Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Power to Grow Beyond Yourself

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Power to Grow Beyond Yourself

Author: Robert A. Schuller

Publisher: Fleming H. Revell (hardcover), Jove / Berkley (paperback)

Date: 1987 (hardcover), 1988 (paperback)

Length: 180 pages

ISBN: 0515096776

Illustrations: Xerox-quality black and white images scattered throughout the book

Quote: "'We can't go on this way,' I admitted to Linda. 'Let's either get back together or let's file for divorce.' Her answer was immediate, no hesitation: 'Let's file.'"

Nobody else will ever understand all the reasons why a couple who take marriage seriously can't make it work, but after reading a few chapters of allegedly spiritual counsel like "You don't have to be unhappy. You can turn your dial to a happy face," and "[O]nly you can make you feel badly," and "God rewards those who earnestly seek Him," I can imagine a few.

A recent Blaze poll found that, although a majority of Blaze readers identify themselves as Christians, 30 to 40 percent answered "yes" to various questions about their feeling "hurt" or "harmed" by their churches. Or their former churches.

In the 1980s, when Robert H. Schuller (Robert A.'s father) was a TV superstar, most churches were infected to some degree with the bizarre thought processes known as Positive Thinking. These were my churchgoing years, and I could write a whole (boring) book about how, first just as a quiet, serious introvert and then as a person living with viral hepatitis, I was hurt and harmed by Positive Thinkers in the church. There is nothing cheerful, encouraging, healing, helpful, or enjoyable about these people; they are psychic vampires.

The amazing thing was that, in the 1980s, when Robert A. was learning to repeat his father's lines and launching his own "ministry," people were actually claiming to feel encouraged by listening to the weekly spray of Schuller-spew. They were voluntarily turning on their own TV sets and knowingly tuning in to a broadcast in which a millionnaire star bounced around in a million-dollar "Crystal Cathedral"; they were actually listening as the said millionnaire harangued them about how they'd be rich and famous, too, if they'd got their faith right, and if they weren't rich or famous that was not only their own fault but their own choice, and they could do it, they could just reach down and pull out of their own navels whatever they might need to become rich and famous, without any help from Schuller, whom God wanted to keep on building even fancier and pricier churches...and Robert A. Schuller thought he was going to make a good living, too, telling people this kind of thing.

Robert H. Schuller has reached retirement age. The Crystal Cathedral has gone bankrupt. The Schuller family's formerly bestselling books are being sold off cheap at benefit sales. I regret that all this has happened at this particular point in the development of this web site. Believe me, Gentle Readers, I didn't want to kick the Schullers when they were down. I wanted to get in a few good kicks while they were still rich and famous.

Well...around 1987 I started saying that, if anybody thought prayer and visualization would accomplish anything, we should make sure that that person had an opportunity to rely on prayer and visualization alone--no financial support--to accomplish all his or her goals and supply all his or her needs. I don't recall ever actually publishing this; there were always too many other things to write about, but I did often say it. Apparently, after about twenty more years, a critical mass of other people arrived at similar conclusions, with or without my help.

In this their darkest hour the Schuller clan do need our prayers, Gentle Readers, more than they need to be gloated over...but I do recommend that all real, radical Christians, who remember how the Gospels tell us that Jesus never gave anybody a pep talk before he'd given the person whatever practical help the person needed, who take seriously our responsibility to emulate Jesus and put our backs and our money where our mouths are when we want to try to help others, practice a sort of triage here. Give the time and money to someone who appreciates the need for all of us to share our resources in a practical way. Let the Schullers eat "Possibility Thinking." Let them burn it, for heat, when prayer and visualization have failed to pay their utility bills.

If you want to know why I feel this way, Power to Grow Beyond Yourself explains it far better than I can, and would be an excellent Book to Buy From Me in order to support this web site. Send $5 for the book, $5 for shipping to (If you buy more than one book at a time, especially if they're small, lightweight books like this one, shipping costs can be consolidated.) And, yes, I will send Robert A. Schuller one dollar; I think the author of this book deserved to starve, but by now Robert A. Schuller is a much older man and may be ready to learn from his past mistakes. Pray that we can help him and his sisters learn.

My physical copy is a clean, gently used library copy, and should be available dirt cheap at a local store that supports a respectable local charity, if you get there in time to buy it. A fair price, if you buy this book in real life, would be 25 cents.