The gospel according to the Church of Oprah
by Robert Randle
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Oprah Winfrey has certainly received praise from her millions of followers but she gets criticized also. Probably the latest and ongoing controversy is the issue regarding her religious, oops, I mean, spiritual perspective. Some detractors feel that because of her public statements she should lose support from fans and corporate sponsors alike; but is this fair? This is America and a person is free to believe or not believe whatever they want to. Before summarizing a few of Miss O’s views the usual response is to line up several passages from the Bible to refute everything Oprah says, but that might not be necessary. Oprah claims that Jesus didn’t come to die on the cross for our sins but rather, to teach us “Christ Consciousness.”
This term is not new and has been around for a long time, centuries before its popularity in America by the New Age Movement or Western-style Eastern mysticism. Jesus is seen as just another spiritual teacher in a long procession of others, dating back from millennia, who appeared on the scene to teach humanity some vital truth about reality, our purpose, social relationships, life and death, and about the Creator. Jesus wants us to attain this awareness within ‘ourselves’ and as I try to explain it to the best of my understanding, it’s like falling in love-you can’t put the feeling into words but you know it when you feel it. As Oprah says, “It’s what you come to know for yourself;” in other words, it’s your truth that is real, personal, and you don’t have to explain or prove it to someone else.
Another point she brings out is that God, or rather, knowing God is a ‘feeling’ experience and not a ‘believing’ experience. This statement would make any Christian cringe because “belief” is the foundation of our faith and it is the center from where we project ourselves into this world and social order that we are a part of. She continues, “Religion is all about a ‘believing experience’ then it’s truly not of God.” Oprah, I think, is trying to make too fine a distinction between the two twin pillars of believing and feeling and separating either one of them seems like a Mission Impossible.
She does have a point that in some Christian circles there is an overabundance of stressing the word, “BELIEVE” without delineating what the response, expectation, and responsibilities are that go along with this choice. Oprah challenges the notion, or exclusivist proclamation that there is only ‘one’ way or path to God, but to her there are ‘many’ paths to God. Now, before the community of faith condemns her too harshly let’s take an inward look at ourselves before we pass judgment. I mean, how many Christian denominations are there with their own distinct religious literature, theology, liturgy that range anywhere from Hebraic Christians, Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah Witnesses, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodist, Quakers, Seventh-day Adventists, Salvation Army, affiliated and non-affiliated, ad infinitim; yet all of us claim to be serving and worshipping the same God and will be joining each other in Heaven, although we separate ourselves and do not fellowship one another while here on earth.
Getting back to the point about “Christ consciousness” an audience member said that to her it is having a deeper, inner connection to the ‘purpose’ that Jesus came to reveal, which is how to be fully human, as opposed to Him coming to die on the cross for sin. If one were to take such a position then Jesus, in fact, need not to have come at all because he didn’t reveal anything new. There were teachers of wisdom long before he came on the scene and have distilled much deeper, exquisite, esoteric and more practical teaching and knowledge than preserved in the gospels.
The virtues of Eastern mysticism and Greek Philosophy are more profound than anywhere in the New Testament; so the three and one half year of Jesus’ ministry that culminated in His death just to perform a few miracles and astound mostly uneducated, simple working-class Galilean laborers and other peasants, would seem a great sacrifice if that was all there was to it. The audience member went on to say that if you don’t follow your spiritual calling, then you are lesser of a human. This is almost verbatim from Buddhism which says that a person’s goal in life is to find out what their work (“tikkun”) is in life to fulfill their purpose.
It seems “sin” is a word that makes people feel uncomfortable and it is much easier to simply exclude it from discussion. There are substitutes which men like Dr. Wayne Dyer and Eckhart Tolle like to use instead, like behavior resulting from having negative thoughts or something like that; and even God is presented as impersonal cosmic power, consciousness, or intelligence referred to as the “Source.” Al Gore once said, “We aren’t human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience.”
To some of the Gnostics or spiritualists, Jesus Christ is a divine principle, concept, or idea that was made known but not so much a personal being; and the same thinking is applied to God as being-ness and without anthropological characteristics such as hearing, feeling, seeing, and so on. While it is true that the ