion of their test down to a “D+.” Their overall grade was still an “F,” but they at least tried on this issue to withstand Morgan’s attacks.
Even though Joel Osteen was clear that he would not perform a same-sex marriage and that he believed the Bible’s language clearly prohibits same-sex marriages and will still be clear 200 years from now on the issue of gay marriage, Morgan was not through with the questions on homosexuality. Asking Joel if he would ever attend a gay wedding, Joel hesitated. What would he say? Surely he wouldn’t attend a same-sex wedding, would he? Before he could answer, Lakewood’s Co-Pastor, Victoria Osteen, piped up and said she would most definitely attend a gay friend’s wedding if asked and if she had the time. By this time, Joel also has to admit that he would attend his friend’s same-sex wedding to “show respect” for his friend. While this might sound admirable at first blush, for America’s leading “pastor” to tell Piers Morgan that he would attend a gay wedding makes about as much sense as saying that he would attend a friend’s first-ever pole dance at the local strip club! A Christian pastor has no business at either event, even if people find it disrespectful not to attend.
After watching this painful interview, I came away with a tinge of sympathy for Joel Osteen. He seems like a nice man who is a great husband and father. No one will mistake him for Billy Graham or Charles Spurgeon. However, whether we like it or not (I don’t), Joel Osteen has become the face of evangelical Christianity in America. Piers Morgan knows it. That’s why he tried his best to take out Joel on Tuesday night. Badly wounded in the drive-by, Joel Osteen will live to fight another day. Perhaps he will come better prepared and well-armed with Scripture. More drive-by attacks will come and they won’t just be directed at Osteen. I may not like his theology or methodology, but on this night, I’m glad Joel survived this well-planned drive-by attack.