The end of the church of Oprah?

By Elizabeth Tenety The queen is abdicating her throne. The little Baptist girl from Mississippi who became one of the … Continued

By Elizabeth Tenety

The queen is abdicating her throne.

The little Baptist girl from Mississippi who became one of the most influential people in America will announce today that her talk show will come to an end in 2011, after 25 years on the air.

With millions of viewers worldwide, an XM radio station and a glossy magazine bearing her name, Oprah did so much more than incite audience hysteria over car giveaways. In her years on air, she became a spiritual leader to women around the world. Don’t believe that Oprah is a religious figure? Check out the charges her fiercest critics hurl at her: leading her viewers to damnation, creating her own cult and deceiving Christians about Jesus’ divinity. One widely circulated YouTube video that denounces Oprah’s “trance”-inducing “church” has more than 9 million views. In other words, she’s accused of blasphemy. Who knew daytime TV was so existential?

Oprah’s spiritual path is similar to many other modern Americans, despite her unusual platform. She grew up attending a Baptist church, became disillusioned, and settled into a spirituality that is more “love thy neighbor” than hellfire and damnation. In the past few years, she has used her show to promote enlightenment to the masses, most notably through a series of webcasts with Eckhart Tolle about his book “A New Earth.” Her unwillingness to acquiesce to religious dogma has gained her critics, even condemnation, but Oprah is in good company with much of the American public. According to the Pew Forum’s 2008 Religious Landscape Survey, 44% of Americans are members of a different religious denomination than the one in which they grew up, and 70% of Americans with a religious affiliation say that they believe many religions can lead to eternal life. We’re not exactly a nation of fundamentalists, but a nation of seekers styled in Oprah’s image.

Oprah may find compatriots in televangelist Joyce Meyer and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, two prominent American female religious leaders. But with so few women leading flocks, it’s no wonder that women give their attention to a spiritual leader broadcast daily into their living rooms who calls them to a deeper understanding of God –and the right pants for their body type.

In the first Tolle webcast in March 2008, a viewer asked Oprah, “How have you reconciled these spiritual teachings with your Christian beliefs”?

“I reconciled it because I was able to open my mind about the absolute indescribable hugeness of that which we call God,” Oprah said. “I took God out of the box because I grew up in the Baptist church and there were rules and belief systems and doctrine.”

“What I believe is that Jesus came to show us Christ-consciousness. Jesus came to show us the way of the heart … Jesus came to say ‘Look, I’m going to live in the human body and I’m going to show you how it’s done. These are some principles and some laws that you can use to live by to know that way’. . . Even as a Christian, I don’t believe that Jesus came to start Christianity.”

Oprah may not believe that Jesus came to start Christianity, but before he left, he reassured his nervous disciples that they would never be alone, and that he would “send out an advocate” to guide them, to aide them and to teach them what they need to know.

Reports indicate that in the absence of her talk show, Oprah may be sending another advocate: The Oprah Winfrey Network. And if that endeavor fails, then Oprah, please send Dr. Phil.

(Elizabeth Tenety is producer of Divine Impulses for On Faith.)

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
  • robertvtaylorseattle

    Oprah exudes a spirituality free of religious dogma wars. Compassion and a generous Divine love are ancient spiritual truths that she invites partcipation in. No wonder she connects with the spiritual quest of so many! Her popularity comes from giving voice to such spiritual truth and hope shared by so many.

  • Sweetadversity

    Thanks for this article which affirms that Oprah’s spiritual work is pretty well mainstream in America, shared by the majority of people and is basically a good and positive message.It’s incredible that a minority of people think her message is blasphemous in any way.

  • fgominho

    Who gives a rat’s ass about Oprah and her ewxploits. The MSM is absolutely lost on what constitutes news. Over the last 9 yaers we have been witnessing a sad phase for American journalism, since Bush invaded Iraq supported and abetted by the MSM!

  • itscc721

    So OPRAH is leaving, will they CLOSE DOWN THE STREETS YET AGAIN AS SHE MOVES HER PERSONAL BELONGINGS to where she is going? I admit she did a lot for many people. SO , she made billions from these people, why shouldn;’t she give back. But the fact remains she’s a PRIMA DONNA. She thinks what she says is LAW. She never endorsed any PRESIDENTIAL CANDIATE until ONE OF HER OWN COLOR RAN. THEN HER TRUE COLOR CAME OUT. I never watched her, to me she was annoying. ALL THE MEN and MOSTLY WOMEN SCREAMING IN THE AUDIENCE REMINDED ME OF TEENY BOPPERS IDOLIZING SOME SINGER. She was a GREAT PERFORMER. always seeking out new ventures that would MAKE HER WEALTHY and BECAUSE SHE WAS BLACK,FEMALE and A GREAT TALKER SHE GOT WHAT SHE WANTED. NOW LET CALIFORNIA HAVE HER. BY BY OPRAH, and COULD YOU TAKE MAYOR HITLER WITH YOU PLEASE..

