Well-known megachurch pastor Joel Osteen is changing his tone on homosexuality, leading some observers to wonder if this means evangelical Christianity as a whole will evolve to a more accepting position.
Last month Josh Zepps interviewed Osteen on Huffington Post Live and read this passage from Osteen’s new book, Break Out: 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life: “It doesn’t matter who likes you or doesn’t like you, all that matters is that God likes you. He accepts you, he approves of you.”
Zepps asked Osteen if that includes gay people, and Osteen responded, “Absolutely. I believe that God breathed life into every person and that 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 preach hate or push people down.”
That’s a bit of a shift from Osteen’s 2009 comment on The View that “I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life,” and his statement to Oprah Winfrey in 2012 that “I believe that homosexuality is shown as a sin in the Scripture” — although, he added to Winfrey, no one can become totally free of sin, and LGBT people can gain entry to heaven.
Commentator Chris Sosa, in a piece published Sunday in Salon, says Osteen’s recent comments offer reason for hope. “Osteen never says a bad word about LGBT individuals without offering some sort of olive branch afterward,” Sosa writes, although this olive branch is “often a condescending one.” Still, he says, evangelical churches are facing cultural pressure to be more accepting of LGBT people, especially given the high level of support for LGBT equality among younger people. “It won’t be surprising when Joel Osteen, along with the rest of the Evangelical community, announces an Obama-style evolution on the issue,” Sosa concludes.