BreakPoint: Why Oprah Might Be President

Two Books that Explain

Is she running for President? Is she not running? I’ve got no idea. But here’s why Oprah might win if she runs, and more important, what that says about us.

“President Oprah Winfrey.” Get used to those words, because I’m telling you, she can win. During the Golden Globe Awards, the world’s best-known talk-show host accepted a lifetime achievement award and gave a speech that earned a thunderous ovation and ignited chatter of an eventual run for the White House.

Now, Oprah hasn’t been on TV regularly for almost seven years, and for most people, television years are like dog years. But the immediate veneration during and after the Golden Globes reveals that she’s still a guiding star for countless Americans. Don’t believe me? Rasmussen polled likely voters on a potential Oprah-versus-Trump race, and if the election were held tomorrow, she’d win by ten points.

Now whether or not the diva of daytime television will make a bid for commander-in-chief, I don’t know. But there’ still a lesson here for all of us. Specifically, there are two books that describe why she could win. And you need to read them.

The first is one we’ve talked about often on BreakPoint: Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” This prophetic book showed how entertainment was dominating our culture, distracting us, and teaching us to value the trivial. As a result, celebrities became our heroes—experts on all topics, and apparently, serious contenders for high political office.

And Oprah’s celebrity status is unparalleled. Not to mention her brand offers people care, community, and a sense of faith. – all via the glowing rectangle.

But while Postman’s book can help us understand our cultural addiction to celebrity (and why that would help and not hurt a presidential run, as it did Donald Trump), it can’t explain the level of Oprah veneration we saw last Sunday night. That’s why I recommend Ross Douthat’s “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.”

Writing in the New York Times just a few days ago, Douthat argued that if there is an American religion, Oprah is the pope. In “Bad Religion” he explained what American religion is.

America has always been a breeding ground for heresy; think the Mormons, the Shakers, Scientology, etc. But until recent decades, American heresies were peripheral to American culture. Today, western culture spurns its Christian roots, and the historically central Christian denominations have failed to cultivate strong Christian faith within their ranks. So we shouldn’t be surprised that Oprah’s self-help, self-centered, New Agey, do-it-yourself, gooey spirituality has now moved to the center of American religious life.

According to Douthat, Oprah’s “god within” philosophy is the dominant creed in America, and has been at least since the nineties.

In the 1950s, the shared, common inheritance at the cultural center of America was embodied by mainline Protestant and Catholic churches and by religious figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr, Fulton Sheen, and Billy Graham. Today, we couldn’t even imagine such a thing as “America’s pastor” or a national theologian. Instead, celebrities like Oprah have become, as Douthat puts it, de facto popes.

But before we point fingers without, the church has a lot to answer for within. We’ve so emphasized a “personal experience” with Jesus, we’ve largely neglected what’s True about Him. So, Oprah’s theology of self-empowerment and experience-centric spirituality falls on eager, but theologically unformed, ears.

Whether or not she runs for president, it shouldn’t surprise us just how many Americans are ready to entrust the country to an entertainer who offers spiritual hope.

But it should also remind us that our problems aren’t primarily economic or political. America’s greatest affliction is a poverty of meaning, of purpose, of something to fill that great spiritual emptiness we feel at the heart of our nation.

And as Chuck Colson said often, and I will repeat, salvation will never come on Air Force One.

 

Why Oprah Might Be President: Two Books that Explain

You can get copies of “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman and “Bad Religion” by Ross Douthat at the Colson Center online bookstore.

Resources


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  • Judy Gilbert

    This article needs to go deeper on the extent of Oprah Winfrey’s involvement in New Age Beliefs. She supports the Course In Miracles and Marianne Williamson .My daughter and many of those who practice yoga like her as particularly drawn to this belief . Their motto “only Love is real”. The course uses Christian language to promote anti Christian beliefs. These young people are so into the love and accept everyone aspect of the belief that they do not see the danger of the false beliefs. The course teaches that we are all the same as Jesus. It teaches that there is no need for salvation as we were never really separated from God . I could go on and on, but As a Christian website please go much deeper in exposing Oprah Winfrey beliefs as anti Christian. She claims to be Christian and many will believe that she is as the devil is very crafty in this belief system. Please in the future if you report on her again point out examples of her beliefs and how they go against the bible verses.

