It has been said, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” Yet even alone, some book covers cause so much difficulty they require special notice. After all, many more people are influenced by the cover of books as they glance over a bookstores wares than who actually read them. Last week (November 3, 2009), a “new” installment of the tripe that Joel Osteen calls “truth” graced the shelves of bookstores across the country. Having written two best-sellers that are essentially carbon copies of one another, any wise entrepeneur would make the third attempt to repackage the same refuse and sell it yet again.
Along with such infamous speakers as Joyce Meyer and Creflo Dollar, the message of Joel Osteen is what has been called the “prosperity gospel” or “prosperity theology,” which encourages its followers to pray hard, work hard, and believe hard, the result of which is wealth, health, and the fulfillment of every wonderful dream. The prosperity message is uplifting, inspiring, and hopeful. The only trouble is once it is taken from the pew into the real world, the cardboard facade becomes quickly weathered to reveal the emptiness inside. Built within the doctrine is the reason for its success: you have just not believed hard enough. So thousands of people live their lives during the week, more and more discouraged the further they get from Sunday until again the sit in the soft and luxurious stadium of Lakewood church and hear Osteen once again tell them to work harder and all their dreams will come true.
Immediately from the front cover, Joel hedges on blasphemy. In typical fashion, the title It’s Your Time is supported by Osteen’s main star: his fortuitous self. Osteen regularly puts himself on the platform as proof that what he says is true. Interestingly enough, as a pastor, the more logical way to prove your point would be to make it from Scripture. Even when he does use the Bible it is completely out of context and as he does so completely eliminates the truth that the passage or verse was intended to present. Not only do we get one fantastic picture of the man himself as the proof of the “truth” he peddles, but his photograph on the cover depicts an almost trinitarian Osteen: three images overlaid one over the other.
Then there is the subtitle: “Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God’s Favor.” Other than the incidental words “faith” and “God’s,” one would think that this book could likely have been written by any sort of motivational speaker pushing the next great fix. Yet with those two words, the game is totally changed and it causes the author to have the weight and responsibility of sharing solid, grounded biblical teaching. While Osteen has admitted in interviews that he sees himself more as a life coach (also testified by the “related services” entry to the Amazon.com listing for the book), he continues to choose to function as a pastor, a position that comes with it the explicit weight of the appropriate use and teaching of the Bible. Why would he consider a career change, though? Is it not this propagation of lies that has brought him his wealth and acclaim?
Though I have not read the book (making this a “book cover review”), the number of lies and empty promises just on the outside of the book give it a sufficient enough stink. To get a clue about if this is likely in the book, take a look at the back cover:
I don’t know where you are headed, what your dreams are, or how many obstacles you have to overcome. But I encourage you to let these words reach deep down into your spirit. Receive them by faith. You are closer than you think. A global recession has forced many to postpone their dreams and cancel their plans. You may have lost your job. You may have lost your savings, maybe even your home. It could be that you have health concerns or relationship problems. Maybe you are frustrated because it’s taking so long to get where you want to be in your life. Yet now is not the time to talk yourself out of you goals and dreams. Now is not the time to get discouraged. You may think as I sometimes have, that you’re not even halfway to your goal. You may feel you have so far to go. But the truth is, you don’t know. Your dream may just be up around the corner. You may think it will take another two years. But if you stay in faith, who knows? It may just be tow more months. You are closer than you think. I believe it’s your time.
If we assume that this is a summary of the book, do you spot any mention of God? How about Jesus? The Bible? With a critical hat on, it would not be too difficult to assume, then that the book may not be about Christianity at all. Instead, it sounds like just one more attempt for this medicine man to peddle his bottled cures and make a load of money in the process. The back cover starts with a firm admission: he does not have a clue a thing about you. However, he continues to speak as if he has every idea of what your life is about and that if you believe hard enough then you will attain your dreams. What is he basing this knowledge on? If we look at what he says in this passage that has been volunteered to appear on the cover: nothing. Nothing except for his own inner self that he has listened to and which has helped him become his own shining star.
In the absence of another option, it may be from this cover that Osteen is setting himself up as your Gnostic savior, one who has the secret knowledge and once you receive this knowledge (apparently contained within) you too will share in the health, wealth, and prosperity that he has. Perhaps it is not a stretch at all to suggest that the cover is a photo of the trinity in the Osteen landscape. Thus it makes complete sense that Osteen uses himself as the example of success: he is cunning enough to get thousands of people to empty their pocket books each week at his church and millions of more to empty their purses on his books.
Hey, after all this is America. The most successful people are the ones with the fattest bank accounts and the most toys. If that is how you want to define success, Joelie-boy, you’ve made it. But don’t let the gates of hell smack you on the way through.