Oprah’s spirituality has, rightly, earned her a mention in The Washington Post/Newsweek blog called “On Faith.” On April 1, “I found Oprah, [spiritualist Eckhart] Tolle and several hundred thousand people in the midst of a spiritual revival,” Claire Hoffman wrote. “Oprah meditated! She read a poem! She recalled childhood beatings! Something is going on over there at oprah.com, and it is not to be ignored.” Indeed, it’s virtually impossible to ignore Oprah, even if one wants to.
Of course, Oprah’s not the only religious leader reaching out to Americans this week. A more traditional figure, Pope Benedict XVI, is also here for a series of meetings and masses.
His Roman Catholic Church certainly tries to tell its members how to live their lives, but Americans have long been known for their selective attentiveness to church teaching. We created the term “cafeteria Catholic” to describe a believer who, for example, goes to mass but also uses birth control.
Meanwhile, Oprah seems to be doing somewhat better with the directives she issues to her followers -- maybe because, while the church offers only eternal life, Oprah frequently hands out rewards right here on earth. Selected audience members have received college scholarships, houses and brand-new cars.
The religion of Oprahism tells people what to eat (healthy food) what to wear (special “O bracelets”), how much to sleep (getting enough rest purportedly leads to “Intelligence. A better figure. Sex,” according to O magazine) and even which candidate to vote for (Sen. Barack Obama, naturally).
We’re living in a new era.
“When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything,” G. K. Chesterton said. These days, it’s certainly true that many Americans don’t believe in God. Many seem to, however, believe in anything … anything that Oprah tells them to believe in.