- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2011

Megachurch pastor, best-selling author and perennial optimist Joel Osteen has good news to share.

“I see faith in America at an all-time high,” he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times on Monday.

Yes, people are struggling, but “our message is so much about hope,” said Mr. Osteen, whose weekly television services are seen by 7 million people in the U.S., as well as by people in almost 100 other countries.

“Part of our core message is that seasons change, and when you believe, if you don’t get bitter, and you don’t get discouraged, you may not change overnight, but you can get peace,” he said.

The 48-year-old married father of two evaded most political questions. “I don’t really take sides,” as it divides the people, he said, adding that he prefers to “stay in my own lane” and “do what I’m called to do.”

Still, Mr. Osteen expressed admiration for home-state Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry — “I pray for his candidacy, I pray for him as a friend” — and disagreed with another pastor who said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is “not a Christian” because he is a Mormon.

“I believe that [Mormons] are Christians,” Mr. Osteen said. “I don’t know if it’s the purest form of Christianity, like I grew up with. But you know what, I know Mormons. I hear Mitt Romney — and I’ve never met him — but I hear him say, ‘I believe Jesus is the son of God,’ ‘I believe he’s my savior,’ and that’s one of the core issues.

“I’m sure there are other issues that we don’t agree on. But you know, I can say that the Baptists and the Methodists and the Catholics don’t all agree on everything. So that would be my take on it.”

Mr. Osteen was in the District to hold services and meet with area ministers to plan his “America’s Night of Hope” event in April at Nationals Park. He is also doing book signings for “Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week,” which stems from research that finds people are happiest on Fridays.

Mr. Osteen leads America’s largest congregation — Lakewood Church in Houston — where 45,000 people attend one of five nondenominational services weekly and countless more watch online. Yet Mr. Osteen is something of an accidental pastor: His father, John Osteen, was the founder of the ministry, and the younger Mr. Osteen’s first sermon was given a week before his father died of a heart attack.

Those first years were hard, Mr. Osteen said Monday, adding that he has never attended seminary.

But he and his ministry are constantly “looking for new ways to influence the culture,” and he described his new book as “just some practical tips on how to be happier.”

So much pulls us down in life, Mr. Osteen said. “People need to be reminded that every day is a gift from God, and bloom where you’re planted and be happy where you are, and to make that choice to get up every day and be grateful.”

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