  • alloleo

    Honestly, the woman celebrates herself on the cover of her own magazine every month, and we’re supposed to act like there’s no ego trip going on?? She’s put together quite a combination of new age spirituality, pop psychobabble, women’s victimization, fashion, and gossip and churned it into a package that, like the product of most self-help gurus, feeds on the self-doubts of of its target audience members while proclaiming that audience to be empowered. Fine if that’s what they want to spend their time and money on, but don’t expect everyone else to buy into it.

  • flipper49

    Oprah’s HARDLY s “spiritual leader”! Spiritualism and Christianity are VERY different and irreconcilable. A Christian does NOT teach God as a “hugeness” rather than the Creator.Instead, she’s practically made herself a goddess. She never talks about God or the Messiah, and a Christian can’t HELP but talk about what God has done for him/her. I don’t mean preaching and trying to make everybody like himself, but helping others to know GOD. Oprah, in teaching spiritualism, spits in God’s face. She will pay an eternal price for this. She’s no better than the phony TV preachers (the “megachurch” leaders, etc.) , and her message seems to be, “Look at ME, America! Be like ME!” She puts herself on a pedestal for becoming ___ (whatever she really is), and became famous just like Obama has…by fooling people …especially lonely women…into thinking SHE has all the answers. She can stilll be saved, but not as long as her ego leads her pathetic life.As for the article itself: “…70% of Americans with a religious affiliation say that they believe many religions can lead to eternal life…” So, far, nobody I know of ever took a part in that survey, so it may well have been sent through a specific church which believes themselves superior to other churches. There’s no reference to what kind of people were polled or where*. That’s how dumbed-down America has become and why they listen to people like Oprah. The Bible never states any denomination per se can save anybody. Only Jesus the Christ can do this. The Christian church itself can’t save but their leader, Christ, can. Oprah is a pretty good part of America’s great misinformation in this matter. She makes foolish, ignorant people think she’s a disciple of God when she’s actually spreading the devil’s own work in slurring God’s name. She’s an ungodly, racist hellbound sinner. I wish it were not so, but her life proves every word of this. She needs a LOT of prayer. * I just looked this poll up, and its source, The Pew Forum, claims that this survey is “Based on interviews with more than 35,000 American adults…” That’s one good sized mega-church which teaches ungodly lives…so what does that prove? If they took this poll in some church like Joel Osteen’s (where the BIble is taught in tiny smattering out of context), it’s not AT ALL an indication of what mainstream Christianity believes. I maintain that RELATIVELY FEW Christians believe a denomination can save; it’s just not Biblical in the best imaginings of mankind.

  • Ombudsman1

    If Oprah is a “Spiritual Leader” then I am Jesus H. Christ.

  • Ombudsman1

    Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize this was from Sally Quinn. Now I get it.This is Quinn’s World where Muslims killing in the name of God are not Terrorists, and Oprah is our Spiritual Leader.There’s some part of me that thinks Sally is just putting us on here… nobody is really that dumb.

  • drzimmern1

    Oprah is an attractive women who was born at the right time. She has used her race and talents to make herself Chicago’s first black billlionairess and is smartly leaving as the curain comes down. You will see her fade as the curtain closes, but her investments will carry her and her close friends into the fields of power they obviously desire.

  • klakey1

    If the world can do without Jesus walking the earth, as it has for 2000 years or so, it can do without Oprah on TV. There’s something creepy and idolatrous about your question.

  • Italiaxxx

    Drzimmern1, did you say harpo is attractive? LOL She is not even attractive compared to other black women, much less the population.

  • amva55

    WSell, if I’m not mistaken her show will go off the air on regular TV networks to be now on her new minted OWC (Oprah Winfrey Channel) in cable TV. Her dism issal is premature. As for her religiosity or beliefs, no comment there.

  • amva55

    Well, as far as I know her show will go off Network TV and onto her new minted OWC (Oprah Winfrey Channel) on cable TV. Her beliefs are hers and I don’t care about them.

