Oprah’s unorthodox gospel comes under scrutiny
Oprah Winfrey has become a catalyst for a new journalistic project and increasing news coverage by conservative Christians questioning and criticizing her spiritual beliefs.
Some evangelical Christians have voiced alarm that Winfrey is introducing the 46 million viewers who watch her each week to nontraditional spirituality they don’t condone.
In May, two dozen Christian newspapers pooled their resources to publish an article titled “Oprah’s `gospel’” that prompted higher readership and more letters to the editor than any story some of the individual papers had ever published.
In a first-of-its-kind venture, the evangelical newspapers hired Colorado writer and editor Steve Rabey to write the story.
“For some Christians who have considered themselves part of Oprah’s electronic family, her sins against evangelical orthodoxy have increased in number and seriousness,” Rabey said.
In recent months, Southern Baptist newspaper editors also have written editorials declaring “It’s time for Christians to `just say no’ to the big `O'” and calling her a source of “foolish twitter and twaddle.” And Charisma, a prominent charismatic and Pentecostal magazine, ran a story in its July issue with the headline “Oprah’s Strange New Gospel.'”
Lamar Keener, publisher of the Christian Examiner regional newspapers in California, came up with the idea to work with a dozen “mom and pop” publishers to address Winfrey’s theology.
Keener was inspired after viewing a video titled “The Church of Oprah Exposed,” which has had more than 7.2 million hits on YouTube.
One of Winfrey’s quotes highlighted in the story is her belief that “there couldn’t possibly be just one way” to God.
“Oprah was raised Baptist and has stated many, many times that she is a Christian and that she believes in only one God,” said the spokesman, who asked not to be named. “She has also said, `I’m a free-thinking Christian who believes in my way, but I don’t believe it’s the only way, with 6 billion people on the planet.'”
The spokesman noted Winfrey is hardly alone; 70 percent of Americans said “many religions can lead to eternal life” in a recent survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The video refered to above is shown here:
The Church of Oprah Exposed
While Oprah considers herself to be a ‘Christian,’ her rejection of several essential doctrines of the Christian faith places her outside historical, orthodox Christianity as taught in the Bible.
This matters because the Bible itself makes a sharp distinction between those who follow sound doctrine, and those who adhere to false teachings. On this, see: Why does doctrine matter?
While everyone is free to believe whatever he or she wishes to believe, it is not right to identify a faith system as something it is not. If your baker mislabels a cheesecake as apple pie, you’d say something about it. ‘Apple pie’ includes certain ingredients which are clearly missing from cheesecake. Likewise, when someone claims that her system of beliefs is ‘Christian’ while her rejection of Christianity’s essential teachings (‘ingredients,’ if you will) shows it is not, Christians have a right and a duty to reject that claim.
Religion writer Marcia Nelson does regard Oprah as a Christian, albeit it a capacious one:
Religion writer Marcia Nelson, author of “The Gospel According to Oprah,” said criticism of Winfrey by conservative Christians dates to 1998 when she included a spiritual emphasis on her TV show.
“Back then she got pretty much lambasted the way she is being lambasted now, for telling us what to believe and telling us the wrong thing to believe in, according to conservative Christians,” said Nelson.
But Nelson, who studied a year of Winfrey’s shows, differs with those who call Winfrey’s spiritual ideas “New Age.” She says Winfrey would be more related to the “New Thought” movement, which is more mainstream, focusing on positive thinking as a spiritual tool rather than crystals, for example.
“I absolutely regard her as a Christian but … she’s one of those capacious Christians,” Nelson said.
We’re not sure on what basis Nelson calls Oprah a Christian — but it likely not on the basis of Oprah’s personal beliefs:
“Oprah’s clothes may bear labels, but her faith does not,” noted [Marcia] Nelson.
“I don’t know what her personal beliefs are.”
Oprah Winfrey’s beliefs can best be described as Cafeteria Religion. Also known as Salad-bar Religion, this is a faith system in which people pick and choose religious beliefs, doctrines and practices – mixing and matching them much as they would select food in a cafeteria.
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