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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Joel and Victoria Osteen

Aired December 22, 2006 - 21:00   ET


JOEL OSTEEN: This has been a dream come true. I mean it's been a long, hard battle, but thank god, it just shows you that god is a faithful god and that he can bring your dreams to pass.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, who fills his church every week with enough people to pack an NFL football stadium? Who's the Evangelical superstar who made Barbara Walters' Most Fascinating People List?


J. OSTEEN: The privilege has been all mine.


KING: Who's seen in over 100 countries and whose book has sold more than four million copies?

He's Joel Osteen, pastor of America's fastest growing church and he says god wants you to have it all. And he's here with me for the hour with his wife, too, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's a great pleasure.


A return visit for Joel Osteen, senior pastor for the Lakewood Church in Houston, reported to be the largest, fastest growing congregation in the United States, author of the number one "New York Times" best-selling book, "Your Best Life Now." And Barbara Walters recently profiled him as one of her 10 most fascinating people of 2006.

With him, his lovely wife Victoria Osteen, the wife and partner. They have two children. She frequently is seen on his television show.

Do you think with all this, you know, most fascinating people that there's more attention placed on pastors than on god? Pastors have become celebrities?

J. OSTEEN: Yes, I hope not. I know sometimes people look to the person, but we try to always turn the attention back to God, because obviously, you know, that's our focus is to draw people closer to him.

But I don't think sometimes -- sometimes it's just natural that they see you and you help them that, you know, we always try to turn it the other way.

KING: You can't say you don't like it.

J. OSTEEN: Well, you know, it's flattering to people who stop you and say that you've helped them and all. But, again, you know, you've got to stay humble because as quick as you came up, you can come down.

So we try to turn it right back around and give the credit to god.

KING: What do you think of celebritydom, Victoria, for your husband?

V. OSTEEN: Well, I think that society does that, that they love -- we love celebrities. And so I think that they really look at him as not really a celebrity, but someone they can identify with. That's the way I look at it. When they see him, they realize, you know what? He's helped me. We hear so much of that, Larry. We hear so many good reports.

KING: What does that do for your ego?

J. OSTEEN: Well, you've got to keep it all intact. I don't feel like I'm any different than I was seven or eight years ago when I was working behind-the-scenes. And, you know, I have good family around me and start off every day, the first half hour, just searching my own heart, reading my bible, spending time in prayer and things like that.

And I think if you can keep your compass right, then, you know, hopefully you'll stay on the right track.

KING: The Christian -- basic Christian concept is forgiveness, right?

J. OSTEEN: That's right.

KING: So is that -- the other day Donald Trump forgave the Miss. USA pageant winner for apparently leading a kind of weird life, a tawdry life and urged her to get rehab.

Is that something you encourage?

J. OSTEEN: I think so. I mean we all need a second chance sometimes. And so I think it is. We need to, you know, restore people. We need to show mercy. I mean, because as much mercy as you show people, that's the mercy you're going to be receiving.

KING: Is it hard to forgive, Victoria?

V. OSTEEN: A lot of things we're supposed to do are hard to do, but we can do them. They're always beneficial. Really, some things that are hard are beneficial. So, yes, sometimes it is.

KING: Martin Luther King told me once in an interview that he -- he loved the sinner and hated the sin. And I've -- it's always amazed me how you can do that.

J. OSTEEN: Sometimes it's hard, but I think you have to look at the person, you know, especially a lot of the people that are hurting and do crazy things. And when you go back and, you know, put yourself in their shoes, you realize a lot of times maybe they weren't, you know, had a lot of things against them to start with, when they were raised or other things in life.

So I think that's the way you can do it. You just have to separate them and think you know what, that person has a good heart to begin with. They did some crazy things or made some bad choices, but you've got to get back to the heart of the person.

KING: By the way, how big is your church?

J. OSTEEN: Well, the auditorium seats 16,000. It's the old Compaq Center. We have four services each weekend. And I don't know, between 30,000 and 40,000 people come out each weekend.

KING: And it's telecast?

J. OSTEEN: It does. It...

KING: All of them are telecast or...

J. OSTEEN: Yes, all the weekend services are. I mean, they are. And it goes out all over the world.

KING: Do you do different services?

J. OSTEEN: I do. I do -- Victoria and I do three services, Saturday night and two Sunday morning. A friend of ours, Marcos Witt, he does the Spanish service at 1:30.

KING: You write them all yourself?

J. OSTEEN: I do. I write all my sermons.

KING: Now, let's discuss some of the recent allegations dealing with hypocrisy and the Christian church.

Mr. Haggard. He rails against homosexuality and homosexual marriage and turns out to be one.

How do you explain that or deal with it?

J. OSTEEN: You know, it's hard. You just -- I don't know -- we know Ted and his family. It just -- it shows me, I guess, Larry, that all of us have things that we struggle with and you have to stay open.

I read where Ted said that he felt like he lost his battle when he kept it all inside. You have to have, you know, people around you to help you when you're dealing with things like that and, you know, integrity is the name of the game. You know, I'd rather get up and say you know what? I'm struggling with this issue. I need some help.