  • ekim53

    It sounds like many have not been in church for years and continue spouting the Hollywood version of a cult church of Religiosity ONLY. Where were they when the churches reached out BIG TIME before the government did anything in being first, second and third responders to disasters such as Katrina. Many churches in Houston opened up their doors immediately and provided food, shelter, clothes, safe havens and jobs and job searches for the victims. Many churches are involved in frequent community efforts in helping with the needs of those hurting as well as providing financial aid to those that dedicate their lives to missionary work full time. It’s a shame those that DON’T KNOW and are OUT OF TOUCH continue to bash the so called traditional churches. Maybe it’s because the church community work is not done under the lights of the TV cameras. And it seems unpopular to be a Christian today and follow the inspirited word of the bible. The NEW religion is just mentioning Jesus and then doing your own thing…whatever that is…The media ONLY comes into a church when there is an aberrant priest…what a shame.

  • Kathy8

    Give it a break, man! Nobody’s losing Oprah anytime soon. This is just a bunch of PR hype so that her audience continues to follow her wherever she goes.

  • DwightCollins

    Are you kidding me…

  • whizler

    Kudos to Oprah for continuing the tradition of watering down a religion – Christianity – that is malicious at its core.

  • faithfulservant3

    When you dumb-down your faith you decrease the likelihood that you will make the material sacrifices necessary for living a life based on performing continual good works. One need not abandon “Christianity” in order to achieve “enlightenment” or promote tolerance. These values are at the foundation of the bible’s teachings, although some ministries choose to overlook them.

  • sunnyroberto

    “Jesus came to say ‘Look, I’m going to live in the human body and I’m going to show you how it’s done. These are some principles and some laws that you can use to live by to know that way’Then why did Jesus die on the cross?? If his goal was to show us how to live, then he would still be alive today.I pray that Oprah will change and rediscover the life changing salvation that comes through the grace of God.

  • canyon2

    I can’t even read this. Oprah is a lost, wandering woman. No amount of money, fame, power has made her strong or content.

  • aepelbaum

    The real value of the spiritual power of Oprah is equal to the value of spiritual power of the monk Rusputin during last years of Russian empire befofe Romanov’s abdication. Of course, Rusputin possessed some kind of healing power, which Oprah doesn’t, but pretends to, trying to sell all kinds of freshly invented “magical health remedies”. The great damage Oprah and her cult have caused within the years of her “ruling” together with the great damage the behind the scenes ruling of her patroness-Mrs. Clinton has caused in really is difficult to underestimate, watching the current extremely rapid decline of American economy, American values, and meanaverage of the American level of life. Is does not look, like the great achievement, does it? But this is the truth of what has happened in USA within last twenty or so years.

  • Georgetowner1

    I think we can safely do without Oprah’s new age silliness. It sounds like perhaps she should check out the Muslim religion if she wants to consider Christ simply a prophet instead of our Savior. The Bible basically says that the belief in Him can be a stumbling block for those who cannot submit their egos to a higher power. Most of the New Agers are really people looking for a cafeteria approach to spirtuality so that they can pick and choose what makes them feel good about themselves rather than hold themselves to a spiritual standard. Of course all of us (even Billy Graham admits to this) fail to meet the standard, but it is our duty to continue to try.

  • billbridgesmaccom

    I turned Oprah off years ago. She is a black woman who sees the world through racism; everyone else’s racism. I am offended at any suggestion that she is a spiritual power of anything but racism and money.She gets fat and makes money on it, she gets skinny and makes money on it, she gives away a lot of gifts because she is required to as a business person visa ve tax compliance. But, and this is big, when she built a school for young people in need, she like Dick Cheney, took those assets out of this country, and built a sweet little school in South Africa and not one little boy was included. Like most wealthy people who have made enough money to live in a glass bubble, she cares not about the impact of all her behavior on innocent people.She may be a Democrat but she has the same “really?” moral compass as the folks she rails against.

  • tjhall1

    This vapid, particularly unattractive woman was/is propelled by a Black-worshipping media.How she got fame and fortune is beyond me, but then I think of Paris Hilton. Eew.

  • DwightCollins

    it’s time to tear down the ho’s of media…

  • KatieB9056

    We went to a taping of Oprah’s show in the early ’90s. She was rude to her assistants and whenever the camera was off she was complaining while they tried in vain to make her happy. At that time, after every show she would stand on stage to greet each audience member. She obviously did not want to do this as she kept extending her hand while looking away and talking to her staff. My friend would not let go of Oprah’s hand until she finally acknowledged us. She really thought she was above everyone else. And THAT was when I stopped watching. I also thought it disgusting that she took credit for the car give away when the car company was the one who shelled out millions. I won’t miss her at all — oh wait, I spoke too soon — who will tell us what to read???

