Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is "Salerno" the Italian word for "long-winded"?

Just this morning I came across this transcript of a very long—verrrry long—interview I taped last month for a popular Australian radio show, The Spirit of Things. If you can get past the verbosity and the nonstop rhetorical fumbling (like, say, restarting a given thought three or four times in one paragraph; where are the freakin' editors when you really need 'em??), I think you'll get a fair amount of added insight into self-help and its SHAMsters. Especially if you haven't read my actual book (and by the way, wouldn't SHAM just be the perfect gift for people on your list who either "have everything" or could use a bit of an attitudinal adjustment? Hey, I allow myself one shameless plug per fiscal quarter.) If nothing else, the transcript makes for good "filler" content on an ultra-busy Tuesday.

Oh, also this morning I caught Barbara Walters on GMA hyping her interview with Joel Osteen, best-selling author and the premier "crossover guru" at the intersection of religion and self-help. (This was a segment from tonight's Walters special, 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006.) She shows a clip of Osteen leading his enormous and ever-growing flock through a mass prayer...for Christmas bonuses and the like. You know, I see this stuff and I still don't quite believe it.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Steve. Asking God for riches seems rather strongly at odds with Jesus' message. People should fill their prayers with thanks and praise, and save the requests for bonuses for their employers--or their annual letter to Santa.

Clark Bartram said...

That may be how you interpret the bible but many others, most probably, don't. You can find support for any idea or action in the bible. Funny you should mention Santa, an entity of equal probability as god.

Steve Salerno said...

Two interesting and dichotomous points here. Think we can "get one started," as someone I know likes to put it?

Anonymous said...

Steve, I have never been a fan of organized religion. I was raised Catholic like you. Way too harsh a religion for me, at least back then with the fire and brimstone. I like the idea of having these "happy religions" as I think somebody called them but I do agree that some of these new age preachers are just using religion as a cover to attract a following. They tell them what they want to hear and collect a fortune in contributons.

Merry Christmas! Can we still say that today or do I also have to include Islam and all the others too?
-Carl

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, Alyssa here, and posting this way because your blog for some reason won't let me sign in the normal way. Kinda rushed this morning, but seems to me a religion without rules and that worships the god of MONEY is not a religion. It's a "sham", as I think someone once put it! :)

Anonymous said...

Original "anonymous" here, replying to Clark: I posted these thoughts speicfically because the preachers who preach the gospel of "prosperity and riches for MY following" invariably claim to be Christians, and therefore they should be at least making some attempt to be following the tenets of Jesus Christ, not inverting them for their own gain. But I think Jesus did mention something about storing up riches on earth versus storing them up in Heaven...

Anonymous said...

Cosmic Connie here... Like Alyssa, I couldn't sign in the regular way.

As an agnostic/skeptic who nevertheless has a soft spot for the mystical (even though I often make fun of it), I am a bit ambivalent about Osteen’s "gospel of prosperity." I do not for a moment think there is anything noble about poverty, and there are worse things to strive for than prosperity.

On the other hand, I don't think that Jesus or God or the Universe necessarily "wants" us to be wealthy. I honestly think that he/she/it doesn’t really give a rat’s a-- how much or how little we have in the way of material wealth. And I don't think anyone "deserves" to be wealthy just by virtue of being a follower of some preacher or guru or way of life. However, that kind of thinking does tend to add to the guru's wealth.

No matter what we think about it, though, the feel-good stuff is what's selling these days, whether it comes from a preacher or a more secular source. And there is a definite sense of entitlement among the followers of the feel-good leaders, whether they're New Age/New Wage, Christian or some amalgam.

Speaking of such amalgams...One of the New Thought churches in my city is quite affluent, and “prosperity consciousness” is a big thing among the membership. While there are many sincere seekers in the fold, there are also lots of folks who believe they deserve to be prosperous and that God & the Universe want them to be.

To give you an idea of where this particular church is on the belief spectrum, the senior minister recently gave a Sunday sermon on the Law of Attraction and "The Secret." For many years this minister's pet saying has been, "Life is meant to be good!" Which is actually pretty meaningless upon analysis. But lots of people like to hear that message, and many seem to need to hear it.

After all, it sounds so much better than, "Life is just life. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. You have some choice in the matter, but don't delude yourself that the Universe gives a s--t about it." As you've noted countless times yourself, Steve, that kind of message doesn't sell books or workshop space.

Steve Salerno said...

Just to address the more pragmatic note here in the midst of a surreally busy day that prevents me from addressing content as I'd like, I think what may be happening--re signing in--is that as Blogger-philes know, Blogger has been in the process of migrating over to a Google-based system, and has been urging us to migrate, too. For a while now we've been able to do things the old-fashioned way on a grandfathered basis, but maybe it's getting to the point where you have to redo yourself under the new Google protocols in order to post freely. I don't know. Just a thought.

RevRon said...

Connie, I happen to agree with the statement that "Life is meant to be good." Where I take exception is the myopia some people apply when defining the word "good." The challenges we face make us stronger, and make us more fully appreciate the times when everything seems to be going our way, but the current notion is that only that which feels good is actually good. Thus, the popular "prosperity consciousness" actually teaches us to deny the value of lean times, robbing us of the opportunity to learn the valuable lesson such times can offer. But as you say, such pragmatism doesn't sell (or fill churches).

Cosmic Connie said...

You made some good points, RevRon. As I’ve said before, you’re the one person who has kept me from giving up altogether on spirituality. :-)

And now a few words about the original topic of the post: that transcript. I read it. It was lengthy, but I think you probably got your point across pretty well during the actual interview, Steve. As for being long-winded, even the most eloquent person rarely comes across as eloquent in a transcript, unless they're reading a prepared speech. Conversational English just doesn’t translate all that well to the printed page. (The Rev and I have created entire books from transcripts, and that’s a whole lot of editing. Actually, it’s a whole lot of rewriting.)

Anyway, one of the points that really stood out for me was that you have been threatened by some of the SHAMsters as a result of your book. That speaks volumes, if you’ll pardon the expression. But, as you noted, “This is a risk that you take, but again, the reason that they do this, and the reason that they haven't followed through, at least to date, is because I think they know the evidence is on our side. They don't want to have to go to court with this and open up their books and prove what they do or don't do, or have too much scrutiny into their methods, because they know they're going to come out on the wrong side if they do that.”

And now back to the church/religion topic: I was intrigued by the teaser with which your interviewer ended the segment: “Next week, a small boat in a big sea. The exiles of the post-Christian West are re-making church into a radical community. Come with me inside a Christian group that doesn't want to be a church.”

Interestingly enough, the New Thought church I mentioned in my comment above started out as a Utopian community. The founders didn’t intend for it to be a church either. But that was a long time ago. And now this church, especially in its big-city incarnations, is trying mightily to be mainstream, while keeping its New-Age/New Thought foundations. And, as noted above, prosperity is a huge priority for the church and for many of its members.

Anonymous said...

Connie, your comments about the utopian "New Thought" church are pretty scary to me. But on that score, I've read a lot of "historical Jesus" writing over the years, and the consensus is that the real Jesus urged his followers to stop worrying about material wealth because He believed that the Apocalypse was literally at hand ("this generation will not pass away" and etc.). Once the early Christians grasped that the Second Coming and the arrival of God's Kingdom on Earth weren't happening anytime soon (as we measure time, anyway), they had to rethink. And I suspect that's what happened to your utopian group as well.