But I don't know, it's a difficult thing.

KING: But don't you get angry at the hypocrisy of railing against something that you're doing?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I don't know if angry is the right word, but it's sad. You know, it's really sad that you see that happen and just sad for him, sad for others. But I don't know. That's just the word that hits me is a sadness.

KING: Where do you -- what's your view of homosexuality?

J. OSTEEN: Well, to me, Larry, it's not god's best. It's not, you know, the scripture clearly defines that it's not -- it's considered a sin. And -- but you know what? There's a fine line. So is lying, so is cheating, so is having an adulterous affair.

So I think we have to be careful not to beat people up. Our church has always been open to everyone that wants to come, regardless of who you are. And so we've seen people overcome things like that.

So I don't like to take the easy way out and people say well, that's just me. I think there's, you know, we all have struggles and I think that we can overcome things like that.

KING: But, Joel, how could something be a sin if you don't choose it?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I think that's the debate and I don't know. I don't have all the answers. I think sometimes -- I don't think we can say everybody doesn't choose it. I think sometimes we do choose things. But we have to, you know, maybe -- for instance, Larry, maybe I have a -- or just a male has a -- and I'm married and I have tendencies toward another female.

You know that? I have to say you know what? I can't do that. That's not right. That's, you know, the bible teaches, you know, that I have to be disciplined in those areas.

I think some -- many times it's in that same (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: What do you say to the gay person who might be in your congregation who says, you know, you preach about family and family values. I like that idea. Family is wonderful. I'd like to marry my partner.

J. OSTEEN: Well, I just never encourage it because, you know, our -- I didn't make the rules. But if you go back to the scripture, it talks about, you know -- it's all -- seen throughout the whole bible that marriage is between a man and a woman. So I just wouldn't encourage it. I couldn't in good faith, you know, letting the bible be my guide, you know, encourage them in that.

KING: But the bible isn't Texas' guide or Louisiana's guide.

J. OSTEEN: Sure. Well, that's the thing, Larry, like kind of like you said. You know, I don't believe in pushing stuff down people's throat. I mean different people have different callings. My calling is love, forgiveness, mercy, let me help you be the best that you can be through the scriptures. And so...

KING: Do you like the idea of a civil union, where a state pronounces at least that two people get the rights of marriage?

J. OSTEEN: You know, Larry, I have not thought about that. I don't really spend much time thinking on that. I think that, you know, anything that conducts the bible wouldn't be something I could, you know, I could agree with.

KING: Victoria, what do you think?

V. OSTEEN: I couldn't agree with that either. I mean my belief is that, you know, it's for a man and a woman. And it's not -- it just -- it wouldn't be something that I would feel in good conscience about. I mean I wouldn't want my children to do it and so...

KING: If your children were gay, you'd still discourage it?

Because you can't choose that.

V. OSTEEN: I'd love them. I'd love my children no matter what. And -- but I wouldn't be -- I can't say I'd be happy about it. I couldn't say, you know -- I'm not going to bend it just because it's happened to me. There's things that happen and they're, you know, they happen.

But, no.

KING: Our guests, Joel Osteen and Victoria Osteen on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Christmas is coming.

We'll get his thoughts on the way we celebrate that holiday.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was better than any concert I have ever been to, any experience I have ever experienced in my entire life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, Joel. You are the like the best. And god bless you and your family forever.

J. OSTEEN: That you're going to have a new sense of joy, a new sense of freedom, a new sense of victory. Friends, I declare you are blessed and if you receive the blessing, shout amen.

Amen! UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's just a sign of hope for the new generation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This experience was an experience of a lifetime. You know, you touched me (AUDIO GAP). Thanks, Joel.




J. OSTEEN: All the credit goes to you, the people of Lakewood. It's because of your faithfulness, your generosity, your willingness to get behind the vision.

The credit goes to my mom, my dad, the original members that have stuck with us through the years.

I can honestly say that the privilege has been all mine.

Would you bow your heads in prayer with me today?

Thank you so much.


KING: Arguably, the most popular preacher in America. Maybe the successor to our friend, Billy Graham.

Joel Osteen and his wife Victoria.

You don't preach much about sin. You don't talk about Satan a lot.


J. OSTEEN: Well, I think I do in a sense. I don't maybe -- I don't maybe -- I don't know if I necessarily call it sin per se, but I'll talk about being faithful in relationships and living a life of integrity and things like that.

And then, you know, some things people don't see at the end of the broadcast and at the end of the services, where I give a salvation call like Billy Graham every week, you know, for us to repent of our sins and -- I mean it's the foundation of our faith, but I do feel like, as a pastor, I'm called to help teach people live their everyday lives and I feel like my greatest gift is in encouraging them, you know, helping them become all god's great (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Victoria, is it hard to be a -- is it hard to lead a Christian life?

V. OSTEEN: Not really. I mean you work at it.

KING: You have... V. OSTEEN: You have to practice it. You can't just sit back and it happen to you. You practice it and, you know, you -- you just don't always -- or you're not always perfect.

KING: You ever have doubts?

V. OSTEEN: Doubts?

KING: Yes.