  • ihatelogins

    When I read the title I thought it was a joke, but upon reading the article, I guess it’s not- disturbingly. It’s hard for me to describe Oprah without using the term ‘wind-bag’ but I’ll try: Oprah is a self-important windbag (darn!) who uses her show to make millions off of charlatans and snake-oil salesmen. The Secret. Jenny Macarthy. Fad diets. Occasionally someone will sneak in who is selling something reasonable- like exercise, etc- but they will still have to nod politely as Oprah’s other investments (er… guests) peddle their various garbage with a lot of hand-waving and allusions to magic (or ‘auras’ or ‘water memory’ or whatever you want to call it). I guess, upon thinking about it, Oprah IS like a lot of religions, but mostly new-age: meaningless drivel that makes a nice sound-byte and sells books.

  • faithplusnothing

    Spiritual leadership? Are you serious. She has no clue about the Bible. If you are talking about spiritual as in pagan, then yes.

  • easttxisfreaky

    Are you frickig kidding me? This fat, prejudiced, loud-mouthed, lout of a pig whose own baby died from neglect…after screwing her family members…then prostituting herself…is a joke. Anyone who believes that she has any hint of spirituality – hey, at least you’re looking. Don’t stop at the BIG O, however. She is wasted space.

  • therev1

    Oprah is a spiritual leader? Seriously? You’ve done well succumbing to the hype.

  • Ombudsman1

    “Oprah is an attractive women”Ummm…Doc, I hate to tell you this, but she’s not remotely attractive. Perhaps her great wealth makes you blind to her actual looks?And you know she must be a G-D-N b* tch; she can’t get a man to be around her.

  • US-conscience

    Any religion ( spiritual belief ) that does not center around the truth of sin, judgment, the atoning-sacrifical death of Jesus and our need for repentance and faith…is just another man centered, works based, false religion that will end in death. If the millions of Oprah followers feel lost when she’s gone, they can simply tune in to Joel Osteen. He’ll give them the same thing Oprah has been feeding them for decades.

  • sophic

    It sounds like many have not been in church for years and continue spouting the Hollywood version of a cult church of Religiosity ONLY. Where were they when the churches reached out BIG TIME before the government did anything in being first, second and third responders to disasters such as Katrina. Many churches in Houston opened up their doors immediately and provided food, shelter, clothes, safe havens and jobs and job searches for the victims. Many churches are involved in frequent community efforts in helping with the needs of those hurting as well as providing financial aid to those that dedicate their lives to missionary work full time. It’s a shame those that DON’T KNOW and are OUT OF TOUCH continue to bash the so called traditional churches. Maybe it’s because the church community work is not done under the lights of the TV cameras. And it seems unpopular to be a Christian today and follow the inspirited word of the bible. The NEW religion is just mentioning Jesus and then doing your own thing…whatever that is…The media ONLY comes into a church when there is an aberrant priest…what a shame.

  • Jerzy

    Oprah has dumbed down America as much as Jerry Springer and other liberal lightweights in the media. Good riddance to her and other shallow airheads.

  • qqbDEyZW

    Interesting article Liz. Seems like the envy eye is really showing. Oprah like other Black Americans earned her way to what she has and many are jealous. Now the Church might even take notes and maybe try following what the Bible Teaches to get people back in Church. The Oprah viewers will follow her to cable. Who knows maybe the Church can get Sarah Palin to do a show or maybe her teenage daught Bristol. I’m sure the Church would love to have those ladies are representatives before Levi Johnson tells the secrets of the Palin Family. Yes Sarah can use God’s name while she’s lying as she always does and of course our kids can learn from Bristol how great it is to be a teenage mother who’s family takes care of everything.

  • jjcrocket2

    SO!!!!! SOME SARAH PALIN GOING ROGUE RUBBED OFF ON OPRAH!!!!

  • irishjazz

    Oprah’s blasphemies…whatever they are…are not a patch on her encouragement of anti-scientific crap like “The Secret,” various quack remedies and the anti-vaccination lunacy. Whatever souls she has condemned to perdition- my personal guess is zero- she may well have sped people who believed her tripe on their way to the afterlife.

  • bandmom22

    How pathetic is it that Oprah is considered a spiritual leader. The only church or spirituality this babe ascribes to is the church of Oprah and bring mo money in.Has the Post become so dumbed down that this is what passes for religion? Oh that’s right – Sally Quinn the blasphemer is in charge. She needs to be put out to pasture.

  • ryan_heart

    oPRAHS OVER SIMPLIFIED ONE DEMENSIONAL SOUND BITE SOLUTIONS BACKED BY dR oz AND dR nOT pHIL IS DUMBIFYING AMERICA.THANK ZEUS FOR CHARLIE ROSE!

