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Joel Osteen Resignation Hoax was an elaborate Internet prank which aimed to fool people into thinking that American pastor and televangelist Joel Osteen had abandoned his Christian faith.
Joel Osteen is the senior pastor of the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, where he hosts the church’s television program reaching 7 million viewers in 100 countries. He has written two commercially successful books, titled Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential and Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day. Osteen is considered a reputed figure in the Christian community, having been named one of ABC News’ “10 Most Fascinating People” and “Most Influential Christian in America” by The Church Report.
On April 2nd, 2013, the now-suspended fake Twitter account @PastorJoelOsten was created with its first and only tweet reading “I am leaving the Christian faith and I have resigned as pastor. Please visit our site at joelostenministries.com for more info.” The now-defunct website referenced in the tweet looked similar to Osteen’s official site but contained a message announcing his resignation as pastor.
“Thank you for visiting. As many of you may know, and may have heard in the news recently, many of my sermons have deviated from traditional Christian doctrine. I have been accused of altering the ‘message’ to fit my own doctrine and dogma. Others have accused me of preaching ‘feel good Christianity’. I have also been accused of profiting greatly from my ministry, with my books and television deals.”
Many of their criticisms are legitimate.
What they don’t know is that deep down in my heart, for a number of years now, I have been questioning the faith, Christianity and whether Jesus Christ is really my, or anyone’s, ‘savior’.
I am now at the point that I am comfortable enough in what I believe that I am ready to announce to the world that I am no longer a Christian. I am no longer a believer in Christ. I no longer believe the Bible is the word of God.
I believe now that the Bible is a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times. There is zero evidence the Bible is the holy word of God. In fact, there is zero evidence “God” even exists. I believe I am more like God than the God of the Bible, a fictional character.
Today, I informed my closest colleagues of my decision to leave the church. Our ministry will continue in a bare-bones fashion as we liquidate our assets and fulfill various financial obligations.
I want to thank my wife, our parishioners and our faithful followers, the City of Houston, Lakewood, the State of Texas and my close friends, Oprah Winfrey and Larry King, for all of our support over the years
We’re also having some trouble transferring ownership of some of our web sites, so as of now, I haven’t been able to update everything on all of them. I’m dealing with some church leaders who refuse to accept my resignation. They are refusing to change or alter any of our many web sites, and this is the only one I have control over."
The same day, the ChristianityNews YouTube channel uploaded a video featuring photoshopped images of news sites reporting that Osteen had renounced his faith in Christianity (shown below).
On April 2nd, 2013, Yahoo Answers member Christianity submitted a post asking if Osteen had rejected his faith, which linked to the ChristianityNews YouTube video and a “Christianity News Texas” Blogspot post containing a false news report about Osteen’s resignation. On April 3rd, Redditor christiantexas linked to the same Blogspot site in a post submitted to the /r/atheism subreddit. The post received a majority of down votes, with several comments expressing skepticism in regard to its authenticity. According to the Twitter analytics site Topsy, tweets containing the keyword “Osteen” reached over 5,000 mentions on April 7th, 2013.
News Media Coverage
On April 6th, 2013, the Christian news blog Christ Culture News published an article about the fabricated news reports and their questionable authenticity. In the following days, the hoax was reported by several other news sites, including Gawker, The Daily Dot,NPR, Daily Mail, The Huffington Post,CNN, Fox News and the Examiner.
Joel Osteen’s Response
On April 8th, 2013, the official @JoelOsteen Twitter account responded to a tweet asking if his resignation statement was true, simply dismissing it as “a false rumor.”
<a href="https://twitter.com/petro6239">petro6239</a> It is a false rumor: Pastor Joel is not leaving the church. -JOM Team</p>— Joel Osteen (JoelOsteen) April 8, 2013
On April 9th, Osteen appeared on the ABC talk show Good Morning America, during which he proclaimed that his faith remained intact and that he held no ill will toward the hoaxer.
Hoax Creator’s Statement
On April 9th, NPR published an interview article with an individual claiming to be the creator of the hoax, who answered a series of questions via e-mail and stated his wish that Osteen would “do away with the soft ‘positivity’ and cliche-peppered Sunday messages and use his high visibility to address more serious social issues.” On April 10th, Nevada resident Justin Tribble came forward as the creator of the hoax and appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to explain his actions (shown below).
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