This article was originally published as “Recovering God in the Age of Therapy” by Gary Steven Shogren, in Journal of Biblical Counseling 12, No. 1 (Fall 1993): 14-19.
Note: I wrote this as a lecture in 1992, to comment upon Christian literature of the 80s-90s. I have not attempted to update the examples, since they have retained most of their relevance after nearly decades.
To get a quick scan of our civilization, look no further than the nearest mall bookstore. Naturally, it will carry the standards – Bibles, dictionaries, paperback classics, Cliff Notes. But since its manager has stocked it full of the ideas that consumers are buying this season, it serves as a handy display panel for the collective mind. Without doubt you will notice that merchandise is moving briskly from “Psychology/Self-Help”; a glance at the titles will reveal what’s selling:
Peace, Love & Healing – Bodymind communication and the path to self-healing: an exploration
Forgive & Forget: Healing the hurts we don’t deserve
Healing the Shame that Binds You
People of the Lie: the hope for human healing evil
May it also be said that Christian bookstores are the mirrors of our subculture? Run through the titles on whatever shelf corresponds to Self-Help and try to get a feel for what Christians want to hear:
Healing for Damaged Emotions (text and workbook)
Changes that Heal – How to Understand your past to ensure a healthier future
Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer
Faith that Hurts – Faith that Heals, and so forth; all by evangelical authors, put out by Christian publishers.
Is it a fluke, or do we really yearn for the same higher good – for want of a better term, Inner Healing – as the world at large? We dig deeper, and the likelihood of mere coincidence fades away.
Not only do the covers sound remarkably similar, but the contents read alike. At times the same title (in my case, Forgive & Forget) is found in both stores. And if you are surprised to find “secular” books on a religious bookseller’s Psychology shelf, then you may be even more puzzled to find books from evangelical publishers in the shopping mall. (more…)