With the end of her daily talk show yesterday, people on my FaceBook wall and other places were commenting things like “I will not bow at the altar of Oprah,” and “Finally, Oprah’s influence is over,” “Oprah is not a Christian,” and other such things.
Let me be very clear. I do not bow at the altar of Oprah either (nor do I know anyone who does or believe that anyone thinks of Oprah as a religious figure). I also certainly hope her influence on our world is not over. And I don’t know how anyone who is not Oprah or God Almighty is equipped to judge Oprah’s religious standing. I have watched Oprah quite frequently especially during this last season and have heard her make reference to Jesus on a number of occasions; just because she doesn’t espouse a hardcore Judeo-Christian philosophy doesn’t mean she’s not a Christian. Does it?
It reminds me of a recurring conversation I had with one of my counseling students a few semesters ago when she felt attacked and belittled because of her interest in Eastern philosophies and how to apply some of those ideas to her work with counseling clients. She is certainly a Christian woman, who loves God and Jesus, but she was interested in some outside the box thinking that might enable others to heal. I encouraged it and will continue to do so.
It seems that many theologically minded people in my usual circles can’t handle any outside the box thinking regarding spirituality. I think it is ridiculous to think that we can’t find truth in other religions so long as it does not contradict the truth contained in the Bible. All truth ultimately points towards God anyway, so if it IS truth, we’re all good.
Oprah is not a pastor (though she has skills lacking in many so-called pastors I’ve known through my life). I heard her yesterday identify herself as a teacher. Good for her. I do not see anything wrong or dangerous about her philosophies. “When you know better, you do better” is true. “You don’t know what you don’t know” is also true. Living by the Golden Rule, helping people find worth in themselves, validating people by hearing them, and helping people reduce the shame of their abusive and destructive pasts . . . well, all of that sounds great to me! My entire counseling practice can be summed up in one sentence: I want to help people feel better and do better.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to get to Heaven. I believe that his sacrifice on the cross and the redemptive power of His resurrection are the key to eternal life. I believe the Bible is 100% true and is God’s Word. It is a story about the History of God and His People (thank you, Dr. Weatherly). But I also believe that God wants us to live better on Earth, to be kinder to each other, and to be open to experiencing all of His truths – not just the ones endorsed or figured out by White Anglo-saxon Evangelicals.
Being open minded is NOT dangerous. The alternative, though, is ignorant at best. I’ll miss you, Oprah. Thank you for what you’ve taught me and how you’ve inspired millions around the world to feel better and do better.