{Editor’s warning: the topic of discussion here is in regard to the “third rail” and the popularity, and possible implications thereof, for Joel Osteen and other new-agey type preachers. Despite the particular rail in question being homosexuality, in keeping with Hit Coffee’s continuing guidelines, please do not feel this is an excuse to write anything that is heavily derogatory towards homosexuals, heterosexuals, or persons on either side of the argument concerning the moral or ethical status thereof.

Our friend Wesley occasionally sends in some tip stories; today’s brings up a nationally famous pastor whose congregation lives in his city, a televangelist-type by the name of Joel Osteen. The last time he made big national news, his wife was having a few issues regarding her enormous ego.

Part of the discussion of what makes Osteen so popular is that, until this point, he’s basically stayed well under the radar when it comes to anything controversial. Rather than being a hellfire-and-brimstone hardcore Baptist-type, a “follow the rules” Catholic type, Osteen is very much a new-agey, “do what feels good”, “peace love dope=god”, welcome to the Bible TV Hour type pastor, the kind of man who wouldn’t be out of place making a cameo on quite possibly the worst TV show that has ever been made.

That being said, apparently Osteen has had a change of heart, or else he’s decided he has a big enough flock to take the risk of going into some third-rail topics, and so he is openly switching away from his previous “I don’t talk about sin” stance into beginning to say, on the air, that certain things are in fact sinful. On the other hand, apparently this stems at least partially from a lower-profile altercation back in November in which Osteen got into it with Joy Behar; then again, Behar seems to have an ongoing need to generate “controversy” to keep View viewership up, and she definitely isn’t above engineering a segment where she’s trying to put words in someone’s mouth while not letting them get in a word of their own edgewise.

Popularity is a hard thing to follow. Someone can be very popular, and then do something incredibly stupid, and turn most of their fanbase against them in one fell swoop. Osteen’s carefully crafted public image is about avoiding that if at all possible; certainly, he tried to sweep his wife’s temper tantrum under the rug, and he’s been very circumspect about discussing other “third rail” issues – divorce (then again his own father had been divorced, politics, or many other controversial topics. Even in the Behar transcript, he seems to be trying to get to a “well we believe homosexuality is a sin but we don’t condemn people for it or kick them out of church for it” stance, while Behar’s very hung up on berating him for using “homosexuality” and “sin” in the same sentence.

At the end of the day, it’s going to be interesting to see where this one goes. Osteen may very well go quickly into the new-agey, self-help-book writing, “Stuart Smalley“-style preacher he’s been to this point, or maybe he’ll start getting a little more into “well this is what the book says, we would love to help you stop sinning” territory. Only time will tell.

Category: Church, Coffeehouse

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5 Responses to Third Rails and Faith

  1. SFG says:

    I get the feeling you’re dying for him to lay down some righteous smackdown on the sinners. Let’s see how badly he likes being rich.

  2. web says:


    I don’t really care one way or the other. I simply find it intriguing that the vast majority* of those in his field have one focus, and he’s very much cultivated an opposite image. Quite honestly, if you want to find the “righteous smackdown” style of preacher, you don’t have to look too hard, they’re everywhere.

    Now if he could pull off a successful turn away from the new-agey “who the heck cares, peace love dope” arena he currently runs in and shift to the “church isn’t for the perfect, church is for sinners who need some guidance and loving support” attitude that he seemed to be trying to steer things towards in the Behar altercation, I wouldn’t have objection.

    Of course, there is a certain segment of the crowd who are still going to be like Joy Behar or Christine O’Donnell. That really can’t be helped just as it can’t be helped that people like Fred Phelps exist on the other extreme.

    *{let’s face it, there are an absolute ton of televangelists out there}

  3. Mike Hunt says:

    trumwill: please do not feel this is an excuse to write anything that is heavily derogatory towards … heterosexuals

    The only time I have ever heard derogatory comments towards heterosexuals on the basis of their heterosexuality was in college athletics. Lesbian athletes are very dismissive of straight ones.

  4. trumwill says:

    When CNN was pushing Piers Morgan as a “master interviewer” I actually wondered how good he could actually be. Pretty good, it seems. I suspect that this is a temporary diversion and that he will not go around talking about icky things like sin and the like.

    Other than peace, love, dope, and non-judgmentalism, one of the things that Osteen preaches is prosperity gospel. Love God, and he will take care of you. Materially. Not unlike Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, and Creflo (you can’t make this up) Dollar.

    I’ve seen parts of maybe one or two Osteen sermons (without cable, there wasn’t much to watch on Sunday mornings). Frankly, I don’t get the draw. Both Dollar and Meyer are much more entertaining in their delivery.

  5. trumwill says:

    Bibleman cracks me up. It’s bad, but not in a “so bad it’s good” way or a “too bad to even be considered good” way. It’s bad in such a weird way that I feel like it’s an artifact of an alien culture.

    On the other hand, it’s Buddy Lembeck’s brainchild and a product of the faith that helped him kick alcohol and drug abuse. So there’s that.

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