Friday, March 05, 2004

Review: The Purpose Driven® Life 

As threatened, here's my Purpose Driven® post:

Like any other social group, the Christian church is susceptible to fads. Nor am I immune to their influence. I like to kid myself that I'm not influenced by my fellow lemmings, but the truth is that if something grabs the attention of my peers, it will grab mine as well, whether I join the crowd or run the other way. One of the latest fads to invade my world is Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven® Life. It started back in '02 when my church sent me and others to a seminar on Rev. Warren's The Purpose Driven Church. The others then caught the Rick Warren bug--I gave my copy of Church to the church library and went on to other books. But then I started hearing about this Purpose Driven Life from other corners. It was being read by other churches in my denomination, friends back in Illinois, friends in an impoverished city in Peru. Now and then I would encounter someone who had never heard of the thing, but those folks seemed to be the exception. Finally, my own congregation made the book a focus of our worship this Lent. I was offended by that step (a rant I won't unleash here) but since I work evenings, I really didn't have cause to complain. Instead I could refuse to participate without having to publicly refuse to participate. I did figure, however, that I should read the flershugginer book so I could speak with some knowledge if the topic came up over coffee and cookies. So I got in the long line at the library and finally got to read this "life changing" "masterpiece" that made the New York Times best seller list.

The subtitle of the book is "What on Earth am I here for?" My response to the book is "What on Earth is the fuss all about?" Unlike Church, which was better than my expectations, Life left me seriously underwhelmed. As I started reading it, I was seriously confused as to why people raved about this book. Having now had time to finish the book and think about it, I think the problem probably boils down to the fact that I didn't fit into Rev. Warren's target audience.

First off, I went through the "What am I here for?" angst a few years back. My "career" had lost its appeal and I didn't have the luxury to stop providing for the family and change careers. I wrestled with some issues and found some equilibrium which has endured through the last few years. (though I still whine about work.) Life seems to be geared towards those running around in five different directions at once and looking for meaning in it all. Me, I'm only running in three directions and have a vague idea of why I'm doing all this. So, Rev. Warren was essentially delivering old news.

The second way I didn't jibe with Rev. Warren is that I'm somewhat scholarly--at least compared to other community college grads. Rev. Warren's scholarship in this book is sloppy and the writing is somewhat simplistic. For example, in the introduction he tries to sell you on the book and his suggestion to read a chapter a day for the next 40 days. He mentions all of the examples of 40 day periods in the Bible. Unfortunately, he touts these as life-changing events and not all of them were. Sure it rained 40 days in the great flood, but Noah's life transformation also included the 300+ days afterward riding the flood waters and the century of preparation beforehand. Why couldn't he just say, "I like the number forty, so that's the way I wrote it, and that's the way I want you to read it"? There are similar errors and assumptions in the book which I noticed simply since it conflicted with knowledge floating around in my head. I have to wonder what one might discover if they took the time to fully document the book.

My final conflict with Rev. Warren is that he comes across as a salesman. I don't trust salesmen. There is many a recommendation for other resources in The Purpose Driven® Life: The Purpose Driven® Church, The Purpose Driven® Life Journal, The Purpose Driven® Life Video Curriculum, Purpose Driven® Seminars. Notice a pattern? It makes me wonder about the state of The Purpose Driven® Bank Account. I mean how much stuff do you need? The book boils down to this: God created you for a purpose and that your purpose is to worship God, live in fellowship with other Christians, stop sinning, serve other people and tell other people that Jesus died for them so their sins could be forgiven. How many products do you need to state that? I just said it in (one, two, three...) forty words. Hey! Is that a sign from God? Hmmm.

Anyway, as I write this, I realize that I really didn't care for the book, even though there are bits of good advice included in there. I suppose I should rate it as waiting room material rather than garbage for that saving grace. If you do feel like reading it, I recommend that you don't buy the book. Or at least wait a few years when, I predict, you'll be able to find many copies of this book on the shelves of your local thrift store.