    • Phoenix1977

      The question is who you will convince. After all, most of the readers don’t have to be convinced and those who do need convincing will never come anywhere near this website.

      • Judy Gilbert

        Because I have a daughter who is into the Course in Miracles I have had to educate myself . You and many other Christians who listen to Breakpoint on the radio and read this site may not need convincing but you may encounter a friend, relative or even stranger who is believing the concepts in the Course In Miracles as Christian. Not sure if you have looked into it. It comes off very nice and many Christians are deceived If Oprah Winfrey does try to run for president I think it is the duty of Christian churches and media to get the information out as to the evil of what she has promoted for so long. Remember she does claim to be a Christian.

        • Phoenix1977

          “You and many other Christians …”
          I’m no Christian. Not even close!

          “Not sure if you have looked into it.”
          Yes, I have. And it sure is a lot friendlier and better for people than what the Christian churches are offering. The Course in Miracles at least practices what it preaches what cannot be said for a lot of Christians.

          “I think it is the duty of Christian churches and media to get the information out as to the evil of what she has promoted for so long. ”
          Again, who will you convince? On one hand we have Oprah, a woman who has been seen by the world for the better part of 30 years, hellping people getting their lives back together, founding and funding schools in Africa and the Middle-East for girls so they can receive an education and standing up for the rights of minorities. On the other hand we have the Christian churches, an institution know for fighting amongst themselves, suffering scandal after scandal (and trying to cover them up), enriching themselves, suppressing minority rights (and not just minorities but the church was very active in attempts to withhold voting rights for women, for example) and simply failing to recognize the world has changed a lot in the past 2000 years. Not to mention Oprah Winfrey talks for a living while the avery clergy man cannot speak out unless it was spelled out in advance.
          So who do you think will be more convincing? I think the church has already lost before the race even began.

          “Remember she does claim to be a Christian.”
          Quite a few people do but refuse to act like Christians are supposed to behave. And I have the scars, both physically and mentally, to prove that.

          • Scott

            “On the other hand we have the Christian churches, an institution know for fighting amongst themselves, suffering scandal after scandal (and trying to cover them up), enriching themselves, suppressing minority rights (and not just minorities but the church was very active in attempts to withhold voting rights for women, for example) and simply failing to recognize the world has changed a lot in the past 2000 years.”

            These atrocities are not exclusive to Christian churches… In fact Christian Churches didn’t even commit the best historic examples of them.

            Also one might argue that Oprah’s Christian-like qualities drive her humanitarian acts and she certainly isn’t the only example of such generosity and kindness. It wouldn’t take long for me to comprise a list of Christian humanitarians that equal or surpass her in such efforts… and most do not have her means.

          • Phoenix1977

            “These atrocities are not exclusive to Christian churches… In fact Christian Churches didn’t even commit the best historic examples of them.”
            That was not my point. My point was to compare Oprah Winfrey with Christian clergy. And to the majority of people the clergy is at least 0-3 behind even before the game starts.

            “It wouldn’t take long for me to comprise a list of Christian humanitarians that equal or surpass her in such efforts”
            But how many of them have visited people’s homes on a daily basis for 25 years and can invoke a minute-long standing ovation by simply walking on a stage? Or, if we want the begin small, how many of those are known to the general public in more than a fleeting way?

          • Scott

            “That was not my point.”

            That’s fair enough. Sorry for my misunderstanding. : – )

            “My point was to compare Oprah Winfrey with Christian clergy. And to the majority of people the clergy is at least 0-3 behind even before the game starts.”

            There are literally hundreds of thousands of Christian clergy… that group is comprised of vastly different people. It is impossible to compare one person to such a broad group. Another difficulty in your comparison is that you attempt to compare two very unlike things (apples and oranges). You compare an entertainer to an entire group of theologians, pastors, etc. Oprah’s job as an entertainer is to win the affection of her audience. This is not the main goal of most Christian clergy. Oprah’s popularity didn’t come because of her humanitarian efforts either. She gained her popularity through entertaining people on television. A better comparison might be drawn to Bono, who similarly gained popularity through entertaining millions and then used (much of) his wealth and fame for humanitarian efforts.

