Joel Osteen: Televangelist Whose Church Closed During Hurricane Harvey Tells Victims not to Have 'Poor Me' Attitude

A televangelist whose church closed its doors during Hurricane Harvey claims that he is the victim of “misinformation” and told flood victims not to have a “poor me” attitude.

In his Sunday sermon, multimillionaire pastor Joel Osteen addressed the criticism that has been directed at him after his 16,000 seat Houston megachurch initially closed its doors during the storm, in which thousands of people were left homeless and 40 were killed.

Joel Osteen Pastor and best-selling author Joel Osteen gives the invocation before Annise Parker is publicly sworn in as mayor of Houston in Houston, Texas, on January 4, 2010. Richard Carson/Reuters

Pictures and video posted on social media showed the church apparently undamaged by the storm, and Osteen initially claimed he had not opened its doors because he had not been asked to by the state. The church re-opened Tuesday, as floodwaters began to recede. 

Osteen defended the decision not to open the church during the devastating storm, and told those affected not to have a “poor old me attitude.”

“You know I really believe in these times of difficulty it's, for me, certainly not the time to question your faith but to turn to your faith because God is the one that gives you the strength to make it through the difficult times," he said in a video of Sunday's sermon posted on YouTube.

“We are not going to understand everything that happens but, you know, having a 'poor old me' mentality or 'look what I lost' or 'why did this happen', that's just going to pull you down. Like we've been talking about all night, you just got to turn it over and say 'God you're still on the throne'.”

Osteen preaches the prosperity gospel, a branch of Christianity that holds that following Christian teachings can increase personal wealth. His Lakewood church is one of the largest in the U.S.

On Sunday, Osteen blamed “misinformation” for criticism levelled at the church for remaining closed. He said he hadn’t opened its doors due to safety concerns, and floodwaters came within a couple of feet of breaching flood walls installed after floods in 2001. 

He added: “Had we opened the building sooner and someone got injured, or perhaps the building flooded and someone lost their lives, that would have been a very different story. Now I don’t mind taking the heat for being precautious. But I don’t want to take the heat for being foolish.”

He continued: "This is not just an attack on me, it's an attack on what we stand for—for faith, for hope, for love," he said. "Jesus even said, 'When the world hates you, remember: it hated me first.'"

Join the Discussion