The Rushmore Report: What Joel Osteen Just Did to Cause a Furor


Joel Osteen is no stranger to controversy. Some criticize him as a prosperity preacher. Others say his teaching lacks depth. Still others complain that he avoids the tough subjects such as sin and hell. Joel Osteen has many detractors. For the record, I’m not one of them. I think God is using him in a unique way. But last weekend, Joel did the unspeakable. And in an instant he caused a great outcry across Christendom.

Posing for a picture with his son after his son’s graduation ceremony at the University of Texas, Joel flashed the – are you ready for this? – “Hook ’em Horns” hand gesture.

Yep, he did it – twice. Anyone who knows anything about the University of Texas knows the sign. You hold down the middle finger and ring finger with the thumb while the pinky and index finger stand erect, creating the shape of the head of a longhorn cattle.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that while most tweets received in response to the posted graduation photos were positive, some were not. For some, the Longhorn sign is similar to other gestures that mean “rock on” or indicate support for the devil. Yes, you read that right.

One person tweeted to Victoria Osteen, “What symbols are u showing the world? Congratulations for belonging to the devil or what?” Another asked, “What’s with the Satanist hex?” Dozens of others took to Twitter to pile on, calling the Osteens “the devil’s children” and even worse.

All because they held up the famous “Hook ’em Horns” sign at their son’s graduation.

Jesus had a word for people like this. They are called “Pharisees.” The Pharisees were religious zealots whose bigotry and intolerance defined them. The Pharisees had a form of godliness, but no power. They were known for what they opposed more than for what they supported. They had the gift of criticism.

Jesus rarely ran afoul of the secular crowd. His problem was with the church crowd. And so it is today.

Is Joel Osteen perfect? Of course not. But for those offended that he took a few seconds to show support for his son’s alma mater, get a life, loosen up, and look for a little more Christianity and a little less religion.

On a personal note, as chaplain for the Houston Rockets, I met Joel Osteen and his son before a game. I’m pretty sure that if either of them were demonic, I would have noticed. I have an eye for that sort of thing. To the contrary, Joel could not have been nicer. And Jonathan was extremely respectful.

And if you are one of those who were offended by what Joel did after Jonathan’s graduation, I have one thing to say – “Hook ’em Horns!”


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