  • GOPNAZI1

    NEVER UNDERSTOOD HOW PEOPLE COULD PLACE THIS WOMAN ON THE ALTER OF SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP.THIS SHOW WAS NOTHING DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER EXPLOITATION SHOW, MORTON DOWNY JR, JERRY SPRINGER, BILL OREILY, ETC ETC – JUST A LITTLE SLICKER AND LESS PSYCHOTIC SCREAMING (THOUGH PSYCHOTIC IN OTHER WAYS). OPRAH IS GREAT AT FEIGNING SHE IS EXPOSING SOME TOPIC DEEP INTELLECTUAL SUBSTANCE. THE WOMAN IS VAPID, SOUL-LESS.

  • dwillis917

    Elizabeth,

  • dhampton100

    I am a 56 year old man and my opinion of Ms. Winfrey’s spirituality is as follows: Oprah knows as much about God as I know about having a baby. Anyone who follows her lead on this subject is dumber than a box of rocks. She should stick to the one subject she is proficient at: Being a talk show host, period!

  • mike85

    No body is losing Oprah. She is starting her own cable TV network. The next thing you’ll hear is that Obama will be screaming for subsidies for the poor to get cable TV so that they can continue to watch Oprah.

  • raymyl

    Oprah of course is a spiritual leader, same as those who diverted the Israelites to worship the golden calf even below the Mount Sinai.

  • raymyl

    Oprah of course is a spiritual leader, same as those who diverted the Israelites to worship the golden calf even below the Mount Sinai.

  • judithclaire1939

    Someone said, ” Never underestimate the ignorance of the American people…or something like that….Ignorance is not bliss and in these times…we must try to see ourselves as we are…Perhaps, Number 1 is over…that is ok…we are all here to learn…and as Oprah says, When we know better…we do better!

  • qqbDEyZW

    With the Church so interesting in Oprah they might think of supporting Sister Sarah Palin as a replacement so she can get Oprah’s milliions of viewers like Sarah got Hillary’s voters. It’s all about the money and the Church knows how to make money. Put Sister Sarah on a Talk Show to spread the mixed truth/lies and have a flowing cross in the back like Rev. Huck did to trick the people into sending money. Let’s face it, it’s all about the money and this has nothing to do with God’s Teaching. The Bishop told Rep. Kennedy he couldn’t take Communion because of his view on abortion, yet the bible teaches Jesus spoke, prayed with and protected a Prostitute. Now you really have to wonder what’s with the Church these days when everything they say and do seems more like Satan’s work then God’s.

  • asoders22

    Oprah is an achiever, and in a racist country with a minority of black people, she couldn’t very well “use” her race, she had to work through it. She is on air as herself, sometimes promoting not well-thought-through ideas, sometimes promoting better ones, like most people who are searching and not set in their perceptions. The viewer has to be an adult about it and not expect anything else than a fellow human being, and what’s wrong with that? Basically she is all about that we should good and generous in this world, and read books. Sounds fine to me. I’m yet to find a church that really preaches what Jesus did. You can find good Christian individuals who can provide warmth and food for thoughts, but the churches are all fariseeic, hierarchic power machines missing the point and the core of Christianity.

  • Fate1

    “SOME SARAH PALIN GOING ROGUE RUBBED OFF ON OPRAH!!!!”I assume that was a tongue-in-cheek remark but I think it is on the mark. Oprah loves Obama’s vision of America. If she wanted to stop the conservative rabble she is quite qualified to do so. She has 25 years of loyalty. She will be followed and listened to and if what she says contradicts conservatives, Americans would believe Oprah. Oprah has held politics at pole’s length until she endorsed Obama. A few days ago, before announcing her show would end as the 2012 election starts moving into high gear, she has Sarah Palin on her show. I don’t think that was a coincidence. I think Oprah’s future lies in being the anti-Palin, challenging conservative lies, even debating Palin on TV. Oprah has the money and loyal following to pull it off. It would be a risk to Oprah but I don’t think ending the show at that time is coincidence. She’s out to help elect Obama in 2012. Conservatives will howl. They will coordinate their attacks and lies. Oprah will be demonized as is the conservative way of handling debate.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Oprah’s Prayer Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?Everybody!That’s it!Amen

  • hrndnwmn

    So many of the comments here are just plain mean spirited. That mean spirit is why I left organized religion. There were times in my life where an uplifting message was just what I needed, and Oprah provided it. I don’t worship her, but I sure do appreciate her and her work. Honestly, you mean people, you are just jealous.

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