V. OSTEEN: Yes, sure. Your mind doubts, but you don't let your -- you just -- you work on keeping your heart steadfast.

KING: I mean you see a thing like Katrina.

Do you doubt at all?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I don't...

KING: It wasn't manmade.

J. OSTEEN: Yes. Yes, I don't know if you doubt, it's just part of the times that we're living in. And I just, you know, maybe I'm the eternal optimist, but I try to turn it around and say god's still in control.

And I was down there the other day in New Orleans and to see the strength of the people and the pastors rebuilding and things like that.

So I don't know. You just -- I don't think you can let things like that shake your faith.

KING: How did you two -- you met at a basketball game?

V. OSTEEN: No. He came in my family's jewelry store to get a battery for a watch.

KING: Oh. I thought it was a basketball game. I'm wrong.

V. OSTEEN: That was my first date. That was our first date.

KING: Your first date?


V. OSTEEN: He took me to the basket...

KING: Oh, I see. You met before that?



V. OSTEEN: That was our first date. J. OSTEEN: We did. I took her to a basketball game there at the Compaq Center where we have church now. And, you know, dated a year- and-a-half and got married after that.


KING: Why a basketball game on a first date?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I was a big sports fan and I had tickets and I thought this is what I love to do and she was kind enough to go with me and we had a good time.

KING: Were you a minister then?

J. OSTEEN: No, I wasn't. My -- I worked for my father, who was a minister, who started Lakewood, the church I'm -- that we're at now. And so I worked behind-the-scenes with my father doing production and things like that. I grew up as a preacher's kid.

KING: Why has the church grown so much?

J. OSTEEN: I don't know what it is, Larry. I mean I can't put my finger on one thing. I think that, you know, it's -- you know, maybe it's the fact that it's positive and hopeful and got some new life and energy in it. But it continues to grow.

I'm sure a lot of it is god's blessings and honoring of my father, who worked there for 40 years and helped a lot of people. I get to reap that now.

KING: What about money?

Do you make a lot of money?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I do through my book royalties. I don't take a salary at the church, but, you know, god's blessed me, you know, with -- I never dreamed my book, when I wrote my book, you know, I didn't write it for money. I thought if it sold 20,000 or 30,000 copies, they told me it would be doing good. I didn't know it was going to sell four million copies.

I didn't know it would take off like that. But just, again, god's blessings.

KING: Are you writing another one?

J. OSTEEN: I am. I've got one coming out, you know, next fall. So I'm working on one. I take my books -- a lot of my books is worked from my sermons. And so I've been working on that for the last couple of years. So I'm excited about it.

KING: I mentioned Billy Graham.

Do you know him?

J. OSTEEN: I've met him one time. I met him... KING: Just once?

J. OSTEEN: Just once. I met him...

KING: He watches this show every night.

J. OSTEEN: He does.

KING: He's seeing you now.

J. OSTEEN: He's one of my heroes, you know? I love his faithfulness, his integrity and I was honored to be at something President Bush, the father, was honoring him with a lifetime achievement award and he invited me to come up and spend a few minutes with him. And I just -- I just talked with him for 15 minutes.

But he was one of the kindest men I've ever met.

KING: Yes.

J. OSTEEN: Just very humble.

KING: He's all that.

There's a big dispute now between him and his son over how Franklin, the son, who now heads the Eval -- heads that association -- wants to build a library or the large barn and the silo and a mechanical talking cow. Billy's mother -- Billy's wife disagrees with that and she'd like to make it a more modest one at The Cove in Asheville.

Do you have a thought?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I just read an article about that the other day and, you know, it's just -- it's -- I don't know. I guess my thoughts is -- thoughts would be to -- to honor what the parents wanted, you know?

But I'm sure Franklin has, you know, they're smart people and loving family. So I don't know. I mean in a sense I would love to -- there to be something for young ministers like myself to go and honor Dr. Graham when he's gone on.

So I think the thought is great. Maybe they could accomplish both by having a memorial thing somewhere and still let him be buried where Mrs. Graham wants.

KING: Did you meet Billy, too?

V. OSTEEN: I did. A very wonderful man. A very personable man. He acted like that he knew us, so that's just the kind of man he is. He's just really personable.

KING: Do you see yourself following in that footstep of the next Graham?

J. OSTEEN: Oh, I don't think so.

KING: Certainly the pattern has gone that way.

J. OSTEEN: Well, I guess, but I just -- to me, who could replace Billy Graham?

I mean he was one of a kind. I think, you know, it's a new day today with the media. There's more opportunity, really, than Billy Graham had, you know, where I am in my age and all.

So I don't know if one person could ever fill his shoes and, you know, I say this respectfully, but I'd want to definitely try to fill my own purpose that god has for my life at this point.

KING: There are some critics, Joel, of many in the church today. The critic is saying instead of all this about you're a sin, you're a sinner, no gay marriage, why don't you talk about poverty and the environment, issues that really hit people?

J. OSTEEN: I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think that's a good -- I think that's a good thing, as well. I think very often you could get focused, the church as a whole, on what we're against. We need to be what we're for. And that's why our message is very hopeful. And I get criticized for it, that we're hopeful, that you can rise higher and, you know, part of my main focus is are we doing something for anybody else?

