The Sales Driven Life: So, my church (a very open-minded Presbyterian place [if that's not too oxymoronic]), bought into the mania surrounding the "Purpose Driven Life" (no hotlink for reasons explained below). This is the book written by this self-ordained guy from California that has some huge following at a church-cum-ampitheatre where he preaches.
Anyway, the concept is that you read a chapter a day for 40 days. Every Friday, you get together in small groups with other people from your church to discuss seven chapters. The Sunday sermons also relate to the book.
I'll read anything, and in fact, usually do. I've been known to read t.v. manuals when there's nothing else around to pass the time. Anyway, this read is a serious chore; the author a major bore.
His shtick is that God has a purpose for you, and it's to please God. Everything you do is about God, and for you to think otherwise, is folly. Now, this is not so freaking new as I belive this other book...called "The Bible" has a similar message (although it's much more entertainingly told). But this guy is just so black-and-white about the whole thing, that it really turns me off. I'm someone who believes faith is very personal (hmmm, I sound like W last night) and that it's okay to take the Bible as merely a grouping of parables, rather than the ummm, Gospel truth (too many people are living for like 400 years in the Old Testament for me to start taking the thing literally - and yes, I know, that example is only the tip of the iceberg in plausibility issues). Still, there are some good lessons in the Bible which will, if followed, make one less of a reprobate then if you used, say "American Psycho" as your spiritual guide.
So, my fear was that I was going to be running screaming from these Friday night meetings, as each person around me stood up to thump their copies of "The Purpose Driven Life" over my head. Fortunately, my fears were entirely unfounded. Instead, I discovered a group of couples that are healthy skeptics. Who challenge dogma, instead of blindly accepting it. They're all "good Christians" who are loving spouses, parents and friends, but they realize that any book that attempts to change your way of living has to first address the realities of life. Just as we don't go around washing our guests' feet with scented oil anymore, so too must the lessons from religion adapt to the times.
It's easy to just write a book saying "follow God's will" - in fact it's too easy. Each chapter is just a variation of that theme; be friends with God, love God, obey God, praise God, fulfill God's purpose -- on and on it goes, with selected excerpts from various versions of the Good Book.
But what about my job, my interests, my relationship with my wife, my kids?? Am I supposed to just put on the hair shirt and start babbling in tongues? Do I tell my boss that God wants me to leave early so he better let me or eternal damnation is his?
No, thanks. I'll stick to the original source, taking from it what I want and need. If that makes me too secular, then so be it. I can't believe in any God that would make me read this simple-minded claptrap. I've gotten much more from the meetings with some new friends, as I hear of their own personal challenges, and their unique tests of faith. As I learned in high school, you learn and grow much more from interacting with people than you do in standing before an altar. And if you tell me that maybe "The Purpose Driven Life" has impacted me after all, I'll give you a running start before I throw my copy at your head ... it would be the Christian thing to do.