I was reading a recent article in Christianity Today (April 2002, about Oprah Winfrey. The article title states, “With a congregation of 22 million viewers, Oprah Winfrey has become one of the most influential spiritual leaders in America.
The very thought makes me nauseated. On September 23rd, in the wake of 9/11, at Yankee Stadium, Winfrey said, “When you lose a loved one, you gain an angel whose name you know. Over 6,000 and counting, angels added to the spiritual roster these past two weeks. It is my prayer that they will keep us in their sight with a direct line to our hearts.” Barf! Gag! Heresy!
There is no evidence that people become angels. We don’t sit on clouds and play harps after we die. We don’t become angels with a direct line to the hearts of our loved ones. What drug was she taking when she came up with that theory. Dr. Phil needs to tell the Queen of talk shows to, “Get a life! Get real! Wake Up!”
According to the article, “…they will read whatever books she endorses, ponder her every word, keep gratitude journals, donate money remember their spirits, whatever…This is Oprah!” Personally, I can’t wait until her brand of psycho-babble is off the air.
I can tolerate Jerry Springer – at least I know and every one watching knows, this is a joke, a hoax, a ploy to get viewers. What troubles me about “O” is that people embrace her and her ‘teachings’ as intelligent, enlightened and illuminating.
America has watched her weight fluctuate depending on if she’s eating beef or not. People have embraced her self help advice. She’s rich, powerful, famous and in my opinion, dangerous.
Oprah is the perfect guru for the new age, post modern world in which we live. She is not an advocate of absolutes. Oprah’s is the “what works” club. What Oprah pushes will sell. She can sell a book easier than Bill Cosby can sell jello. At least we know the jello won’t destroy your mind, some of her book recommendations will.
Without question, she is one of the most powerful and influential women in America. The Wall Street Journal coined the word Oprahfication to describe “public confession as a form of therapy.” JET magazine uses Oprah as a verb.
To quote the author of the article, LaTonya Taylor, “…Oprah’s most significant role has become that of spiritual leader…she has become a postmodern priestess – an icon of church free spirituality.”
According to an article in Vanity Fair in 1994, “Oprah Winfrey arguable has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the Pope.”
She does have a church background. She was strongly influenced by her grandmother and she has a familiarity with the Bible. At one point, she wanted to be a missionary (she is one but she’s preaching a false gospel). She had a nickname as a child – Preacher Woman. As a teenager, she frequently spoke in churches.
She says that, every year, she asks God for a different gift or insight. According to the article, in 1994, she says, it was clarity. “I have become more clear about my purpose in television and this show.” Since that time, her show has obviously taken a different course than the Jerry Springer’s and Sally’s of this world.
She often refers to her television show as “my ministry.” She is apparently very generous with her money and invests in scholarships, Special Olympics, even churches. Again quoting Taylor, “Oprah clearly believes part of her role as a talk show host is to call her audience to some sort of higher plane. The theological mature of that higher plane and her methods for getting there are what sound alarms for many of her Christian critics.”
One theologian says, “There’s a blending that’s happening…of this kind of New Age, Afrocentric spirituality that has a measure of truth but never forces people into a clear relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Taylor again writes, “Oprah’s show has normalized a generic spirituality that perceives all religions as equally valid paths to God. The show also presents an a’ la carte blend of religious concepts from karmic destiny (Zen Buddhism), to reincarnation (Hinduism).”
Elliot Miller writes, “she would believe that Jesus is like an ascended master, a God-realized teacher, someone who completely expressed God in their life.” This would make the blood atonement, the cross, salvation by grace through faith, the vicarious death of Christ, and a coming Judgement meaningless.
Oh, I know, she has an occasional Christian as a guest. However, she apparently does not attend church. The pastor of the church she once attended (she hasn’t been in eight years) used her as an example of African Americans who have forgotten their roots in the church after finding success.
This pastor says, “She now has this sort of ‘God is everywhere. God is in me, I don’t need to go to church, I don’t need to be a part of a body of believers, I can meditate, I can do positive thinking ‘spirituality.'” It’s obvious the lady hasn’t found the answer, or she wouldn’t be bouncing around so many theories in her head, on her program and in her magazine. Never follow anyone who still isn’t sure where they are going.
I agree that she’s hit a nerve. She is touching those who are spiritually hungry, but leading them down the wrong road. She knows that “spirituality” is an in topic right now -but she’s not giving people true spirituality. The Scriptures clearly tell us, there are people who have a form of religion but deny the power – and to avoid them. Listen to the Scripture not the Winfrey. One is built on truth, the other teaches half truths.
©2002 MCC Used by permission. This article is copyrighted by the author and is for your individual use. Reproduction for any other purpose is governed by copyright laws and is strictly prohibited.Michael C. Catt, I Left My Mind in Mississippi… But I Still Have My Ministry (Columbus, Ga.: Brentwood Press, 1994), p. 66-68.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.