I mean I believe that's why god wants us to -- wants to bless us, is that so that we can be a blessing.

So I think there's some truth to that argument, as much as it can kind of hurt, because, again, if, you know, it seems to me -- and I'm young at this, but it seems like if we don't watch it, a certain -- you know, the church can be politicized and, well, they only believe this or only believe that. And that's why I try to stay -- stay out of that.

And we should be helping the poor. That's -- and we should be feeding the, you know -- and many of these other things that you talked about.

KING: We'll be right back with Joel Osteen and Victoria Osteen, we can arguably say, the most popular preacher in America.

Don't go away.


J. OSTEEN: See, when you drive home today, you've got a big windshield on the front of your car. And you've got a little bitty rearview mirror. And the reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because what's happened in your past is not near as important as what's in your future.

Where you're going is much more important than where you've been.



KING: We're back with Joel Osteen and Victoria Osteen.

OK, if we can say you've attained rock star status, let's say that's true, what's your biggest challenge? How do you meet that?

J. OSTEEN: Well, I think the biggest challenge, two things. One is stay in focus on the best use of your time. So I think to stay focused. There's -- you know, when you have some influence, when god has blessed you, there's a lot of opportunities.

But I try to not get distracted and say well, this is the main thing that I'm called to do. And I guess you stay in focus.

KING: What's your biggest challenge with regard to your husband's success?

V. OSTEEN: To -- well, probably to just, you know, take care -- right now, we have a young family, so I really -- I focus my time on taking care of him, taking care of the children, taking the pressure off of him to -- as much as to the extent that I can as far as our personal life goes.

And then, of course, I always want to be improving. I always want to be, you know, getting better at what we're called to do.

So that's probably the -- that's enough challenge right there.

KING: What's the toughest part about being a preacher's wife?

V. OSTEEN: The toughest part about being...

KING: Did you ever think you wanted to be one, by the way?

V. OSTEEN: No, I didn't. I never thought about it, really, you know? I...

KING: What's the toughest part?

V. OSTEEN: The toughest part?

Probably to just -- it's not really tough. We, you know what? We don't set ourself up for any certain way of doing or being. We really are just ourself. We -- I mean you could say -- I mean I could sit here and think of a lot of things. But I just try to be myself and that's the truth.

And so I don't really set myself up.

KING: How about ministering to the sick? Visiting the dying?

J. OSTEEN: Well...

KING: I mean, that's hard. J. OSTEEN: That is hard. You know, almost -- I was going to say every service, but almost -- at least once a month, Larry, at our services, they'll bring children that are sick. And it's, you know, it's heartbreaking. I cry more than the parents cry. But it's hard, you know? You've just got to -- you know we have a big cancer center, M.D. Anderson, great people there.

KING: Sure is.

J. OSTEEN: But, you know, they come there and, you know, you'd see little 2- or 3-year-old children. It breaks your heart. I mean I don't have any answer for them except god's a god of the impossible, let's trust him, let's believe that he can heal.

We see many of them come out of it, you know, and just go against the odds. Some of them don't make it. We just believe, I to, again, just say let's believe there for the hope of heaven.

But it's hard. It breaks your heart.

KING: How have you dealt with being well known?

V. OSTEEN: You know, up to just recently I didn't really realize we were real well known. I know that's kind of naive but we've only been done this...


V. OSTEEN: ... we've only done this for about seven years. So, you know, I'm -- kind of like Joel was saying about the children and about -- to re-answer that question, you just have to just believe that when -- that when they come in our church, that they're finding a comfort and a hope that they didn't have before. And that's -- that's a good feeling.

And I've had people say how can you deal with all of this?

Well, I really give it all to god and I just say god, you know what?

You're the one that makes the difference. It's not us making the difference. We're only going to be faithful with what you called us to do.

But we really feel like that when they come in, they feel a sense of hope and they feel a sense of strength. And that's what we -- we provide for them, you know, through the church.

KING: You got some negative press, though, didn't you, I -- about on a flight to Vail last year?

V. OSTEEN: That was nothing.

KING: What happened?

V. OSTEEN: It was nothing. There was a small incident that was blown out of proportion and I just did what any concerned mother would do and really nothing.

KING: Oh, well, you can't leave me like that.


KING: What happened?

V. OSTEEN: What happened?

Well, I really don't want to -- I'll tell you the truth, I've never spoken about it before because of the...

KING: OK. It's not a court. You don't have to answer it.


KING: But if it was nothing...

V. OSTEEN: It was nothing. It was just a small incident that was blown out of proportion and the truth is I've never spoken about it because you know what that does?

That makes me have to start accusing and pointing the finger at someone else. And I just want to take the high road because...

KING: But don't you want to answer, in contrary to what the media might have reported? Don't you feel that, hey, there's another side to this?

V. OSTEEN: You know, you asked me a few minutes ago, is it hard to be this or is it hard -- yes, it is. But when you do what you're supposed to do, it makes you stronger. Yes, it's hard. I'd love to go and, you know, myself, and say yes, I want to do this and do that.

But you know what?

