He’s the most popular preacher in the country right now – a best-selling author and the “most watched minister” in America.
But when asked yesterday about gay marriage during a trip to the bluest state in the land of the free – and the only one where same-sex nuptuals are legal – the Rev. Joel Osteen suddenly got sheepish.
“I don’t think it’s God’s best,” the handsome Holy Roller said of homosexuality. “I never feel like homosexuality is God’s best.”
When pressed on the issue, Osteen said, “I don’t feel like that’s my thrust . . . you know, some of the issues that divide us, and I’m here to let people know that God is for them and he’s on their side.”
Known for his positive preaching, the 43-year-old Osteen heads the biggest church in the country and has garnered rock star fame in the world of television evangelism.
In 1999, Osteen took over as senior pastor of the nondenominational Lakewood Church in Houston after the death of his preacher father. Since then, the congregation has exploded, with Osteen’s weekend services attracting some 40,000 people. Services are held in the former Compaq Center arena, where the Houston Rockets basketball team used to play.
His weekly TV broadcast is the “No. 1 inspirational program nationally,” his Web site boasts.
In Boston yesterday, more than 400 fans – most of them fawning females – lined up to meet Osteen at a book signing at the Prudential Center’s Barnes & Noble. Only a visit by former President Bill Clinton drew a bigger crowd, book store employees said.
Osteen and his pretty, blonde wife, Victoria, sold out the TD Banknorth Garden last night with their two-hour worship service, which fetched $10 a ticket. The couple’s visit came a month after controversial faith healer Benny Hinn came to the Hub.
Gushing fans of all ages snapped pictures and brought their $19.99 copy of Osteen’s best-selling book, “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.”
While TV evangelists often conjure up images of financial scandal, Osteen said yesterday he never asks for money on television and doesn’t take a church salary.
“We’re not trying to sell something or trying to make money,” Osteen said.
But the big bucks come from his books. Osteen reportedly got an unprecedented $13 million advance for his next book, which is due out next year.
Ole Anthony of the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, an organization that exposes phony TV preachers, said there’s never been any indication of fraud with Osteen, but said Osteen doesn’t have any theological education.
“He has pretty teeth,” Anthony said.
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