            If we go back to Judy’s original statement:

            “I think it is the duty of Christian churches and media to get the information out as to the evil of what she has promoted for so long.”

            Who is more qualified to offer an opinion on who God is and what evil is? Oprah the entertainer, whose focus is on popularity or a pastor like Timothy Keller? As an atheist you would disagree with me… but there are fewer atheists than believers.

            “But how many of them have visited people’s homes on a daily basis for 25 years and can invoke a minute-long standing ovation by simply walking on a stage?”

            Again Popularity (especially in the form of fame) in no way makes a person good… in fact I would argue the opposite. Wealth, fame and power are all corrosive and in most cases corrupts the soul.

            “Or, if we want the begin small, how many of those are known to the general public in more than a fleeting way?”

            I suppose Billy Graham might suffice as a comparison… although I do not like comparing unlike people or comparison in general for that matter. : – )

        • Scott

          Judy,

          Just to be clear Phoenix1977 is an atheist and does not trust Christians. He has also experienced hatred (in the form of violence) at the hands of people who called themselves Christians because he is LGBT… and these hateful acts have helped shape his (negative) opinion of Christians.

          Phoenix1977 please forgive me if I have misrepresented you in any way. I don’t think Judy knows the “lay of the land” here. : – )

          • Phoenix1977

            No, I think that describes the facts pretty well, although I keep having problems with your CINO (Christians in name only) theory 🙂

    • Scott

      You are right about Satan… He is crafty and twists these new age messages of love into lies. The only way to combat against them is by knowing Jesus’s message in the New Testament well enough to differentiate between the Gospel and these new age constructs.

      “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”

      Jesus says these words quite often in the New Testament. He knows that we (God’s created beings) only hear what we want to hear and then ignore the rest. The truth is most people do not want to educate themselves about the Christian faith. They pick and choose the messages about love and turn a deaf ear to the messages of sin and repentance. Unfortunately most churches perpetuate this problem by preaching just love.

      The only way we can have a relationship with someone is by taking the time to get to know them… the only way for us to know Jesus is by listening to what He has to say. I can’t stress enough the importance of reading the Bible. The burden of educating ourselves about our Christian faith falls squarely on the shoulders of each individual Christian.

      Next time you get the chance, challenge their motto “only Love is real.” Ask her which kind of love the motto is speaking about. Perhaps give her a copy of C.S. Lewis’s “The Four Loves” and ask her if she would be willing to read it with you.

      While it is true that Jesus loves and accepts everyone by inviting them to the feast, not everyone loves and accepts Jesus’s invitation. Many don’t. Our relationship with Jesus is a personal one, and He needs to be our best/closest friend. Read the passage of The Narrow Gate and what He says about entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Help her and those around you to think critically about what is being said… challenge the assumptions made in our culture today.

      • Judy Gilbert

        Thank You Scott I have never read the book by CS Lewis . I will look into it. Great suggestion

        • Scott

          You’re Welcome! C.S. Lewis’s writing style is a bit “Old English” and perhaps difficult to read at times, but his logical mind and clarity of thought is magnificent. His book “Mere Christianity” is one of my favorites! I hope you and your daughter read “The Four Loves” together and that it sparks you guys to read many more together over the years. : – )

          Timothy Keller’s book “The Reason for God” is a good book for the skeptic… also J. Warner Wallace’s book “Cold Case Christianity” does a good job of presenting evidence for our Christian Faith. There are other books I could suggest as well and for different subjects… Happy reading!

  • Paul McCosby

    May I point out that talking about who might be president in three years is, in presidential politics, largely an exercise in free-form speculation. For all the talk of the unexpectedness of Trump, was Obama really any more expected? I am not sure that either of them was as unexpected as Abraham Lincoln. The long and short of it is that I don’t think much of the utility of speculation in advance on who will run for president, much less who will win. Could Oprah Winfrey be the next president? I don’t know why not. So could any number of other famous people who appear to lack sense. Or any number of no-currently-famous people that don’t. “The trouble thereof” is quite certainly, “sufficient unto the day.”

  • The voting public is easily swayed. Add to that the deep rift partisanship and the Oprah phenom is something to reckon with.