The Oprah Effect
Recently as I was sitting in the opening plenary session for a ministerial training, I listened as the preacher admonished us about total dependence on God when I heard the following words come out of his mouth, "when you can't get a cliche from Oprah or Dr. Phil...". Um excuse me, did he just say what I think he said? Really? Did he really just reduce the 25 year history of The Oprah Show to a cliche? (Not to mention Dr. Phil, who is a self-professed Christian that I have heard on his show argue for the biblical model of marriage, but that's another post.) I would think by now, after 25 years, I wouldn't still be hearing these types of comments coming across the pulpit, but apparently people in the pulpit are still hating on the Oprah effect.
I wish I could tell you how many times I have heard unfortunate comments like these coming from preachers, particularly men, over the years. I will cut the men the tiniest bit of slack because they are typically not inclined to watch Oprah. But even if you live under a rock, you've had to become aware of the kind of impact Oprah has had on our culture, society, and around the world over the last 25 years. Maybe the preachers who make such comments were too busy doing ministry over the last 25 years to observe the way her show has ministered to countless individuals who'd suffered abuse in their childhood or encourage children experiencing abuse to tell someone. Maybe they were too busy caring for the homeless to hear about the 400 homes that were built and the 1,000 families that were helped after Hurricane Katrina. Maybe they were too busy feeding the hungry to hear about the many organizations Oprah has partnered with such as Heifer International and Woman for Woman Inc. to empower women around the world to be able to feed their families and in some cases their villages. If they missed these and thousands of similar stories because they were ministering, they only needed to tune into Oprah's 2 Part Farewell Spectacular where many great legends and grateful people honored her for her life-changing use of the platform she has been given. There they would have also learned about many of the people who now believe they can dream a bigger dream for their lives, the 68,000+ individuals who were able to go to school because of her giving, and the more than 400 "Sons of Oprah" who paid tribute to her for financing their education at Morehouse. Maybe if they knew that Oprah is Morehouse's largest single donor with an endowment worth over 12 million dollars they may have tuned in. This information might also be helpful to our brothers and sisters who claim that Oprah has not done enough for "our people".
It's unfortunate that sometimes the Kingdom views people who have a lot of money and influence as being counter-kingdom rather than seeing them as the fulfillment of "give and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38). Certainly Oprah has made good use of the finances, influence, and platform that has been given to her. Yes I know that as a minister I should take issue with the fact that Oprah and Stedman are not married (another argument I've heard from the pulpit), and with her very ecumenical stance toward spirituality. I really can't speak to any of those things because when I was "shackin" with my now husband for five years, God didn't change his mind about the call on my life, and I have learned to respect other people's beliefs as sacred to them because I certainly expect them to respect mine as sacred to me. If I could be totally honest (and I can because this is my website), I truly believe that the biggest problem that some of us kingdom people have with Oprah is that she has garnered a sphere of influence that could have never been imagined and has done more actual ministry than some whole denominations taken together. All this while loving God's people and proclaiming Jesus in her own way (even if in a way that's not quite acceptable to some supersaints). I am not at all suggesting that everyone should adopt the gospel according to Oprah in its entirety or that she should be elevated to God-status. I just think that it's unfortunate when preachers of the gospel miss the God in her and the ways in which He has used her life as a real-life demonstration of the gospel message.