Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Joel got game (but he don’t like it)

Joel Osteen, pastor of the Lakewood mega-church in my home town, wrote a bestseller called Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps To Living At Your Full Potential. No doubt you’ve heard of it. You may even have it. Lots of folks do; in fact, the book and its ancillary products have become so successful that the author has temporarily given up his $200,000.00-a-year salary from Lakewood Church.

Now comes a new product inspired by Osteen’s opus. Just in time for holiday giving, the Your Best Life Now board game was recently introduced by Endless Games. The copy on the Endless Games web site says:
The best selling book is now an at-home experience like no other! Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen has sold over 3 million copies and has been on the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly Best Seller list for over 50 consecutive weeks. The game enables players to step beyond the one-on-one nature of the book and feel, touch, and live Joel’s 7 Steps To Living At Your Full Potential with your friends and family. Your Best Life Now: The Game is an entertaining and educational way to take inventory of yourself and accountability of your actions. Climb the mountain as you
  • Enlarge Your Vision
  • Develop a Healthy Self Image
  • Discover the Power of your Thoughts and Words
  • Let Go of the Past
  • Find Strength Through Adversity
  • Live To Give
  • Choose to Be Happy
Each new plateau represents a challenge and a chance to open up and experience these steps first hand as you learn to live Your Best Life Now.
Publishing, of course, is no longer just about books, newspapers and magazines, if indeed it ever was. It’s standard practice these days for publishers to milk a cash cow for everything it’s worth publish a popular author’s works in as many different media as they think they can sell. Take "Dr." John Gray and his Mars-and-Venus franchise (please!). Gray’s original book has spawned a host of other books, workbooks, recordings, workshops, calendars, journals, TV shows, even an online dating service – and, yes, a board game. And since self-help and spiritual seeking have (in my opinion, anyway) become little more than forms of entertainment in Western culture – albeit relatively pricey entertainment, if you’re talking about workshops and such – a board game based on a self-help or pop-spirituality bestseller seems pretty logical to me.* So why shouldn’t Pastor Joel get a piece of that action?
Problem is, Joel doesn’t like the game, and neither does his church. It’s not that YBLN: The Game is unauthorized. It was authorized, all right – at first, anyway. But somewhere in the approval process some balls got dropped. A story in the Houston Chronicle demonstrates once again why it is a bad idea to assume anything.
According to the Rev. Duncan Dodds, Lakewood's executive director, "In the instance of the game, it started with a conversation between the publisher (FaithWords) [formerly Warner Faith] and the pastor. It seemed like something we could look at. From there, the publisher ran with it, and the next thing we knew, they delivered a product. We were under the impression that it was a sample for our approval."
At the same time, he added, the publisher was under the impression it already had the approval, and by the time staffers called back, it was too late to pull the game.
Uh-huh. I bet heads have rolled at FaithWords and Endless Games. And the game, although available on Amazon and at various brick-and-mortar retail outlets, will not be sold in Lakewood’s bookstore, nor on their web site.**
The apparent problem with YBLN: The Game is not only that it doesn’t accurately reflect the message of the Lakewood ministry, but that it’s just a sucky product. Although packaged and designed well, it is at once too difficult and too dumb. "I tried to play it," said the Rev. Dobbs, "but I found it complicated, and not easy to navigate, and I found some of its content to be simplistic." (Not that there’s anything at all simplistic about reducing the path to happiness and fulfillment to "7 Steps," as the original book does.)
One big gripe the Lakewood folks have is that not everything in the game is actually in the book. Under "Develop A Healthy Self-Image," f’rinstance, there’s a card that asks these questions:
A. Would you ever want to be a model?
B. Name something about yourself that you know people appreciate the longer they know you.
C. What do you like best about your hair (or lack thereof)?
Soul-searching questions, indeed, but they're not in the book.
The object of the game is "to be the first player to reach the end of Level 7 (Choose to Be Happy), move into ‘Tomorrow,’ and begin living to your full potential." According to the game instructions, the winner "opens the My Miracle envelope and reads aloud the goals and promises of all players. The other players must now help the winner reach his/her goal by fulfilling their promises to live Your Best Life Now."
Now, what could be so complicated about that?
Brian Turtle, national sales manager at Endless Games, defends the product, explaining that "we were looking for a way to present an experience for folks at home to get together and have some laughs, shed some tears, spend a good hour with the family and get down to who you are and what you want to accomplish in life."
Noble aspirations, those, but if early reader reviews on Amazon are any indication, the game’s producers may indeed have a challenge ahead of them:
Is this serious?, October 11, 2006
Reviewer: Michael Toczyski
I am still holding out hope that this is all some elaborate hoax. Apparently the "Gospel of Wealth" is still alive and well in the United States. I very much appreciate Pastor Osteen's expectant faith that God will change one's life. But that change is promised to be manifested in the heart and soul of the person, not in one's socio-economic class. Perhaps it would have been more efficient to merely come out with "Your Best Life Now the Monopoly Version!"
Matter of fact, not everyone is enamored of the book on which the game is based:
You too can make money writing self help books, November 30, 2006
Reviewer: icube (FORT SMITH, AR USA)
Sorry, but this book is really about prosperity - not about spirituality. Specifically, prosperity for Joel, et al. If you want spiritual help, read the Bible and pray. If you want money, there are a million different ways to get it, one of which would be to write a self-help book. I can sum up this book in one phrase : "Don't worry, be happy." That's fine if you are really doing ok, but just suffer from watching too many life styles of the rich and famous, and have started thinking your life looks shabby. But try telling that to people who REALLY are suffering and hurting. Hand them a copy of this book, and walk away whistling….
Or better yet, buy them a copy of Your Best Life Now: The Game. Then you will potentially be healing a whole family, or at least helping them spend a good hour together sharing laughter and tears. You may even help them discover who they are and what they want to accomplish in life.
Perhaps you're interested in the the YBLN game but are put off by its complexity. I sympathize; my brain is unable to grasp even mildly complex board games, and I can forget about card games. Well, I have good news: there is a companion game from Joel’s wife Victoria. It’s called Your Best Fit Now, and the rules are very simple: the person who throws the biggest tantrum wins. You get extra points for throwing your fit in public and abusing a professional service provider such as…say…a flight attendant. Wanna play?***
* How long d’ya think it’s going to be before we see an announcement of The Secret board game?
** I'm thinking that could change tomorrow. I mean, if for some reason the game actually becomes a bestseller…
*** Of course, if you are not Victoria Osteen, you will definitely need a Get Out Of Jail card if you throw a fit on an airplane.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The realm of willing suckers, I mean customers, for New Wage items is seemingly limitless!

