Friday, November 4, 2011

Where Has Oprah Taken Us?: The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman by Stephen Mansfield

Where Has Oprah Taken Us?: The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman
Title: Where Has Oprah Taken Us?: The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman
An evocative exploration of Oprah Winfrey's religious beliefs, from her rejection of her Baptist upbringing to her controversial rise as "an icon of church-free spirituality."

Born into poverty in Mississippi in 1954 and rising through talent, hard work and despite tragedy-she was raped at the age of nine and lost an infant son at 14-Oprah Winfrey has become one of the wealthiest, most powerful, and most popular women of her age. These facts alone would make Winfrey worthy of study, yet what makes her of even more profound impact on American society is her decision to champion the cause of "New Age Christianity." She is, as Christianity Today has proclaimed, "a postmodern priestess-an icon of church-free spirituality." Rejecting her Baptist roots, Winfrey has become a champion of theCourse in Miracles, a seminar in which Christianity is reinterpreted in terms of self-actualization, personal divinity, and self-empowerment. She has also become a disciple of Eckhart Tolle, the increasingly popular teacher of a form of spirituality that blends Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Christianity.
Author Stephen Mansfield explores the Winfrey spiritual phenomenon-much as Mansfield has with figures like George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Pope Benedict XVI, and Winston Churchill. 

My Take: Oprah is an icon of what one person can accomplish to change herself and many aspects of the world around her. What Oprah is, however, is a human woman. Not a pastor, priestess, or goddess. 

The author provides a brief history of Oprah's heartbreaking early years and her resolve to overcome adversity and positively influence the world around her. It can not be argued that Oprah has been instrumental in furthering many charities and educational opportunities for African girls who have previously been undervalued.

The author then argues that Oprah turned her back on her Southern Baptist upbringing to explore New Age religions and no longer can be considered a Christian woman. The evidence that Oprah has opened her consciousness to different spiritual paths is irrefutable. Oprah has provided a platform for many leading New Age leaders to teach by having them as guests on her show. Being influential, the author argues, this has negatively impacted the Christian church memberships.

Although valid arguments in the beginning, Oprah is only opening the door for the viewer to see her own spiritual struggles. As Oprah has had much to overcome with her own rape at the age of 9, the death of her newborn child at 14, the inner strength Oprah found to overcome and to carry on is a testament to her resiliency.

Honestly, I don't agree with Oprah's tactics much of the time. On the other hand, I am mostly not home when her show aired so I sat through very few of her guests. That said, I have hung onto my own Christian roots but, because of my own adversity, have been on my spiritual journey as I explored God, the nature of God and who I am to Him. I have found my spiritual questions are not unique. The difference between Oprah and myself is that I have maintained my Christian beliefs and I have maintained privacy throughout my spiritual growth and questions.

To me, Oprah represents the adult spiritual developmental milestone. She has invited the viewer to journey with her as she explores different beliefs. I do agree with the author that many of the theories contradict one another and can not live harmoniously within a person. On the other hand, I do admire the woman with the confidence to seek God so openly.


Unknown said...

Personally,I think O is lost in her search for God,she believes that God is felt and not Believed in...WRONG! Christianity is a faith and not feeling. It could be that her religious background and the doctrines of her church has forced her into some form of rebellion.

A Musing Mother said...

That seems to be the general consensus. I couldn't agree with your assessment more.