Monday, January 14, 2008

Used Books

My town has two used bookstores. I made appearances at both today in search of Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy. I found another conspiracy at work: good books are hard to come by. Case and point: I'm currently looking at Joel Osteen's Become a Better You. His orange face and pearl teeth are inviting me to an improved life. It only costs twenty-five bucks and seven steps.

I open the book to its copyright page and check its listing. Self-actualization (Psychology) is the first category, followed by Religious Elements. Christianity is bracketed.

Osteen (coincidentally close to 'esteem') is not a new phenomenon. He is just a 2.0.1 version of writers to combine pop-psychology with religious terms; updated and revised editions are always more attractive. Norman Vincent Peale had a comb-over and lazy eye. Emmet Fox had a receding hairline. Robert Schuller encased himself in Crystal to effect a haloed appearance.

Osteen tells us that if we make someone else's day, "God will make [ours]" (pg 145). But on the seventh day, God might rest.

My dad once said "God helps those who help themselves." He should write a book.

The real issue with pop-psychology as a form of Christian living, is that it's bound...
...to deflate as quickly as it raises the soul;
...to dominate the Christian shelf at the local used bookstore less than a year after its printing;
...and to a cardboard spine, a papyrus skeletal system, and 12-point font ligaments.

So Osteen is not the issue. (Besides, by his own text he encourages me to be a giver, not a taker, a builder not a destroyer; pg. 144.) Eventually his cavities will show, and people will feel allured by a fresher therapy. People like their ears tickled.

The deeper 'reality' (a term Willard always puts in quotations) is our metaphysical longing to improve. To do this using To Do lists, Seven Steps, As Seen on TV products, and Positive Self-Talk is to accept a pedicure as a total makeover.

Putting a new dust jacket on an old book can't convince me to buy it. No matter how well it adorns my shelf.

[Jesus said]: "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15)

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