Conservative televangelist Joel Osteen went on national television this morning and admitted that his own sexual orientation is not a choice -- despite maintaining consistently in previous interviews that being gay is a sin, albeit one that "God gives us the grace to change."
The bestselling author and Texas megachurch leader went on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" as part of a segment featuring both Osteen and New Yorker writer and former Bill Clinton adviser Richard Socarides.
Osteen has repeatedly tried to tip toe around his stance on homosexuality, telling Piers Morgan in October of 2011 that he's not "mad at anybody" and doesn't "dislike anybody," while reiterating his belief that the scripture says homosexuality is a sin," and "two hundred years from now, the Scripture is still going to say that."
Citing that interview, Socarides, who has often campaigned for LGBT rights, and host O'Brien pushed Osteen to clarify his stance on homosexuality, especially for those gays and lesbians who listen to his sermons that emphasize personal happiness and other uplifting themes.
O’Brien: But for people who are gay, you’re saying so then you shouldn’t be gay?
Osteen: Well, I think that’s the big debate. The scripture says you’ve got to work out your own salvation.
Socarides: Do you think you can choose to be gay or not gay? You think you choose to be straight?
Osteen: I know I have not chosen to be straight, I just feel like that’s who I am.
Socarides: So how can I choose to be gay?
Apparently realizing this answer could be interpreted as a defense of a main LGBT argument -- that people do not choose their sexual orientation -- Osteen backtracked, saying he preferred to stick to "the issues I understand," the Advocate reports.
The pastor's comments were quickly picked up by media outlets, given Osteen's track record on the "born this way" argument.
During a Piers Morgan interview in January 2011, Osteen compared the ability to break an addiction to the ability to stop being gay. "I believe that it’s a process. But I believe that God can give us grace to change. We’ve seen people break addictions, and do other other things as well," Osteen said.
Similarly, in a 2011 interview with the Washington Post’s Sally Quinn, Osteen implied that being gay was a (sinful) choice, but that with enough love and support homosexuals might be able to convert to a better, presumably straighter path.
"Somebody that maybe had this certain difficulty now, maybe in five years they’re not if we will love them," Osteen said. "You know, I think one of the messages I speak on sometimes is, you know, we can love people back into wholeness."