Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Oprah Winfrey’s television and print empire was stained two weeks ago by the tragic deaths of three people who were following the spiritual teaching of one of Winfrey’s celebrated and promoted self-help gurus, James Arthur Ray.
Winfrey’s philosophy of spirituality is embraced by many in her large daytime audience, especially those, like the TV host, who have grown disillusioned with organized religion and traditional Christianity.
But after 19 people were hospitalized and three killed during one of Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior” seminars at a sweat lodge near Sedona, Ariz., some are questioning whether Winfrey’s brand of spiritual wisdom is leading people closer to or further from the truth.
“[Oprah's] popularity is so huge,” says Sterrett in a videotaped discussion about his new book, “that when people are getting turned off by organized religion and they think the church is full of hypocrites, they’re turning to Oprah; and we need to respond in love and truth.”
“The danger is that while appearing to use Christian and inclusive language that at first seems similar to that of Christianity,” the authors explain, “Oprah teaches a message that is radically different and absolutely contrary to the true teaching of Scripture and historic Christianity.”
Video of the authors discussing their book can be seen below:
“O” God follows conversations of two girlfriends representing the multitudes of Oprah fans, who unwittingly place their faith in the hodgepodge of spirituality embedded in her popular TV talk show, magazine and webinars. In the end, a life-altering crisis helps crystallize the truth from counterfeit teachings. Like classic Christian author C.S. Lewis, McDowell and Sterrett decided to employ fictional narrative to disarm and entertain readers, while refusing to shy away from biblical truths, and expose Oprah’s errant teachings.
“What we want to do is to get people thinking about what they’re saying and what they’re believing, and I mean Christians,” McDowell explains in the video discussion. “I would say the average Christian would not be able to answer the basic issues that Oprah brings up. What they could is be dogmatic and quote Scripture, and that’s it.”
He continues, “I pray with this book there’s going to be more, informed Christians who are able to think through what they believe and how to make it relevant in their culture and society.”
As WND reported, in addition to being an occasional guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Ray appeared in a DVD version of “The Secret,” a New Age book authored by Rhonda Byrne that was heavily promoted by Winfrey.
Ray’s website advertises that now is the perfect time to “once and for all enjoy total abundance and true wealth: financial, relationally, mentally, physically and spiritually.”
The site proclaims, “You really do have the power within you (regardless of what everyone else does) to create the life you desire and deserve.”
Following the sweat-lodge deaths, Ray has faced potential criminal investigation and vowed to hire his own investigative team to look into the tragedy.
“This is the most difficult time I’ve ever faced,” he told about 200 people at a subsequent seminar. “I don’t know how to deal with it really.”