That Old Rusty Formula

Originally posted to MySpace on:

June 5, 2007:

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about this new book and movie craze called The Secret. At first I thought it was a movie starring that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun—and I really don’t know why I thought that, random brain activity I guess—but later came to find out that it was a lesson in forcing what we want through positive thinking. Interesting.

As New Agey as it may seem, and probably is, it makes a good point: positive thinking brings positive results. Fair enough. Obviously it speaks some truth, because the entire world is biting into it the way a starving man on a desert island might bite into a Big Mac. If it didn’t work, the masses would throw the book into the fire. Right?

Well, if it weren’t any surprise, the Christian community has picked up on some of its principles and applied its meaning to its own sense of faith. Admirable, I think, considering the speed at which we condemned rock music and Harry Potter for its blatant promotions of evil. Because of this idea of viewing the “Law of Attraction,” as it’s called, as a form of faith, I have to admit that the possibility of finding out more about it “attracted” me. After all, if it really does show me how to attract what I want—to essentially step up my faith a notch—then it must be a good thing. Right? Right?

A few weeks ago, my Wednesday night Bible study decided to spend a week studying it. So now, after all the hype surrounding it, I got to see what it was all about for myself. And with all the visual stunners, like that wave of some crazy force ring shooting out like a pulsar cannon from the thoughts of those who dream of big houses and sexy wives, I have to say I was impressed with the production. With all the positive thinking that obviously went into it, all I could think was that the geniuses who made this film were certainly tapping into the “Law of Attraction” when they told themselves they would be gazillionaires someday.

Jokes aside, I could understand why the Christian community jumped on board with this phenomenon. It encourages faith—I mean, it has to—the whole point of the Law of Attraction is to see yourself with the very thing you want, which to me requires a heck of a lot of faith. If a penniless nobody can say he wants to make $100,000, actually draw (in marker) the extra zeroes onto a one dollar bill so that he can see the hundred grand as reality, and then somehow sell his $.25 concept to a tabloid and call it “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” then obviously somewhere in that equation he had more than a mustard seed’s worth of faith, because we all know what became of that little $.25 idea. A hundred grand is merely chump change now.

For those who haven’t seen the video, though, I’m not gonna spoil it for you. The bottom line is that this methodology teaches us that whatever we set our minds on, that’s what becomes reality. To some degree, I can accept this. For those who really believe in their abilities, somehow they make it work. But there has to be a line.

When the video was over, I had one nagging problem: the idea of making reality of what we think about. In the video, it talks about how a man who focuses primarily on getting out of debt is still thinking about debt, and thus he’ll never get out of it (because the “universe”—New Agey term—thinks he wants the debt because he keeps thinking about it and yada yada yada). Again, I can sort of see where this might apply. But, at the same time, from a Christian standpoint, it has one fatal flaw: our relationship with God, namely.

Here’s the thing: the Christian community can accept this thing called the Law of Attraction, because it promotes faith. But where the Christian community is completely turning the deaf ear is that this form of faith rules out relationship. In other words, if I’m asking God to help me out of debt, then, according to the Law of Attraction, I am still thinking about my debt, and thus God will keep me in debt.

What?!!

The workaround, of course, comes back to positive thinking, as the creators of this video might say. “Don’t think about debt,” they say, “but think about prosperity. If you dwell on prosperity, then you’ll have prosperity.” Fine, if you say so. I’ll have prosperity.

But why should I have to say it like that?

If this Law of Attraction is a real thing that God can use to answer our prayers, then isn’t it still possible that God has complete control over how it works? If He doesn’t, then how are we supposed to be ourselves before Him if we’re too busy nitpicking over vocabulary, trying to manipulate Him into blessing us?

My understanding of the Bible, and thus, my understanding of my own existence is to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. Shouldn’t that mean, then, that I have freedom to tell Him exactly how I feel, and trust that He’ll hear me for my heart and not for my AOL keywords? If He doesn’t hear me for what I bring before His throne, then what is the point of trusting Him with my heart?

So that’s the thing that left me unsettled as I dwelt on this theory—which could have some truth to it, as some people do make it work. But then, that brings us to another point.

First of all, I’m not going to continue this journal pretending that I know everything. I don’t. I know some things in biblical context, though there is still plenty more that I don’t have a clue about. My memory skills suck when it comes to verses and song lyrics (though I could probably still tell you the names, identities, and allegiances to every single character from the first season of the original Transformers—how sad is that?), so I’m not the grand authority of all things spiritual. Because of this, I tend to seek counsel in these matters when I turn up clueless. Sometimes I find it in Christian “rulebooks.” Lately, I’ve just been asking people that I trust to know the Spirit better than I do. After spending the last few weeks trying to figure out how the Law of Attraction coincides with God’s will, I finally asked a mentor.

Having said that, keep in mind that most everything to follow from this point on are not my own thoughts, but a redevelopment of the conversation that a friend of mine and I had about God, faith, and the direction that ministry is heading.

There’s a reason why I had this problem with the Law of Attraction as an absolute—as the video would describe it to me. It’s because it pigeonholes God’s authority in my life. It puts control into my own hands, and more or less disregards His personal will for my life. Maybe this thing does work, for some people, but does it mean it’s the right thing?

The Secret and the Christian church’s adoption of its principles as a form of faith subscribe to a key issue that controls western thought: it’s all about the marketing.

