Osteen's 'Night of Hope' Overshadows Mormon Remarks

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WASHINGTON -- Megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen isn't backing away from recent remarks about Christianity and Mormonism, even as he held a huge 'Night of Hope' celebration in the nation's capitol.

"When I hear Mitt Romney say he believes that Jesus is the Son of God -- that he's the Christ, raised from the dead, that he's his Savior, that's good enough for me," Osteen recently told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

His answer raised some eyebrows in the Christian community. Osteen said he's not endorsing Romney or his faith, but he's willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.    

"I'm not looking to exclude people, I'm looking to include them," Osteen explained.

"Now, I realize, too, you know I grew up a preacher's kid, that Mormonism is not traditional orthodox Christianity," he continued. "There are things that I don't agree with but, then again, there are things about other, you know, the Catholics, that I don't agree with -- or even different denominations."

Christians of many denominations came to hear Osteen preach in the nation's capital on Sunday. Tens of thousands came to Nationals Park Stadium in Washington, D.C., to pray for America and to lift up the name of Jesus.

People from across the country came out to celebrate a "Night of Hope" hosted by the Lakewood Church pastor and his wife, Victoria.

"We love you and God bless you," Victoria Osteen told the crowd.

Weather postponed the event, originally scheduled for Saturday, to Sunday.

"I came here because I love Joel Osteen and his wife," participant Jonie Paskins said. "And I watch them a lot almost every Sunday, so I'm here because I'm looking for something from this."

Osteen told CBN News his vision for the "Night of Hope" was to encourage believers that God loves them and has good plans for their lives.

"We just thought it'd be great to come and bring, hopefully, unity to the nation and just come celebrate God's goodness here," he said. "I think another big part of these nights of hope as well is Jesus made the statement that if you will acknowledge Me before people, I'll acknowledge you."

The "Night of Hope" event included a hundred singers and musicians who unified the packed stadium in worship.    

Osteen said he chose Washington to host his event because it's strategic, given it's an election year. He wanted to build on the themes of unity and people coming together.

That theme was evident in the crowd as tens of thousands of people came together to worship, to pray, and to lift up the name of Jesus.

Part of event also included a two-day outreach to the city. Hundreds of young people participated in community service projects to show the love of Christ in practical ways.

"As a church we're supposed to help others -- feed the poor and take care of those who are less fortunate," Osteen said. "I think the government has a role, too. I don't know that fine line or balance because I'm not involved in that as much. But I'm a big believer in that we're blessed to be a blessing to other people."

Osteen now pastors the largest church in America. Some 43,000 attend Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, each week. Another ten million tune into his weekly television broadcasts to hear him preach hope and encouragement.

"I've always been optimistic. If you look at my baby pictures I was just smiling from ear to ear," Osteen said. "But there are times I think like anybody, you get up and you think I don't feel like doing what I have to do today."

"But I try to remind people -- or remind myself what I remind other people -- is find something to be grateful for," he said.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.