For those whose lives are informed by a biblical worldview, I’d like to say that one of the most important books I’ve read in the last 10 years is “‘O’ God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality.”
Written by Dave Sterrett and Josh McDowell, the book uncovers just exactly what Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual life looks like. Many seem confused on this issue, or at least uninformed. The number of Christians I encounter who love Oprah is astonishing.
The book is especially relevant at a time when so many church-growth-guru young pastors are showing the world how hip and cool they are by favorably commenting on Winfrey, surely the biggest change agent in America in the last quarter century.
Because Winfrey is a clever communicator, many assume she believes in Jesus. Her statements on the subject are just like the dialogue of Emergent pastors: ambiguous and cloudy. Surely when she started on television, Winfrey realized she couldn’t shoot her New Age spirituality across the culture like a shotgun; there were still too many discerning Christians for that. Over time, however, her interviews with folks like Marianne Williamson and Eckhart Tolle changed the spiritual landscape.
That’s why a couple announcements this week are not shocking.
First, Abrams Books, the tony publisher of illustrated books, is releasing “The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy.” The book, with text by Deborah Davis and what Publishers Weekly said is an enormous amount of photographs (and, according to PW, the book is “sure to be a runaway bestseller”), has a first printing of 350,000 copies!
Davis, an accomplished author specializing in narrative non-fiction, was also a story editor/analyst for several film companies, spent six months viewing the show’s archives, researching and writing. The book’s cover is worthy of Winfrey’s gargantuan ego: It is a large profile portrait photograph of the icon herself. Anyone who’s seen O, the Oprah Magazine, with every cover a shot of Winfrey, shouldn’t be surprised that “The Oprah Winfrey Show” begins with a huge photograph of Oprah.
In a recent interview, Davis explained how her involvement in the book came about: “At first it felt great, to be the custodian of such an important story – important as in everybody has an opinion about Oprah, about the show. Then it became clear that everyone knew a lot more about her than me.”
Her comment on the research phase was also highly revealing: “I was just swept away emotionally, like everyone else. And it was simultaneous with the show going off the air, so I was also living the frenzy like millions of other fans: ‘Will the world come to an end after the last show?’ I really understood the hole it would leave.”
Davis said that during the interviewing phase, it was amazing just to be in Winfrey’s presence. She also revealed the essence of what so many people feel about the media mogul: “I got transformed just like everyone else.”
That, dear reader, is the main reason you need to read the book I endorsed at the beginning. Most I suspect will think I’m a nut, or at least making a mountain out of a molehill, but at least some will recognize just what Oprah Winfrey has done to our country. At the very least, she made narcissism fashionable and acceptable – all in the guise of humanitarian work.
The other announcement I wrote about speaks to this narcissistic streak. At the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Governors Awards, Winfrey will receive a special Oscar – the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. There was some criticism about the selection over the summer, so of course Winfrey addressed that:
“I understand people thinking, ‘Where’s her list of credentials for films,’” she said, “but I don’t think there’s room for criticism in the do-good department.”
Well. She’s almost taunting her critics while congratulating herself at the same time. Winfrey is a self-described “do-gooder.”
That’s debatable, ultimately, however. Yes, she has exposed cruelty to animals, given away pricey gifts on her show and done another thousand nice things. Yet it’s her commitment to anti-biblical values that is her real legacy. It is a legacy dark with meaning.
It’s doubtful Davis’s book will address that.