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You know what a preacher is, don’t you? Southerners know; a preacher is distinct from a pastor because a preacher can reach the masses.
A preacher rears back and thunders an oracle from God. A pastor, however, holds the hand of the dying and dispenses kind words.
That’s why America’s most popular pastor today is Oprah Gail Winfrey. The problem is, her brand of spirituality, and her (vast) stage make her the most dangerous woman in America, as she shares oracles from … gods.
How often have you heard a solid evangelical voice comment favorably on something that was heard on Oprah’s show? The truth is, her truth is taken from hordes of spiritual sources.
Long-time apologetics teacher Josh McDowell and co-writer Dave Sterrett do the country’s churches a great service by boldly speaking to Ms. Winfrey’s spirituality. In the just-released “O God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality,” McDowell and Sterrett present a primer for understanding the source and outcome of Winfrey’s long association with religious gurus Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson and Kathy Freston.
Born into poverty in Mississippi, Winfrey (named after the biblical character in the book of Ruth, “Orpah”) attended a rural church and was nicknamed “The Preacher” because of her ability to memorize Scripture. It is fascinating to note this early influence on her life, because it has enabled the media multi-millionaire to mix traditional Christian concepts and language to the “new spirituality.”
(An ironic aside: the biblical Orpah, after the death of her husband, returned to the Land of Moab, to a people who worshiped many gods.)
“O God” begins with a quick story that illustrates just how seductive Oprah’s brand of faith is, recalling an exchange between two friends: one an open-minded seeker enamored of Winfrey’s goodwill efforts around the world and her friend, a former Hindu with discernment into the ways of global spirituality. In fact, the entire book is an exchange between these two women and it makes for a fascinating snapshot of the culture at large, so divided over what is truth.
A key to understanding Oprah’s view of religion is her idea that our feelings can lead us to truth. An early encounter in a Baptist church, in which the preacher thundered that God is a jealous God (as he outlines in the First Commandment) didn’t sit well with the ambitious television personality. She decided that, because she believed God to be a God of love, he could not also be jealous. These were the beginnings of her subjective views of religion, God and the Bible.
The authors do a masterful job weaving truth and worldview into this friendship between Lindsey (who has lost her father to cancer, and is searching for comfort) and Avatari, the former Hindu, now Christian. The book uses an effective writing style that makes it perfect for a seeker. Even a disciple of Oprah would be drawn in.
A theme that is explored in “O God” is the idea that the God of the Old Testament is an angry one who must be rejected on this basis. This idea is the father of many spiritual children, ranging from Oprah to liberal clergy like Marcus Borg, who jettison the reality of the God of the Bible, to invent one who is allegedly kinder and gentler. It is an alluring trap.
“O God” is also valuable for pointing out the danger of that journal of narcissism, O, the Oprah Magazine. (Seriously, how can a person who puts herself on the cover of every issue be worshiped as a selfless giver? I don’t know, either.)
The magazine’s editors – and namesake – cleverly drop articles about wearing pants that flatter your figure in with articles on spirituality. This is one of the chief ways that Oprah is able to dispense her poisonous worldview, which is presented as a double scoop in a waffle cone. Who could resist such sweet offerings?
Other Oprah favorites include the idea that all paths lead to God, and there is no divine, eternal punishment for the wicked. Oprah uses the many tools available to her, mostly her television empire, to dispense what is in reality a repudiation of truth.
It is no secret that “de-programming” an Oprah groupie is not a common occurrence, since, as we mentioned at the beginning, the global do-gooder is so popular everywhere, including in churches.
“O God” is a major triumph in apologetics work, one of the best exposés I’ve seen, since it utilizes a “quick-read” style with plenty of information in a non-threatening format. Shoot, the slick cover even looks like a pro-Oprah book one might find at a big-box retailer.
In the end, one hopes that the person who is intensely searching for meaning and truth be led to that truth by this terrific book.