I must be really slow on the uptake, but I finally realized tonight what I mislike so much about the Purpose-Driven books.
It's not the self-help aspect of it. Actually, that's the part that most makes it intimidating to criticize. As soon as you say something against a book like "The Prayer of Jabez," "40 Days of Purpose" or "The Purpose-Driven Life," a dozen people will spring up out of the woodwork to tell you how you don't understand, how you're being too hasty to judge the books, and how these volumes have revolutionized their spiritual lives. If the books really have had that tremendous an effect -- and I have to admit, I haven't seen any evidence to suggest they have, beyond mere anecdotes about personal internal spiritual states -- who am I to criticize or say that the books' proponents are misguided? More power to them.
It's also not the marketing aspect of it, although I have to admit that the stealth marketing of spiritual self-help books doesn't do anything to detract from the dislike and suspicion I heave their way. It seems like modern-day simony to beguile a pastor with hype about the latest big thing spiritually, into trying a sermon series that requires either the church or its parishoners to buy dozens of copies of a book.
And you'll note it's not just books like Rick Warren's bestseller doing this now. Last year, pastors could win $1,000 if they mentioned Disney's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" during a sermon before the movie's release date. Earlier this year, there was a tremendous hoopla over programs and books churches could offer to counter the bad history and gnostic philosophy underlying "The Da Vinci Code," which of course benefitted tremendously from all the publicity.
No, here's what really bothers me about these books: They're a cheat. All too often they're the sort of Christianity that sticks around by shitting Hallmark cards in front of a live studio audience. They promise spiritual growth, expanded territory, righteous living and new purpose to life in five easy steps. "Experience a spiritual breakthrough in just under six weeks, or your money back!" Why bother wrestling with life's difficult problems, working through troubling passages of Scripture, or serious doubts about God's nature, character and existence? You don't need to follow God for years to develop spiritual discipline! Now you can do it in no time at all.
Eah. In other news, I've made six loaves of bread in the past two days to give to the girls' teachers for Christmas. I haven't made bread since I won a prize in the Cub Scouts bakeoff nearly thirty years ago, so it was actually kind of fun to do it again. We shaped the bread like teddy bears, in memory of that ancient bakeoff, and now that I'm out of yeast and flour but still have some buttermilk, I'm wondering how the bread tastes.
I guess I'll have to buy some more yeast and some more flour, and make some more today or Friday. Probably Friday. I have a school board meeting and a counseling session today.