I have taken the high road. I realized it's made me stronger. And that's what I choose to do now. It's made me see things in me that I've never seen before. It's made me have more compassion on people.

And so that's why I've chosen not to even combat, you know, something that was blown out of proportion.

KING: How did you react to it?

J. OSTEEN: Well, it was just unfortunate. It's just -- it was my first taste of being in the public eye and having something like...

KING: Oh, really?

J. OSTEEN: Yes -- and having something like that. Just that it was absolutely -- Victoria did absolutely nothing wrong. I mean we -- it's a longer story.

But it's like you said, Larry, our message is about forgiveness and mercy and we're not going to go talking about people and, you know, we have no ill will toward anyone. Life is good for us. But I feel bad that Victoria had to go through that just because we're, you know, I believe, because we're in the public eye.

KING: And being in the public eye causes people to -- some people call you Christianity lite, that you're just, you know, easy.

J. OSTEEN: Yes. Well, you know, it's interesting, Larry, I just don't -- I'm not into condemning people and knocking them down. And it's just who god made me to be on the inside. Before I was ever a minister, I was the same way. I was positive. I was hopeful.

When I used to play sports, I'd be the one cheering the team on, come on, we can beat these guys. That's just in me.

So when I get up, if I'm dealing about staying faithful to your marriage, I'm going to say you know what? You guys can do it. We can do this or here's how -- here's some steps to do it.

So, you know, they talk about it being lite, but as I said, Larry, every service we deal with people that are facing cancer and death and divorce and, you know, I talk about the real issues of life -- forgiveness, letting go of your past, moving on.

So to me it's not lite. It's just I don't beat them down.

KING: What gets you angry?

J. OSTEEN: You know, it's funny because...

KING: Come on, you've got to get angry.

J. OSTEEN: Well, my mother -- you're going to think this is odd, but my mother said she's never seen me angry in a day of my life. I'm very easygoing. I mean if anything gets me -- I don't know, what gets me angry?

V. OSTEEN: Well, you know, he's good at -- he's very focused and very disciplined. And he's able to control, if anything...


V. OSTEEN: ... he's able to control it. And the truth is he is the most kind person. He doesn't judge people. He somehow, some way, he always sees the best. And he's always been that way. He really has. In fact, he always had this uncanny way of just making things seem much easier than they really are, I mean in our minds.

KING: It must be frustrating if you argue, because you don't...

V. OSTEEN: Well, you can't argue with somebody that won't argue back.

KING: That's what I mean. You don't argue back.

V. OSTEEN: See, that's good. That's good, though. KING: We'll be right back with the Osteens.

Don't go away.


J. OSTEEN: Some of you today, you have major needs, you have big obstacles in your path. The best thing you could do is get your mind off yourself and go do something good for somebody else. What you make happen for others god will make happen for you. If you want to see your dreams come to pass, I challenge you, sow a seed by helping somebody else's dreams come to pass.



KING: My spies told me to ask Joel Osteen to fill in something that happened on the first date.

What happened?

J. OSTEEN: Well, Larry I took her to that basketball game and I really wanted to impress her. I hardly even knew her, I had just spoken for 30 minutes. And so we go and I didn't have my normal season tickets, so had to buy tickets from the scalper out front. And he sold me some good tickets ...

KING: College game?

J. OSTEEN: No, Rockets. Houston Rockets. So she went through the turnstile. When I went to go through the turnstile, he said I'm sorry this is for tomorrow night's game, so I couldn't get in. There she is, I'm trying to impress her so I went back, got my ticket, got some more tickets. We wanted good seats, but ended way up at the very, very top, next to the last row. It just wasn't going the way I wanted to.

And anyway, at halftime they chose somebody from the audience to shoot from half court. And they chose somebody from our section. He goes out there at halftime, he shoots the basket and he swishes it, he makes it. All of his friends are around us. And when he made it they jumped up, and threw their hands up in the air, the only problem was they were all holding cups of beer.

So when they did that the beer went up in the air, and I promise, Larry, it was like slow motion, I could see the beer up there, and I had time to pray. I said, God, do not let that beer come down on Victoria, I thought, I'll go to India, be a missionary, I'll do anything, but God has a sense of humor because that beer missed everybody but it totally drenched Victoria.

KING: What a way to start.

J. OSTEEN: Well, I thought here I'm a good Christian preacher's kid, and I got to take her home smelling like beer. But that's how it started.

KING: Great story. You had to love him.

V. OSTEEN: I had to laugh, that's for sure.

KING: Ole Anthony, maybe you know him, president of the Trinity Foundation of Dallas, a critic of course, says of Joel, "His popularity is a testimony of the spiritual infantilism of American culture. He's qualified to be an excellent spiritual kindergarten teacher." Funny. How do you react?

J. OSTEEN: I hadn't heard that. I heard some other things he said. I don't know, again, I'm doing what I feel like God has called me to do, and judge it by the fruit. Come read my mails or listen to the phone calls or come to the auditoriums where 20,000 people fill them.

KING: What do you think your appeal is?

