It is fashionable among some scholars to use the image, or metaphor, of a marketplace to describe the religious dynamics that exist in the United States. Producers compete for consumers while consumers seemingly make rational choices about which producer to affiliate with or buy into. Producers attempt to gain a market share by diversifying products, by recalibrating what they offer, all attuned to the tastes and preferences of consumers.
In this scenario, Joel Osteen is one of the savviest of the religious producers in America's religious marketplace, competing with fellow producers like Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and so many others.
Most of you are no doubt familiar with Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, a handbook to divine blessing organized around 7 life principles. Well, not only can you read the book, when hanging out with family over the holidays you can play your way to your best life now. That's right, it's the "Your Best Life Now: The Game."
For those who live in the religious marketplace, this is a brilliant move. To my knowledge, this is the only major preacher in American history who has had a book turned into a boardgame. I'd love to hear confirmation if this is actually the case. In a way, this validates the sociological work of Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, and exemplifies the perspective of R. Laurence Moore, among others.
In other news, the first book about Joel Osteen is due out soon. Written by Richard Young, it is titled The Rise of Lakewood Church and Joel Osteen. From news reports it sounds like a book that offers glowing praise for the man and the ministry; I'm not sure to what extent it sets Osteen in the context of American religious history and culture.
For more on that, I will soon unveil a project I'm working on with a sociologist at Tulane University....stay tuned.