"Pastor of mega church resigns, rejects Christ," read a CNN headline. "Osteen: 'I am no longer a Christian,'" proclaimed another on the Drudge Report. The Christian Broadcasting Network and Yahoo! touted similar news.
But you won't find evidence of these articles online or in print. They were all fabricated as part of a recent Internet hoax involving Houston mega pastor Joel Osteen.
Someone with a bone to pick and a lot of spare time played an elaborate ruse on televangelist.
Someone with a bone to pick and a lot of spare time played an elaborate ruse on the Lakewood Church televangelist, creating a fake Twitter handle (@PastorJoelOsten), a fake website (www.joelostenministries.com), a YouTube channel and a WordPress blog dedicated to the "special announcement."
"[D]eep 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'," writes "Pastor Joel" in an "official statement" dated on March 29.
"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."
The fake Osteen goes on to point out environmental degradation, "toxic fluoride" in our public water and Obama's attempt to "dismantle the Second Amendment" as his new focus in life, thanking his wife, his parishioners and his "close friends" Oprah Winfrey and Larry King for enduring support.
Although nothing on the real Joel Osteen's verified Twitter account or official ministries page indicates that he knows about the joke, a Lakewood Church representative told the Houston Chronicle that church officials are aware of the hoax and "false rumor."