Sunday, March 12, 2006

One reason why God is HIS success.

Browsing the remainders rack at Walmart today, I came across a book whose title caught my eye and held it: God Is My Success: Transforming Adversity Into Your Destiny, by Larry Julian. Now, if I were in a more churlish mood, I could use Julian's book as the launching point for a protracted discussion of what is, in my estimation, one of the smarmier developments in self-help*: that whole "Christian success" movement, with its attempt to capitalize on the Fundamentalism that has taken hold of America in recent years. But I'm writing this on a Sunday, the most inappropriate day for such cynical discourse. Besides, I'm less interested in Julian's book as a whole than I am in the second half of his title

The first two definitions for the word destiny on are as follows:

1. The inevitable or necessary fate to which a particular person or thing is destined; one's lot.
2. A predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control.

Point being, your destiny--being your destiny--is immutable. Neither "adversity" nor anything else can be "transformed" into your destiny, since your destiny is and shall remain what it has always been since the day you were born (and, many would argue, much, much farther back than that). Destiny cannot be altered; if it could, it would not be your destiny. Now, it could just be that part of your destiny was to read Julian's book (which of course means that his destiny was to write it), as a result of which your adversity will be transformed into something else. But the something else it's being transformed into was your destiny all along; i.e., your destiny already considered the fact that you were destined to read Julian's book about "transforming your destiny" (and if we continue in this vein, we'll soon devolve into one of those endless "butterfly effect"/The Terminator regressions that gives you chills at night and calls for the consumption of an adult beverage in order to calm you down enough to sleep....)

Understand: I'm not saying that Julian's book can't have any effect on your life. (Let me emphasize that I haven't read the book, so I'm not commenting specifically on its contents.) He simply can't change your destiny. No way, no how.

What's more, I submit that Julian realizes this. If we were to ask him about it, I’m sure he'd find some intriguing, perhaps even satisfying way of amplifying on his title and explaining away the apparent contradiction. "Well, you know, I didn't mean it literally. What I'm trying to say is...." (For all I know, he says that right in the book.) That's not the point. The point is that he put that line on the cover because it's just such a damn appealing thought: the notion that you can somehow change what life had in the cards for you. For marketing reasons, he put something on the cover of his book that cannot, by definition, be true.

Here's a simpler way of saying that: HE LIED. And this, from a man touting God as the answer to secular salvation.

Interestingly, in postscript, Larry Julian is from Minneapolis. Wonder if he knows Dr. Marilyn R. Barry. Hell, I wonder if he is Dr. Marilyn R. Barry.

* and, really, society as a whole. I'm sure you've noticed the proliferation of "fish" symbols on businesses ranging from mortgage companies to your local sewage-disposal firm.


Rodger Johnson said...

An interesting -- and true -- statement about destiny. Our existence is set for us to live. Whether we choose to live it or let absurdity toss us about, we can be assured that Destiny had it planned that way. Most of us seem to prefer a wave of absurdity to Reason's current that moves us from where we are to where we want to be.

Steve Salerno said...

Rodg, I like how you put this. Thanks for weighing in.