Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

The person with the greatest influence on American spirituality isn’t Billy Graham.

Nor is it James Dobson. Nor any other pastor or priest.

By almost any standard, it’s Oprah Winfrey. And that’s bad news for serious American Christians.

She lectures at universities such as Stanford about the importance of spirituality to a meaningful life.

She hosted a miniseries about spirituality called “Belief,” which she explained was designed to “really build this universe of interfaith connectedness.”

And after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it wasn’t a pastor or priest who served as master of ceremonies for the national memorial service at Yankee Stadium – it was Winfrey.

What makes Winfrey so popular, powerful and dangerous? Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett, two experts in evangelism and Christian apologetics, address the question in “O God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality.”

In a powerful and dramatic story, the book tells the story of “Lindsay,” a young women who encounters tragedy in her life and seeks solace through the spiritual teachings promoted by Oprah’s television show. Those teachings are a grab bag of sayings from different religious traditions, which allow Lindsay to essentially hear what she wants to hear.

Is Oprah Winfrey going to be the next president? The media and the Democrats want to make it happen. But although Oprah has built a lucrative career talking about spirituality and faith, what does she actually believe? More timely than ever, “‘O’ God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality” by Josh McDowell and Dave Strerett examines the faith of one of America’s most influential personalities – and perhaps the next great political force. Read it before the primaries!

This, argue the authors, is the model of spirituality many Americans are following. As the leftist Vox website gloats, one in five Americans now characterize themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” Oprah Winfrey, as religion columnist Terry Mattingly observes, is the “pope of the nones,” those who say “none of the above” when asked to define their religious denomination.

Winfrey provides such people with a vocabulary to explain and even justify their vague spiritual creed. And even many of those who think they are Christian are falling into dangerous spiritual territory by listening to Oprah. In “O God,” Lindsay serves as a symbol for these Christians who enthuse about how Oprah just has an “incredible way of helping people.” But as her friend Avatari, a Christian convert, helps her to understand, the real God is “passionate about a relationship with you,” and that means having a specific relationship with Him and following His commandments.

Though many Americans may not want to admit it, the spiritual message of Oprah is a direct challenge to core Christian beliefs. As McDowell and Sterrett reveal with specific references, Winfrey has directly denied faith in Jesus Christ is the only path to eternal life.

For example, she has said:

“One of the mistakes that human beings make is by believing that there is only one way to live, and we don’t accept that there are diverse ways to being in the world.”

“There are many paths to what you call God.”

In response to an audience member who said faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, Oprah responded tersely: “There can’t possibly be one way. I can’t get into a religious argument with you right now.”

Like many other Americans, “Lindsay” wants to believe Oprah and feel good about herself. But as her friend shows her, even Oprah’s “tolerance” and religious pluralism is necessarily exclusive, because it excludes the hundreds of millions of Christians who believe Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation.

As one believer puts it in the story:

“Many people in our culture feel that it’s arrogant to say another person’s belief is not true, but really, it’s arrogant for Oprah and her spiritual teachers … The Bible says that Adam and Eve were faced with a temptation from Satan that would make them try to ‘become like god.’ Yet Oprah and her spiritual teachers give millions of people this same deception: that they are ultimately God. Our culture has attempted to redefine humility and tolerance to mean that you can’t say that anybody else’s beliefs are false… The only person who ever existed in the form of God is Jesus. The book of Philippians says that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The consequences of denying this in favor of “feel-good” thinking prove disastrous for “Lindsay” and her family in the story. When people believe they will get good things by simply “thinking positive” or believing in the “law of attraction,” they are unable to cope with real tragedy and loss. Seemingly benevolent messages such as “God is in everything” or “everyone is a part of God,” both messages presented by Oprah and her spiritual teachers, can also have dangerous consequences.

The current state of American culture is arguably a result of Winfrey’s spiritual influence. Perhaps more than anyone else, Winfrey has promoted the idea of a “god without labels,” in which self-disclosure and personal testimony, combined with vague New Age thinking, substitute for authentic Christianity. Her own career is testament to the popularity of this message. And with mainstream media backing, Oprah Winfrey could turn this spiritual influence into political power.

Of course, such a thing can only happen if most American Christians remain unaware of her true beliefs. “O God” is thus not just a spiritually important book, but a politically important one as well. Just as Winfrey has used feel-good bromides to hollow out American Christianity, she could similarly use feel-good bromides to hollow out America’s political institutions. As Oprah Winfrey’s career proves, sometimes, the most dangerous person is the one who tells you what you want to hear.

Is Oprah Winfrey going to be the next president? The media and the Democrats want to make it happen. But although Oprah has built a lucrative career talking about spirituality and faith, what does she actually believe? More timely than ever, “‘O’ God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality” by Josh McDowell and Dave Strerett examines the faith of one of America’s most influential personalities – and perhaps the next great political force. Read it before the primaries!

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