Celebrity televangelist and prosperity-gospel preacher Joel Osteen used his first sermon since the devastation of Hurricane Harvey last week to defend his decision not to open his 16,000-seat Houston mega-church to people seeking shelter during the storm. Osteen received criticism on social media for not opening his massive Lakewood Church until Tuesday, after the rains had stopped and the floodwaters had begun to recede, Newsweek reports, criticism he blames on "misinformation." "This is not just an attack on me, it's an attack on what we stand for — for faith, for hope, for love," Osteen said Sunday. "Jesus even said, 'When the world hates you, remember: it hated me first.'"
On August 27, at the height of the storm, Osteen's church posted on Facebook that it was "inaccessible due to severe flooding." Osteen later said he didn't open the church as a shelter because the city said it wasn't needed, People reports. During his sermon Sunday, Osteen argued that the building wasn't safe until Tuesday, once the waters had receded. “Had we opened the building sooner and someone got injured — or perhaps the building flooded — and somebody lost their life, that would be a different story," he said. “I don’t mind taking the heat for being cautious, but I don’t want to take the heat for being foolish.”