God "absolutely" approves of everyone — including homosexuals — declared one of America's most well-known evangelical pastors
The Houston megapastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen, whose followers include the likes of Cher and Oprah Winfrey, is hitting the talk-show circuit to promote his new book, "Break Out! 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life."
Osteen, the very visible face of Lakewood Church in Houston since 1999, talked to the Huffington Post about his thoughts on prayer, the pope and the homosexual lifestyle.
HuffPo Live host Josh Zepps quoted from Osteen's new book: "It doesn't matter who likes you or who doesn't like you, all that matters is God likes you. He accepts you, he approves of you."
Zepps followed up by asking if that included homosexuals.
"Absolutely," Osteen insisted, "I believe that God has breathed his life into every single person. We're all on a journey. Nobody's perfect."
Osteen, who oversees a congregation of 45,000 followers, stated all people must be acknowledged for who they are and expressed reluctance to "categorize" sin.
"The Bible said a sin is pride, a sin is selfish ambition. We tend to pick out these certain things," he said.
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"But I believe every person is made in the image of God, and you have accept them as they are, on their journey. I'm not here to be preaching hate, pushing people down. I'm not here telling people what they're doing wrong."
Osteen has said numerous times that he believes living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin in accordance with his understanding of Christian scripture.
In an appearance on Fox News Sunday in 2012, Osteen discussed his position on homosexuality by telling host Chris Wallace that he "doesn't dislike anybody" and believes gays are some of "most loving people in the world," despite his strongly held conviction that homosexuality is a sin.
"I believe the scripture says that being gay is a sin. But, you know, every time I say that, Chris … people say, well, you are a gay hater and you’re a gay basher," Osteen told Wallace during the interview. "I'm not. I don't – I don't dislike anybody. Gays are some of the nicest, kindest, most loving people in the world. But my faith is based on what I believe the scripture says, and that's the way I read the scripture.”
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Osteen also discussed Pope Francis during the Huffington Post interview, saying he appreciates the pontiff's inclusive nature.
"I think the pope is fantastic, his tone, his humility," he said.
"We may not agree 100 percent on doctrine and theology, but the Catholic Church, our church, it’s open for everybody. I like his tone, not pushing people away."
A caller during the live interview asked Osteen to give his definition of spirituality and religion.
"I do think that religion has turned a lot of people off. Part of it is because it was all about the rules and was political. I think now people have a hunger for God, they want to have a relationship, but they don't want to be called religious. I'm not trying to get them to join my religion, I'm just trying to plant a seed of hope in their heart."
As WND reported, Osteen was once the victim of an elaborate hoax that suggested he was quitting his church and abandoning his faith. Osteen was in fact not quitting, despite several phony websites, news stories and even a YouTube video declaring otherwise.
The pastor wasn't immune from criticism during his Huffington Post interview.
A caller chastised him for preaching about the power of praying for "things."
Osteen agreed in part: "I don't think you should spend your life praying for things, but I do believe you should thank God for what He's given you. I think the scripture teaches us that we can pray for our dreams, pray for the big things. He's not a small God; this God is incredible."