J. OSTEEN: I think there's a lot of negativity in the world, a lot of things pulling people down. And when you get on there and say, you know what? God is a good God, he's for you. You may have made mistakes, you may have some stuff in the past you want to leave behind, but you can do that.

So I believe, I hope that every time people get through listening to me, they feel better, they can go further, they can go closer to God now. I think it's just the negativity is so strong today.

V. OSTEEN: And he is simple.

KING: He's simple?

V. OSTEEN: No, God's not complicated, he's really not. And he helps people in their everyday life so that they can get better in relationships, in their job situations, in getting through grief. It's amazing the people he's helped where a loved one has died, but it's not a complicated thing. He just gives it to you in an easy way. I just think that people don't -- they want to complicate things and they want it to be hard, and it's not that difficult.

KING: What's the prosperity gospel, and why do you preach it? You think God wants us to have money?

J. OSTEEN: Well. You know, Larry? That's something I kind of get tagged with that I don't even like. I'm not a prosperity preacher, quote. My message is very balanced. I preach about forgiveness and hope, as a matter of fact, I've never preached a message on money.

I think that I -- you know, people put me into that sometimes, because I do believe God wants us to be blessed, he wants us to prosper, but to me prospering is not all about money, it's about good health, good relationships. We both know people with people that have money, but are as lonely as can be or can't get along with somebody. So I do think God does want us to be blessed and it goes back to -- when I think about my father, when he was 17, he came out of the Depression, they had no money, a rags to riches type of story, where he said my children are not going to be raised like this. He didn't have money to go to school. He had holes in his pants, stuff like that. He made that decision to rise above that. That's my whole message. Is no matter where you are, you can rise higher, you can be a better father, be a better husband, you can break an addiction. That's what it's all about. If money is the only thing that we're searching for, that's very shallow.

KING: Do you think -- Billy Graham told me once he thought, in essence, he had failed to deliver a message of peace in the world. He had never seen it. Do you think organized religion has failed?

J. OSTEEN: I don't know if I would know the answer. I think we can always do better. I think without the church, I know there's so many fine people, so I think the world would be a much worse. So I think we have made a difference.

KING: But so much killing in the name of God.

J. OSTEEN: Yeah. It's sad. Some of that's been going on for thousands of years it seems like.

KING: Doesn't that therefore seem hopeless to you?

J. OSTEEN: Well, you've just got to stay hopeful. It could be, but it doesn't do us good to go negative. Too bad, no use doing even what I'm doing. If we can change one life or inspire one person, then it's worth it. So you've got to stay positive and hopeful.

KING: We'll be right back with Joel Osteen and Victoria Osteen on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Christmas is Monday, I'm going to ask him about that. Don't go away.


J. OSTEEN: I like to get started each week with something kind of funny. I heard about this young police recruit. He was taking his final exam and he was in front of the classroom. The sergeant asked him, what would you do if you had to arrest your own mother-in-law? Without missing a beat, he said, "Call for backup."



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're so excited.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We like listening to him, so we wanted to meet him. He's always positive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joel Osteen is just wonderful. He is the best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love Joel. He really saved my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's for real. That's why I love him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three! (inaudible)


KING: We're back. On this program you angered some evangelicals two years ago when you did not say that accepting Jesus is the only way to heaven. This is the birth of Jesus coming up Monday. You still believe that?

J. OSTEEN: No. I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

KING: So you misspoke?

J. OSTEEN: I thought that I said that. I said I believe in a personal relationship with Christ. You go back and pull things out of the transcript, it could look like that, but the foundation of the Christian faith is that Christ came as a sacrifice so that we can receive forgiveness.

KING: So you don't believe, you don't go to heaven?

J. OSTEEN: I believe it's true what you're saying, that you have to have a relationship with Christ. I mean, the "Scripture" is so clear. The most famous "Scripture" is God sent his son to, you know, forgive the world and if you believe in him, you will have everlasting life. And another place it talks about Jesus said, you can't get to the father unless through me. So I do believe that. It's the foundation of our faith.

KING: So was that out of context two years ago ...

J. OSTEEN: I think that being young and ...

KING: Did I trick you?

J. OSTEEN: No, I never felt like that whatsoever. I just think -- and I was first to admit, if anybody took it like that, I'll admit an oversight.

KING: All right. Have we made Christmas into something it shouldn't be? Should it be presents and gifts? Is that what it's about?

J. OSTEEN: It's really -- that can be part of it, but I think we have to remember that the purpose of Christmas is especially as Christians, to celebrate the birth of Christ. I think everybody would agree it's getting a little over-commercialized, and we have to fight just the stress and, you know, buying the gifts and getting in debt, doing all these things trying to please people, yet we didn't take time for our family and didn't love to be with each other and didn't celebrate the birth of Christ.

KING: Isn't one of the problems, Victoria, that the Christmas spirit goes away?

V. OSTEEN: It never should go away. We should celebrate Christmas throughout the year, but I believe the whole concept of giving was the basis of Christmas, that it was a charitable, you know, giving, and I think we got carried away with giving.

So I think that's where all the commercialism came from is that we're just giving, giving, giving, but I think the greatest thing you can give is to your family, to relationships, to people who are hurting. You know, I know there are many times you with go serve people at a shelter, or things like that. It makes Christmas so much greater than getting the best gift in the world. But I think that's where we got off, but I think the intention of giving was good.

