Thousands of students graduated this past weekend from the University of Texas at Austin, flooding social media with photos of proud new alumni and their families. For most parents, documenting the occasion with a photo means throwing up the ol’ “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign, too, usually without much fuss. But when your parents are the first couple of televangelism, a spirited hand gesture can take on a whole other meaning.
Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria, draw thousands to their massive sermons every week at Houston’s Lakewood Church, and millions tune in from across the globe to watch. The pair also head a massive multimillion-dollar empire stemming from book deals and tours. Their son, Jonathan, recently graduated from the Texas college, and he posed with each of his parents for a pretty common photo taken during commencement weekend: the graduate and his mom and dad both making the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign.
The gesture has a long history of alternate meanings outside of the University of Texas’ use. In some parts of the world, the sign means cattle, which might be confusing if you didn’t realize the Longhorns are the school’s mascot. It also gained prominence after late rock singer Ronnie James Dio used it heavily in concerts as a way to gesture “rock on.” Most notably though, it’s seen as a sign of evil or even the devil. So seeing two pastors famous worldwide throw up the horns (as in Longhorns!) set more than a few people off on Twitter.
A few users tried to help clarify that the hand sign was the official one used by the university to represent the longhorn mascot.
In the end, the tweets congratulating the pastors and their son far outnumbered those criticizing the hand gesture.
While neither Joel or Victoria have responded to the criticism, it’s certainly a moment for their global fans to learn a new meaning behind the gesture. After all, what starts at the University of Texas changes the world, right?