Joyce Meyer, The Love Revolution (New York: Faith Words, 2009). $21.99, 272 pages.
To be perfectly honest, I did not expect to like this book.
Joyce Meyer is a well-known televangelist and advocate of the prosperity gospel. She has been publicly criticized for high living and for lack of financial transparency and accountability in her ministry. Both of these things—the bad theology and the questionable finances—predisposed me to dislike this book before I had even cracked it open.
This predisposition reminds me of the proverb, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Or its author, for that matter. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, learned from it, and was challenged by it. I have a few disagreements with it, which I’ll mention at the end of this review, but I think Meyer’s theme is right on.
The theme, stated at the outset of the book and repeated throughout, is summarized in the Love Revolution Creed: “I take up compassion and surrender my excuses. I stand against injustice and commit to live out simple acts of God’s love. I refuse to do nothing. This is my resolve. I AM THE LOVE REVOLUTION.”
The world would be a much better place if all Christians, especially us prosperous Christians in North America, took this creed to heart and put it into practice. Throughout the book, Meyer cites Scriptures reminding us our duties to help widows, poor, and the oppressed. She offers individual examples of people who are poor and oppressed, then cites statistics to show what a large problem poverty and oppression (specifically, human trafficking are). And she offers suggestions for how Christians can make a difference.
Meyer argues that the basic reason Christians don’t love in the biblical way is selfishness. “In a word,” she writes, “selfishness is the source of all the world’s troubles.” She cites 1 Timothy 6:10 several times as an example of how that selfishness is lived out with regard to money: “The love of money is a root of all evil.” This was very surprising to me, given how much criticism Meyer has taken for her own lifestyle and for the lack of financial accountability in her ministry, but I was glad to see it emphasized in her book nonetheless.
Meyer talks about big issues of global poverty and what individual Christians can do about it, but she also talks about being a loving person in everyday situations. Much of her advice has a How to Win Friends and Influence People feel to it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does significantly change the tone of the book. One minute, she’s talking about caring for an orphan who makes a living at Mumbai’s city dump; the next moment she’s talking about smiling at people and telling them they’re eyes look pretty.
That’s my first critique of the book. At times, it talks about tough issues of poverty, human trafficking, sexual abuse, and other large issues. At other times, it talks about issues that I consider much more trite. I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, the focus of the book on issues both large and small makes it lack focus. On the other hand, perhaps love is more than just a focus on big issues. We should always be aware of what Dickens referred to as “telescopic charity,” the quality of loving people around the world at the expense of loving people right next door.
My second critique of the book is its individualism. Individuals must obey the biblical command to love God, neighbor, and self. But when you talk about global poverty, individual action is a beginning, but not the end. We must also talk about changing systems (through political reform) and changing communities (through the church). Ecclesiology and politics are totally absent from Meyer’s book.
Nonetheless, despite my reservations, I thought The Love Revolution was a pretty good book. And, to be perfectly honest, that shocks me, given my feelings about Joyce Meyer (noted above). Maybe that’s the greatest personal learning for me: I haven’t been charitable to her, and her book made me realize exactly how uncharitable I have been.