KING: You also have been criticized for inclusiveness. Some find it suspect that your congregations include Jews and Muslims as well as Christians, and your book has been sold to atheists and agnostics. What does that tell you?

J. OSTEEN: That tells me that the message of hope and God's love and forgiveness resonates with people. I have people all the time that stop me from different faiths just like you mention. It doesn't bother me that they listen to our message and get help. The principles in the Bible are for anybody. They can help anybody.

So, you know, I'm glad. I'm trying to plant a seed of hope in people's lives. If I can make somebody live a better life, no matter what religion or faith they come from, that's good. Jesus went about doing good to all people. He didn't say let me see what religion you are first, he just helped people.

KING: And you do have everybody come to your church?

J. OSTEEN: There's all different kinds that come. Last week a lady flew over from somewhere with her family and she was of a different faith and she loves watching and reading the book and they know what I believe about Christ.

I don't know for sure if they have received him the way I would like them to or encourage them to, but I'm not going to say don't come to my church if you don't believe just like me. Soak it in, let the seed be planted. I can't make everybody believe. The Gospel is good news. I just want to share good news.

KING: Christians believe he's coming back, right?

J. OSTEEN: That's right.

KING: When?

J. OSTEEN: I don't know. There's a big debate about when and -- or did I don't know Larry, I can't answer all that. But we believe he's coming back, the second coming of Christ. But I'm not an expert in the Book of Revelations and I try to stay in the fields I know.

KING: Do you know, Victoria? V. OSTEEN: No, but he's coming back, though.

On a white horse.

KING: When we come back, I'll ask about Mel Gibson and other things. Don't go away.


J. OSTEEN: I had a young man tell me last week, Joel, my grandfather was an alcoholic, my dad was an alcoholic, and now I have got the same problem and I just can't beat it. You can beat it. The power in you is greater than the addiction, but you have got to change the attitude. You have to start saying, I'm free. Declare that every day.


KING: We're back. Before we talk about Mel Gibson, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," that was a great book by a rabbi. Your great-aunt, Joanie Daniels (ph), was recently brutally killed in August. What did that do to you? What did that make you think about bad things happening to good people?

J. OSTEEN: Well, again. It's sad, we don't understand it all, especially if you knew my great-aunt. She was the most kind person in the world, I think the person that did kill her was somebody she had helped. Taking him off the street.

KING: Was she murdered?

J. OSTEEN: She was murdered and she was way up in her 80s. I hadn't seen her a while, because she couldn't drive any longer, but it's a sad thing.

KING: And you don't question God?

J. OSTEEN: No, I don't. I don't question him.

KING: You knew her well, Victoria?

V. OSTEEN: I knew her. She was a wonderful person.

KING: You don't question God, either?

V. OSTEEN: I don't question God. I mean, I don't always understand it, but I just -- you know ...

KING: What do you make of the comments of Mel Gibson while drinking?

J. OSTEEN: Again, just sad. I hope and I don't believe that it really reflected his heart. I hope it didn't. He doesn't -- Of course I don't know him, but he doesn't seem like that type of person, but of course there's no place for that.

KING: Did you see the Christ movie he made?

J. OSTEEN: I did see it.

KING: What did you think of it?

J. OSTEEN: I thought it was strong, I thought it was great. It was graphic, it took me back a little bit, but I thought it was great.

KING: He is a great filmmaker.

J. OSTEEN: He is.

KING: Too much -- Why is there so much racism, the comments of Michael Richards? And it seems to be pervasive more now.

J. OSTEEN: I don't know what that is. I don't know. Almost like something evil trying to raise its head again. I don't know what it is. I guess it's just forces trying to work against us to try to pull us apart.

KING: Can you -- do you ever wonder why people don't like people just because of the color of their skin? I mean, it is idiotic.

J. OSTEEN: It is. It always amazes me ...

KING: Prejudice is to prejudge, which is stupid.

J. OSTEEN: It really is. It always amazes me. You know, Larry, not to brag on us, but that's the thing I loved about the church my dad started, it's 30 percent white, 30 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic. We never tried to integrate it, I guess that's what it's called. I just happened and I think it's just because of the love of the people, because we don't judge, because we're for everybody. Even when my father died, I thought I don't know if I will draw different races like my dad did, but I am thankful to know it was the message not the person.

KING: Do you mind if people say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"?

J. OSTEEN: I don't really get caught up in it that much.

KING: Much ado about nothing?

J. OSTEEN: I don't stay abreast of that that much.

KING: Some people complain that you shouldn't say "Merry Christmas."

J. OSTEEN: I've heard that, too. I would prefer, I guess, "Merry Christmas," but I guess if people do it with the wrong intent, if they're trying to leave Christ out, that's not good. But I ...

KING: But for a Jewish person, maybe they say "Happy Holidays" or "Happy Hanukkah"?

J. OSTEEN: I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I don't - maybe I'm wrong but maybe it's a lot about nothing.