Given the sheer size of the LW church (I have driven past it and thought, no that can't really be a church!) I am surprised there aren't more spinoffs seeking to rake in some metaphysical cash.

PS - I love your site!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 8:33:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Yes, Citizen D, Lakewood is definitely a giant New Wage center, albeit with a nebulously Christian/biblical theme.

As you probably know, the building that currently houses Lakewood was not always a church. Back in the day it was The Summit, a rock concert venue, and then it morphed into Compaq Center, a sports venue, and now it's a church.

There are, of course, other mega-churches in the US, and I'm sure there are a bunch of LW wannabes. (And talk about "I can't believe that's a church"...what about Houston's First Baptist Complex? That place is probably a separate incorporated city by now. And Second Baptist is just as bad, though it looks kind of like a Muslim mosque to me.)

I honestly do not think that everyone who attends Lakewood is a sucker, any more than I think that anyone who seeks God or spiritual fulfillment is a sucker. And I suppose there are worse ways to spend one's Sunday morning than listening to Pastor Joel, with his gentle voice and s--t eating grin. God (or Whoever) knows that I find his style infinitely preferable to the hellfire-and-brimstone stuff.

But, of course, LW is a self-help cash cow too, and I make fun of self-help cash cows...because I must.

Thanks for writing, CD. I'm really glad you like the blog.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger p-d said...

Oh boy, my stomach just about turned inside out! The all-too-perfect smile and coiffure are definitely indicators of a used-car salesman turning a profit on the weakness of the ignorant masses.

We are all looking for something to believe in, especially when our skies are overcast by illegitimate wars, but this is just insanity.

Make no mistake, I had a very religious upbringing and have seen the corruption of such power upclose and very personal...and it still makes me want to scream.

Thanks for the post! I also posted on the topic under the heading, complacency!




Monday, November 12, 2007 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for your comments, P-D. And since I wrote this post last December, Joel has released a new book, "Become A Better You." It's being advertised all over, including on billboards (!) everywhere around Houston.

I still get the impression that "Pastor Joel" is basically a nice guy, but he's truly being swept up in the tide of crass commercialism. And his wife...well, she's a whole other story.

Anyhoo...thanks for writing!

Monday, November 12, 2007 1:12:00 PM  

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