With Joel Osteen in the news for hosting Kanye West at his Houston megachurch, it’s important to remember that Osteen is not just a multimillionaire who preaches a theologically questionable prosperity gospel, he’s also no friend to LGBTQ people.
Osteen isn’t given to outrageous anti-LGBTQ statements like Pat Robertson or Franklin Graham. But when pressed, he has said that he believes homosexuality is a sin. And his Lakewood Church does not perform same-sex marriages. Osteen, however, has said he doesn’t like to talk about these matters.
Back in 2009, on The View, cohost Whoopi Goldberg asked Osteen if gay people are welcome at his church. He responded that they are, but “homosexuality is not God’s best.” The following year, he went on the show again and tried to clarify the statement, with limited success. “I don’t think it’s God’s best for your life,” he said. “I don’t think it’s not God’s best making us.”
In 2012, appearing on Oprah’s Next Chapter, he told Oprah Winfrey, “I believe that homosexuality is shown as a sin in the Scripture,” but he doesn’t think anyone can become totally free of sin, so he believes gays will be accepted into heaven. Winfrey’s TV network, OWN, also did a show featuring John Gray, a Lakewood associate pastor with a history of anti-LGBTQ statements.
In 2014, Osteen made some of his most detailed comments on LGBTQ issues in an interview with Larry King. King asked the pastor for his views on homosexuality, and Osteen responded, “I believe that Scripture says that it’s a sin, but I always follow that up by saying you know what, we’re not against anybody. He added, “There’s a lot of things, Larry, that I don’t understand, so I just don’t want to preach on it, preach about it. It only comes up during the interviews.”
King followed up by asking, “Does gay marriage annoy you?” Osteen answered, “It doesn’t annoy me. From a scriptural point of view, I don’t think it’s, you know, what my faith would teach, but it doesn’t annoy me.” The church’s wedding guidelines, posted on its website, state that it “believes in the sanctity of marriage according to Mark 10:6-9 ‘But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’”
West, who appears to be reinventing himself as a Christian performer with his new album, Jesus Is King: A Kanye West Experience, appeared onstage at Osteen’s church Sunday. “I know that God’s been calling me for a long time and the devil’s been distracting me for a long time,” the rapper and sometime Donald Trump supporter told the congregation, People reports.
West said that despite “all of that arrogance and cockiness that y’all have seen from me” in the past, he is now being used by God — but he still proclaimed himself “the greatest artist that God has ever created.”
One of the tracks on West’s new album is “Closed on Sunday,” a paean to Chick-fil-A, a company that has drawn opposition from LGBTQ people because of its donations to homophobic organizations (it has now made yet another promise to stop) and the anti-LGBTQ statements from its executives. The song includes the lyric “Closed on Sunday, you my Chick-fil-A,” noting that the fast-food chain’s restaurants are not open on the Christian Sabbath.
“Kanye’s lyrics here are an anti-LGBTQ stance with strategic timing,” said activist Dana White, who’s on the board of Collective Action for Safe Spaces.
Watch some of West's remarks at Osteen's megachurch below.