KING: Do you think that we emphasize -- we argue about things like that when there are 100 more important things going on, how do you say happy New Year or merry Christmas?

J. OSTEEN: I think a lot of times we do. I think even the Scripture talks about don't get involved in arguments that don't go anywhere, that don't matter let's look at the bigger cause, let's have peace on earth, let's help mankind. To me, I think you can get bogged down in those things.

KING: Do you ever question Scripture?

J. OSTEEN: Sometimes it's hard to follow. You think that doesn't seem to make sense, that seems -- love your enemies, that's hard, why would God want us to love our enemies?

KING: As yourself.

J. OSTEEN: Exactly.

And so it's a ...

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Joel Osteen and Victoria, right after this.


J. OSTEEN: I came across this station that plays oldies. When I turned it on, the first thing I heard was "You're no good, you're no good, you're no good, baby, you're no good."

I thought, I got enough things to deal with without putting that junk into me.



J. OSTEEN: People used to ask me, do you really think you can fill your father's shoes? Do you think you can keep the church going? I would always tell them, and I didn't say it arrogantly, but I said I believe with God's help we can not only keep the church going, but we can go further than my dad went. I believe we can reach new heights.


KING: We understand your contract for the next book, Simon and Schuster will publish, that you got $13 million? Is that true?

J. OSTEEN: Actually, Larry, they have a confidentiality, I can't say whether I did or not, but I think it's fair to say I got a huge amount and God blessed me.

KING: God blessed you and you didn't even sneeze. Do you have a title? J. OSTEEN: I don't have a title yet.

KING: What's the theme different from the first?

J. OSTEEN: The theme, I'm talking about more relationships, not getting stuck where you are, just my basic message of becoming all God's created you to be.

KING: Is it "Your Best Life Now II"?

J. OSTEEN: No, it is going to be different. It is going to be different.

KING: And you're writing too, Victoria?

V. OSTEEN: I'm writing also.

KING: What's yours about.

V. OSTEEN: Mine has to do probably more with women and the fact that women, their influence is so tremendous. If they'll use it in the right way, they'll see a lot of change, they can see change in their families and their children, and themselves.

KING: I would imagine many of your parishioners have relatives in Iraq.


KING: What do you say to them?

J. OSTEEN: Keep the faith. We pray for them every day. We believe God has angels that protect us and them, and we just keep them encouraged. We're in the process of starting a support group for them. We've been recently going to different military bases, and encouraging the troops and the chaplain of the military, Chaplain Hicks asked me to come and it has been one of the most rewarding thing we've done. We've got to Leavenworth, Ft. Hood there in Texas. Boy, you talk about people that need hope and just need encouragement, having your loved one over there is just -- but we just give them hope. You've got to believe, you have got to trust. You can't worry every minute.

KING: How old are your children, Victoria?

V. OSTEEN: Eight and 11.

KING: How do they like this life of their parents?

V. OSTEEN: Well, that's one thing we do, is we try to include them. It's not really our -- their parents' lives. It's our life. They come with us, they travel, and I let them know they're very responsible, too, for what's going on, you know, their good choices, the way they're going to live their life has a lot to do with, you know, their father and their father's favor, his respect. So we really try to let them know they're a huge part of this. And of course we would love them to follow in the ministry, if that's what God has called them to do, but we always encourage them to do what their heart is to do.

KING: You would like them to be a minister?

J. OSTEEN: I would love them to.

KING: Both of them?

J. OSTEEN: I'd love them to. My little girl sings and has a beautiful voice and I'd love them to. But we don't pressure them. My dad didn't pressure me. It's just got to be in them. But like Victoria says, they come on all the trips with us. We do make them a part of it and I think that seed is being planted.

KING: Do you do guest ministries?

J. OSTEEN: We do, at the church we have some, but it's mainly my brother and sister and some of the staff.

KING: Do you ever go out and preach somewhere else on a Sunday?

J. OSTEEN: Not that much. We do about 15 nights a year in different cities. And so that's where I get to the different cities. We'll do the basketball arena once a month or so, and that's what we do.

KING: What's the most rewarding part of what you do?

V. OSTEEN: Helping people, see change, having people encouraged. It's great.

KING: It's a joy right, knowing someone is better off because of you?

J. OSTEEN: It's very humbling, very rewarding, just couldn't pay all the money in the world to be able to do that.

KING: Happy holidays.

V. OSTEEN: Thank you.

KING: Merry Christmas, covering both bases. Joel Osteen and Victoria Osteen. Joel is senior pastor, in Lakewood Church in Houston which is reported to be the largest, fastest growing congregation in the United States.

He is the author of "Your Best Life Now." A number one "New York Times" bestseller. Another one coming next year, and Victoria Osteen, Pastor Joel's wife. They have two children together and she has a book coming as well. And Barbara Walters recently profiled him recently as one of her 10 most fascinating people of 2006.

We wish you all a very happy holiday as well. We have a great day planned Christmas Day. It's going to be LARRY KING LIVE forever! Twenty hours of LARRY KING LIVES. You'll get sick of it but you'll have a good holiday. Enjoy the egg nog too.

Stay tuned for Anderson Cooper and AC360. Good night.