Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Joel Osteen Hoax


An interview with the man behind the hoax

"It's hard to compete with a guy who tells people, 'Pray to God, He'll give you goodies.'"

This interview was conducted by phone on April 12, 2013:

Christianity News Texas (CNT): First of all, tell us, briefly, a little about yourself? Who are you?

Justin Tribble (JT): I'm just a regular guy. I keep my private life private.

CNT: I see. Now how did this get started?

JT: I had been building a few sites recently and I got the idea, "Why not throw one together about Joel Osteen?" I'm a fan of his. I'm familiar with him. The idea grew from there. What if... the site showed him resigning?

CNT: Did you intend to attract this kind of attention, a million hits in one day, so much media attention?

JT: Absolutely not. I spent $12 on this. It took about five hours to get it all up and running, and from there, a few more hours of refining the sites and fixing code, once it all took off. I wasn't even paying attention and I found out along with everyone else this had gone viral. This was not "elaborate", by any means. 

Anybody can put anything up on the internet. Whether you want something to go viral or not is not in your control, it's in the public's control.

CNT: Tell us more about what you think of Mr. Osteen. Your interview on ABC News suggested strongly you're a fan of his, if not a bit obsessed with him.

JT: Yeah, that interview was unfortunate, because I was somewhat misrepresented. I'm glad I was charitable to him and expressed that I liked him. The last thing I wanted was to continue tarnishing this guy, because I was already in enough hot water as it was! I am genuinely a fan of his, but on another level, I'm also highly critical of some of the things he's doing.

CNT: Do you feel you are going to be in legal trouble?

JT: No. All of the sites were immediately taken down within twenty-four hours of the hoax exploding on the internet and in the media. If I had left all these sites up and made an effort to keep the hoax going for days and days, then yes, I think their case would be stronger. I also think the nature of the hoax was somewhat benign. If I had said, "Osteen found with two hookers," then yes, there would be a very strong defamation case there. I did not do that.

CNT: Are you a Christian? An atheist? You seem to like this guy, but at the same time, you put up a hoax that suggested not only had he left the faith, he utterly denounced the Bible itself.

JT: Yes. I do take issue with those who deceive their followers, are hypocrites, who fail to follow scripture. If you embrace a religion, you need to be consistent, or get out of it.

CNT: So are you trying to -- ok, what is the point you're trying to make here? I'm confused.

JT: I simply want people to start questioning this guy. That's it. I know he makes people "feel good". I hear that a lot. So what? Drugs make you feel good. Alcohol makes you feel good! I also think it's telling that so many people believed the hoax. Do you think people would believe Billy Graham rejected Christianity? No, because he's a man we all know to be consistent and of extraordinary character. The fact this was so readily believed by people suggested to me, in the backs of their minds, Osteen seems a little sketchy to them.

CNT: Do you think Joel Osteen is just cynically in this for money?

 JT: Who knows. His lifestyle is extravagant. There is no dispute there. I'm sure the church helps people. I'm sure they give back. In fact, I know they do. I think even if Joel thinks he's doing "good", he may be deceived and not know it.

CNT: How do you think he should live? Should he just give his money away?

JT: Well, here's the problem. So much of his ideology, his sermons, his message is wrapped around justifying his wealth! How ironic! I've literally seen him praying before thousands and telling God, or asking God, to give all those people "bonuses", "inheritances", "raises", "better jobs". Ok. I'm sorry. But that's just nuts.

CNT: Well, what is wrong with that? What is wrong with praying for people to have better things, and more money?

JT: It's a total distortion of Christ's message, of Christianity, is it not? In the Bible, wealth and money, in particular Christ's words, it is discussed very much in a negative light! I'm not saying God wants us to be poor and miserable, but do you really think God wants us praying to him for bonuses, raises and money?

CNT: You make a good point. It does seem a little selfish to pray for money.

JT: Money is the root of all evil! That's literally where his message has gone. It's this "pray for more stuff" gospel. Then you add the books into it.

CNT: Osteen has fifteen best-selling books. Many people seem to love them and feel they've been helped by them. What is wrong with that?

JT: Shouldn't they be reading the Bible? Shouldn't the Bible be helping them? Shouldn't Jesus make them feel better, not Joel Osteen?

CNT: You certainly have a point. What do you want him to change?

JT: I want him to donate all the book sales to Christian charities, one hundred percent. I want him to tone down the cliches and platitudes, get off the "faith to gain" message, and start sticking to scripture and Christ's words instead of "interpreting" them. I want him to start talking about real-world issues affecting Christians and non-Christians alike.

CNT: What sort of issues?

JT: Genetically-modified foods and Monsanto. Do you think God wants GMO foods? They're toxic and incredibly destructive to the environment. I want him to talk about fluoride in the water. They put this crap in our public water supply to fight cavities  They're administering a medication to the public. It's not only proven not to do much of anything to stop cavities  it's also one of the most toxic substances known to man even in small quantities!

 CNT: That's terrifying stuff. But why should Joel Osteen jump into the political area?

JT: This stuff isn't political. It affects everyone. Democrats don't want poison in their water. Republicans don't want poison in their water.

CNT: Ok, so what is the next step?

JT: Maintain this blog. Hope and pray people wake up, get involved, join me, pressure Osteen. I don't have much hope, though. It's hard to compete with a guy who tells people, "Pray to God, He'll give you goodies."

For those not familiar with the story, news links are provided below:

-- ABC News, "Good Morning America", April 9, 2013

-- The Huffington Post, April 9, 2013

Don't forget to check out this link