What?!!!

Never mind that God is sovereign, free to bless people His own way and in His own time—if He chooses to bless us at all. No, according to this new marketing trend, all Christians are automatically promised prosperity (remember Jeremiah 29:11—my favorite verse to be perpetually taken out of context?), and so the positive thinking trick guarantees us the desires of our hearts.

As long as we don’t think a single ill thought against it.

What?!!! That sounds a bit limiting for God, the author of the world, doesn’t it? Also gives a little too much power to the Devil, the Force, and Jedi Master Yoda, all of who, despite our fears, can’t actually read our minds. Only God has that kind of authority.

God is creative, am I right? Does He not know the desires of our hearts before we even ask? Does He not know of the best path in which to see His will fulfilled in our lives? Of course He does. So why does the Christian church throw heaps and heaps of formulas in His way?

Years ago a friend of mine told me that he would never again read another book about relationships. Why? They seemed to be pretty harmless, certainly informative, and probably the surest bet to finding “the one,” and having the best relationship possible with “the one.” So why stop reading them?

Because they’re formulaic? Because they take the adventure out of life? Because they limit God from establishing things His own way, should He choose to even make it happen? Hmm, the truth kinda takes the thunder out of “How To” books, doesn’t it?

Why are Christians disappointed when a church promises prosperity if they “get their heart right with God” just to wind up in debt, in bad relationships, or being falsely accused of murder? Didn’t God promise the desires of my heart—of prosperity—according to Jeremiah 29:11, the most out of context verse ever? I thought I was supposed to do this and that and then my dreams would come true. If only I had read my Bible more, my dreams would come true. If only I had tithed more, my dreams would come true.

If churches told us that only some of us would prosper, while the rest of us would fight the rest of our lives for the desires of our hearts just to die poor and alone with 28 cats, then would we be interested in going back? Western culture, says “hell no,” so squeaky clean Reverend Mafia Man (apparently they exist—yikes!!!) tells us that prosperity is eminent so that we keep coming back and filling the coffers. Marketing genius. Spiritual suicide.

Why does the starving Christian want to put more hope in The Secret than he does in the sovereign will of God? Marketing. Is God not good if He doesn’t fulfill the desires of man’s heart? Or is He just? Would the CEO of Starbucks love God if God told him, “All right, now it’s time to try something new; go spend the next ten years getting to know the common man while running the register at Burger King.” Or would he be fighting God on the matter, arguing about how such a move would affect his God-promised prosperity? If he argues, then why would he? Is he no longer content with the will of God? If the CEO of Starbucks didn’t rate his prosperity on the size of his limo, would he be content, then, with a rusted jalopy from 1923? Probably not. Marketing strikes again.

So why then do some people make the Law of Attraction work? If it puts a limit on God’s sovereignty, then why can some people still get what they want through positive thinking? Here’s a better question: why do the wicked prosper if prosperity is meant for “those with faith?” My theory on the wicked prospering had always been that this is the best they’ll have. For them to prosper now is like God having compassion on them in light of their destructive future. But the friend I talked to about this the other night had a better theory: prosperity, like everything else, is a gift bestowed among certain people. Just as a wicked man can paint a glorious portrait through the gift of creativity (as can a Christian with the same gift), so can a wicked man turn three dollars into a million if he has the gift of business (as can a Christian with the same gift). Not everyone will have the ability to do both (I, for example, have creativity, but my business sense is atrocious), so not everyone should expect to have both (or either, if that’s the case).

The bottom line is that Secret or no Secret, God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants. If He wants to prosper us, then good for us. If He wants to let us die in captivity, then we should probably learn to like it. In the end, it’s unfair of us to limit our relationship with Him to certain boundaries so that the formulas of prosperous Christian living can endure. Isn’t it better to live each day as it is, continue to ask for the desires of our heart, be content with the answer He gives us, whether it’s what we want or not, and let Him flourish in His ways and in His story for our lives? I might get discouraged at times for seeing opportunities I’ve desired float away far beyond my reach, but then, how would I ever be content if I got every blasted thing I ever wanted? I’d just end up wanting more anyway.

Of course, if God wanted to be the Father who gives to His prodigal son, then that’s His business. It’s not my job to grumble it. It’s my job to love Him anyway and do what I can to follow the path He’s lit for me.

Anyway, these were just some issues that came up during this processing time. After spending many sessions of positive thinking toward the things I wanted in the past, just to have them rejected anyway, kinda tells me that the “Law of Attraction” is just a thing that some people can use, but ultimately doesn’t override the sovereign will of God. If we trust Him with His will, then that’s what we’ll see come to pass. Whether or not that means pleasure for us is irrelevant. Whether or not we become an army He can use, however, is relevant. Submitting to God and letting Him do as He wills is a mark of faith, I think, and one that lets God be who He is through us. Yes, we can still ask God for the desires of our hearts—the Bible makes that clear—but true faith, I believe, accepts the answer regardless of what it might be.

If anyone would like to add a remark to this, please do, as I’d like to build a discussion here.

And you’re welcome to send this wherever you want, if you feel like it. But you don’t have to; this isn’t a chain letter. I know that you still love Jesus, even if you delete this. No accusations, hidden agendas, or condemnations here. Be who you are.

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