Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Joel Osteen’s divine suggestions on how to turn that frown upside down
Review by John Bear
Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week
Megarich megachurch megapastor Joel Osteen wants you to be happier every day (send me a check, cabrón). At least that's the premise of his latest book, Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week.
Let us consider that title. What's so great about Friday, anyway? I’ve already worked four days. I want to go home. The best day of the week is Tuesday. It's easy to find a cheap deal on tacos due to a lack of creativity on the part of marketing people everywhere. Every Day a Taco Tuesday would have been a better title. Using the word “happier” seems like a cop-out to me, anyway. One can always be happier; being happy is a hard state to measure.
Osteen opens his book with the following noble truth / utter falsehood: You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. In one of the book’s more laughably insane moments, he writes that a woman named Virginia “needed man-made tranquilizers because she wasn't releasing God's natural tranquilizers.” She later got off of them by watchin' funny television shows before bed.
He paraphrases a quote from Abraham Lincoln, saying that “most people are as happy as they’ve decided to be.” It seems odd to cite Lincoln in a book about being happier all the time. He was a moody bastard. So was his wife. Of course, what he said might be true unless you are, in fact, suffering from a mood disorder. Then I guess you’re screwed and should just chew on some Seroquel tablets and await the Rapture.
Osteen makes a good point that it’s dumb to go through life being spiteful about your miserable circumstance. You have to take responsibility for who you are. But he loses me when he simultaneously says, Turn yourself over to God. That's not taking responsibility. That's passing the buck.
He tells the story of a woman who has a problem with an in-law who constantly demeans her. She asks her husband to stick up for her, and he won't. He says, “Honey, I love you, but I can't control him. He has every right to his opinion. He can say what he wants to, but you have every right not to be offended.” That's cold. (I would hear the sound of my entrails hitting the pavement if I said that to any woman in my life.)
Just letting someone be mean to you and trying to let it roll off your back might work for some people. But for the average bear, that is called “repressing,” and it leads to either a) exploding or b) slowly stewing to death in your own hateful juices. Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself.
Osteen then writes about the time a woman working a drive-through window was rude to him. Imagine that. But when she saw it was the great Joel Osteen, her frown turned upside-down and she asked him to sign her book, which she somehow had at the ready (sounds apocryphal to me). He signed it, “Keep on smiling that beautiful smile.” That's passive-aggressive, not nice.
These examples notwithstanding, most of the book is smiley-faced garbage, sweet to the point of a diabetic coma. Be nice to everyone and give God all the credit. Meanwhile, ignore the world around you.
At first glance, Osteen seems like a decent enough guy. To his credit, he is sometimes criticized by other men of the cloth for being too nice, eschewing fire and brimstone for smiles and blank expressions. But he is peddling the same cock and bull story as every other jive-ass preacher / malignant narcissist (insert Night of the Hunter reference here). This is religion posing as self-help. God is always trying to sneak in the back door.
Bottom line: Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God who is also Himself, or that God orbits a binary star in the spiral arm of a distant galaxy and communicates with you via laser beams, life is hard. While you're busy thinking some higher intelligence in the sky has a vested interest in your football team winning this Sunday, your life is ending one minute at time. Osteen probably got your $24.99, and you were probably happy every day anyway. Good for you.
Personally, I can't take life advice from someone who believes in a talking snake.
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