Embattled Bill O'Reilly Seeks Spiritual Counsel from Pastor Joel Osteen
Reported by Marie Therese - December 24, 2004
Oh, well. The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. I didn't get this posted yesterday as promised due to last minute gift buying, wrapping, housecleaning and preparations for Christmas eve dinner. So, here it is, a trifle late, the transcript of Bill O'Reilly's fascinating exchange with Pastor Joel Osteen, ordained minister from Texas and author of the book "Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential" which has been on the NY Times Bestseller list for 8 weeks. Interestingly, neither O'Reilly or Osteen mentioned the name of the ministry Osteen preaches for. I had no idea when I watched this interview who Osteen REALLY was. I do remember wondering how an unknown Texas preacher could possibly have been on the NY Bestseller list. A little research solved the mystery. Osteen is the son of John Osteen who founded the Lakewood Church, a name I do recognize from channel-surfing the TV. Joel Osteen pioneered the Lakewood Church TV ministry which reaches 100 million homes and is broadcast over the Christian Broadcasting Network and others.
O'Reilly: I want you to counsel me, Pastor,"
O'Reilly: You're down in Houston. You're not an ordained minister by the way. Why not?
OSTEEN: I am ordained. I haven't actually been to seminary, but I am ordained.
O'Reilly: What denomination are you?
OSTEEN: Non-denominational background.
O'Reilly: Now, I want you to counsel me, because God knows, pardon the pun, I need it. I'm sittin' here and I'm fightin' this ferocious battle against people at this juncture who want to change America. Alright? They want to change it and de-emphasize religion. They want a country like Sweden, where less than 10% of the population goes to Church. Now, I believe the founding fathers wanted religion in the public marketplace as a behavior deterrent, because they knew they couldn't control the population and they felt that a faith-based population would be more likely to behave. It's very practical. So, I'm fightin' against these secularists and they're slimin' me. They're smearing me, OK? So I can't go around like you with a happy face all the time. I gotta hit these people right between the eyes. I gotta have negative thoughts because they're bad people and I'm fightin'- it's like a war. So, I'm not really doin' what you advise, am I?
OSTEEN: Well, I don't know if that's true, Bill. You're doin' what God's called you to do and I'm doin' what God's called me to do. But, I mean, there's gonna be negative things in life. But you know the Bible says "Do good to your enemies." But there's other times when you've got to stand strong and fight the good fight of faith and I think that's what you're doin' out there every week and, you know, I'm doin' it in a different way. My calling is to encourage people and given em hope and I think we all have different callings.
O'Reilly: OK. So I'm not doin' anything wrong in your estimation because I have to dwell on the negative an awful lot here, Pastor. You know, I'm not skippin' in to The Factor every day. I'm readin' this stuff and I know it's harmful and I know it's bad and I'm goin' "Oh, I'm gonna get this S.O.B." I don't know if that stacks up.
OSTEEN: Well, I don't know. I wouldn't say you're doin' anything wrong. I mean, Bill, you know what you're doin', if it's what God's called you to do.
O'Reilly (interrupts, overtalks): I don't know if God's callin me. I'm takin' a lot of punishment here. Sometimes I'd like to say "Michael the Archangel, get down here and kick a little butt with me." Ya' know, it'd be helpful because I'm takin' a lot of punishment. So is my family. I mean, we are taking a lot of guff and it's garbage. So what I'm trying to get across to you is that you are putting out a message of hope and I respect it. And you are putting out a message that [says] "Think Positive" and I respect it. But, those messages - hope, positive thinking - don't win wars. They don't. (COMMENT: Oops, Bill. You might want to re-think those words. Our Fearless Leaders preach the gospel of hope and the power of positive - even wishful - thinking to the people, the media and the troops every day this Iraq misadventure goes on. Obviously THEY feel that hope and Think Positive WILL win a war!)
OSTEEN: Well, I think the thing is, Bill, you can either choose to be positive or you can choose to be negative and I've found that, when you choose to be positive even in your negative situations, you're going to get through it. You can come into work knowing that you're gonna have to fight these battles, but saying' "You know what? I believe that God is helpin' me. I believe I can choose to be great. I'm glad that I'm alive." So, you can choose to still look on the bright side, and, really, my book talks a lot about people that are in adversity, you know, a lot of it is trusting God and believin' that He's in control.
O'Reilly: What about people who have no faith, who have a very hard time believing in God, because there are a very - Nah! I wouldn't say a lot - What is it? 90% of people in America believe in God, I believe. But there are people who basically are lookin' at you and me now and they're goin' "Hey, these guys are idiots." I mean, you know what they do. Can you get through to them? I mean, is there any way you can convince them to give your book and your message a chance?
OSTEEN: You know, I just have to believe God will help us plant the seed in their hearts and I think, in my estimation, that a message of hope and encouragement is a lot better chance for me in my position to get that seed in there and I get letters all the time from people [saying] "I've never believed in God but, you know, things are beginning to change in my life" so I'd like to think, yes, there's hope for everybody. And, you know, God's out there and available.
O'Reilly: Can you, bein' the kind of person you change people to, train people to be - 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential - alright, key word (sic) "full potential." Can you live at your full potential as an agnostic-athiest?
OSTEEN: I don't think you can.
OSTEEN: Well, you know, maybe in one sense, but not in the sense I'm talkin' about cause I believe faith is the central theme of our lives. Ya' gotta have that. Ya' gotta know that God made ya'. He's got a great plan for your life and, so, maybe you can in a different sense, but in the sense I'm talkin' about, I don't think it is.
O'Reilly: Are you a person that says, if you don't believe, that you are damned?
OSTEEN: You know what? I don't choose to tell who goes to heaven or hell. I just say that you know what I'm presenting, a message of forgiveness through Jesus, and that's the message I put out there.
O'Reilly: OK. Because there have been brilliant agnostics and athiests who have helped the world, you know, people who kept their private beliefs to themselves. They didn't go out and try to destroy the organized religions or anything like that. So I'm just saying' you can reach your full potential even if you're not a believer because isn't faith a gift? I was always taught that it was a gift.
OSTEEN: Yeah, I believe it's a gift. I believe that we all have it, but we've gotta choose. God's given us all our free will and I just think that, you know, to really feel the fulfillment and the destiny that God's put in each of our hearts then you've gotta turn yourself over to him. You gotta believe in Him.
O'Reilly: Do you ever get mad there, Pastor? You look like a happy guy. I'd be happy if I - well, I do sell almost as many books as you - but you're a lot happier n me about it. But do you ever get, Mmm, one of those (makes fist and shakes it to indicate anger), or you just a happy guy all the time?
OSTEEN: I just, you know, God's just blessed me. I've just been very even keel and I hate - well, I don't hate ta' say it - I've just been a happy guy all my life.
O'Reilly: You're just happy all the time, round the clock?
OSTEEN: Well, not round the clock. I deal with issues and stuff, but you know what? A lot of this stuff we can't change. A lot of it we can, but I'm talkin' about some of the little stuff in our life we let get us upset and all off kilter. I mean, I don't know. Can you change people's not saying' stuff bad about you? I don't know. Ya' just gotta say you know what.
O'Reilly: No, I can't, unless I execute them, which would be against everything we both stand for. Pastor, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, and, you know, keep that chin up, man.
Execute them, Bill? Isn't that a little over-the-top?