Joel Osteen clarifies the situation.
Joel Osteen, one of America's best-known televangelists, was heavily criticized earlier this week when Lakewood Church in Houston, a building with a capacity of 16,000 that he preaches at regularly, continued to keep its doors shut while shelters in and around the city continued to overflow with survivors and evacuees from Hurricane Harvey. The church officially opened its doors yesterday, as per our report, but Osteen is still taking a lot of heat for not having the church do so publicly earlier on, when the storm first hit. However, the pastor is claiming that social media had helped to build a "false narrative," undermining the fact that the church's doors have "always been open" to those who sought shelter and safety from the crisis situation in Houston.
"I think sometimes social media can be very powerful and it can create this false narrative, but if you’re sitting in another state and you’re not here — I mean, my niece was stranded right across the street from this building with nowhere to go," Osteen said, as per a report from NBC News. "This building was one foot from flooding. If we didn’t have our floodgates, it would have flooded." The pastor also iterated that, when the flood waters hit, the city of Houston did not ask the church to open up as a shelter for those in need. "If we needed to be a shelter, we would have certainly been a shelter when [the city] first asked, but once they filled up — never dreamed we’d have this many displaced people — they asked us to become a shelter and we said, 'Hey, we’d love to be a shelter,'" Osteen continued. "That’s what Lakewood is all about. I think this notion that we would somehow turn people away or that we weren’t here for the city is as false as can be."
Approximately 300 people are now taking shelter in the church, and a large amount of supplies have already been collected at Lakewood for those in need around the city of Houston. After Osteen's initial statement on Monday, reinforcing the stance that Lakewood had never shut its doors to evacuees, several people tweeted out videos showing how Lakewood Church didn't seem to be critically damaged or flooded in any way. After that, the firestorm of criticism got stronger as to why the venue remained closed. However, all that matters now is that additional shelter spots are available to those in Houston.