Houston-based televangelist Joel Osteen said on Wednesday that social media created a “false narrative” around a decision to not open the doors of his megachurch to flood victims.
“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 on NBC’s “Today Show.”
“This building was one foot from flooding. If we didn’t have our floodgates, it would have flooded.”
Osteen also said that the megachurch, which can seat 16,000 people and is the former home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, was not asked by the city of Houston to serve as a shelter when the storm first hit.
“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 said. “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.
“I think if people were here they’d realize there were safety issues, this building had flooded before, and so we were just being precautious but the main thing is the city didn’t ask us to become a shelter then,” the 54-year-old pastor added.
Osteen’s televised sermons deliver more than 7 million viewers per week and can be watched in more than 100 countries.