Joel Osteen serves up recession-themed positive thinking

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Pastor Joel Osteen's 2004 book "Your Best Life Now" has sold more than 4 million copies -- buoyed in part by one uplifting and irresistible message: Positive thinking and faith will lead to material success and happiness. Now he's back with a new book and a new message for a new era: patience.

Back in 2005, he told BusinessWeek that "God's dream is that we be successful in our careers, and that we be able to send our kids to college. I don't mean that everyone is going to be rich, and I preach a lot on blooming where you're planted. But I don't have the mindset that money is a bad thing. . . I think we should have a mindset that God wants us to prosper in our relationships, our health, and our finances. God's desire is that we excel."

But there's just been just one problem: for all the talk of the prosperity gospel and God's tendency to impart material gain on those who have faith in him, no evidence has emerged that suggests that people who believe in God were less likely to lose their jobs, their homes or their retirement funds to the financial meltdown.



Enter Osteen's latest book -- sure to be a bestseller -- "It's Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God's Favor."

In it, he advises readers struggling with recessionary challenges to keep the faith and stay upbeat: "Another few days of believing, another few weeks of doing the right thing, or another few months of staying in faith and you will see that promise come to pass."

But that's a bunch of garbage, according to Barbara Ehrenreich's new book "Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America"

Plenty of people have plenty of faith and a great attitude and bad stuff still happens -- and "another few days of believing" isn't always of much help, according to her book.

Writes Ehrenreich: "If optimism is the key to material success, and if you can achieve an optimistic outlook through the discipline of positive thinking, then there is no excuse for failure. The flip side of positivity is thus a harsh insistence on personal responsibility: if your business fails or your job is eliminated, it must be because you didn't try hard enough, didn't believe firmly enough in the inevitability of your success. As the economy has brought more layoffs and financial turbulence to the middle class, the promoters of positive thinking have increasingly emphasized this negative judgment: to be disappointed, resentful, or downcast is to be a "victim" and a "whiner."

Before you shell out $25 for a copy of Osteen's lastest book, it might be wise to consider the findings of a new study conducted by Joseph Forgas, a professor of psychology at Australia's University of New South Wales: A "mild negative mood" may help you pay attention.
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