Joel Osteen has broken his silence regarding an elaborate online hoax that led many to believe that the televangelist and megachurch pastor had denounced his Christian faith.
Osteen spoke with ABC News about the hoax, and revealed that he wasn’t too bothered by it.
“You know, I’m really not angry. I don’t feel like a victim,” the 50-year-old said. “I feel too blessed, that life is too short to let things like this get you down.”
Osteen added, “You can’t stop everything from happening, but you can choose to say, ‘God, it’s in your hands’. I’m going to move forward. I’m going stay full of joy and I’m going enjoy this day.”
Osteen, who has been the leader of the 45,000 member Lakeview Church in Houston, Texas, since 1999, was the target of an elaborate hoax that claimed the pastor had become disillusioned with Christianity. The hoax had several parts, including a fake WordPress blog named Joel Osteen Ministries and a fake website named Joel Osten Ministries, as well as a false Twitter account and photoshopped headlines from CNN, Yahoo News, and the like.
Osteen’s “special message” acknowledged that some of the criticism directed at the televangelist has been “legitimate.” The announcement read in part, “What they don’t know is that deep down in my heart, for a number of years now, I have been questioning the faith, Christianity and whether Jesus Christ is really my, or anyone’s, ‘savior.'”
The announcement also ended with a pledge that Osteen planned to donate a large portion of his reported $17 million fortune to charity.
Osteen’s “resignation” was met with skepticism by some and relief by others. Some have criticized the pastor and the “prosperity gospel” that essentially tells people that, if they believe in God, he will shower them with riches. One website took particular issue with his book Your Best Life Now and said it “shows how Joel Osteen is a false teacher who speaks great-swelling words of emptiness (2 Peter 2:18). He lies, flatters, speaks falsely of God, preaches a false gospel, and brings in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1), all in this one book.”
Osteen and his church have not yet decided if they will seek legal action against the prankster, who told NPR that his goal wasn’t to defame the pastor. The man behind the hoax, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote to NPR that Osteen “seems like an infectiously nice and genial character.” The man added, “My hopes that Joel will ‘see the light,’ so to speak, are not high, but we all need faith.”
What do you think of the Joel Osteen hoax?