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Oprah: Talk Show Host! Entrepreneur! Philanthropist! Preacher?


Oprah Winfrey is a remarkable woman! She was born in Kosciusko, Miss., on Jan. 29, 1954, and was supposed to be named after the biblical character Orpah, the sister-in-law of Ruth, but has been known as Oprah almost from birth. Although her maternal grandmother taught her many of the stories from the Bible, her early years were tumultuous. She was sexually abused by male relatives and severely damaged by the experience.

As a young teenager Oprah was headed down a pathway of destruction until her mother sent her to live with her father in Nashville at age 14. Because of the structure and discipline her father provided, Oprah began to excel. She became an outstanding student and graduated from East High School in Nashville as "Most Popular," a forensics champion and a member of the National Honor Society.

Oprah began her broadcasting career at a Nashville radio station while still a student in high school. At the age of 19, she became the youngest person and the first African-American woman to anchor the news at WTVF-TV in Nashville. From those early media experiences her career skyrocketed.

Through the years she has won numerous awards as an entertainer and her internationally televised The Oprah Winfrey Show has remained the number one talk show for 18 consecutive seasons.

Oprah is also known for her entrepreneurial ability and has created her own Chicago production company, Harpo (Oprah spelled backwards) Productions. She is only the third woman in the American entertainment business to own her own studio.

Oprah, reported to be worth more than one billion dollars, is noted for her philanthropic work. She has established the Oprah Winfrey Foundation to support the education and empowerment of women, children and families throughout the world. She is making an incredible difference in the lives of multiplied thousands of people.

Her accomplishments would astound you and her honorary achievements are legion. Time magazine listed her among the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

On April 10, Otis Moss, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, welcomed the popular and generous Miss Winfrey to the pulpit of his large and prestigious church.

When it came time for her to speak to the 2,000 assembled worshippers, she said, "When I moved to Nashville, God changed the trajectory of my life. Even people from the humblest beginnings need to realize God has a purpose for their lives. God has a dream for you, Olivet. Get still and ask Him. Listen. Surrender all!"

These stirring comments were made to an attentive congregation, which included her live-in companion of many years, Stedman Graham, who had accompanied her to the church service in a long, sleek limousine.

The truth is that Oprah is a New Ager. One of her mentors is Gary Zukav, who is a frequent guest on her show. She admits to having been greatly influenced by his book, Seat of the Soul. In Kate Maver's review of the book for the Christian Research Journal, she suggests that it is "a rambling quasireligious book, based loosely on a combination of Hinduism and Western values. Winfrey found it, read it, and since then, Zukav has become Senior Spiritual Advisor to Winfrey's audience in the Change Your Life phenomenon."

It would actually appear that Oprah's belief system is a concoction of Baptist and New Age doctrine, the power of positive thinking, philanthropy, witchcraft and the prosperity gospel, which is somewhat typical of the postmodern philosophy. It is an amalgamation of beliefs that amounts to nothing more than "a cloud bank buttered by the night wind," as the late R. G. Lee would say.

The post-modern culture, of which Oprah seems to be a champion, insists that there is no objective, absolute truth. Truth is whatever you want it to be. Because of her personality, popularity and generosity it is hard not to like her and embrace her philosophy of life, but to do so would be disastrous.

Yet, in the face of the relativizing of truth, some pastors and musicians dispense less truth instead of more and become more therapeutic than theological. God wants us to worship him only in "spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Truth is one indispensable ingredient of worship.

I don't think Oprah's partial truths, half-truths and diluted truths would work well in Georgia Baptist pulpits.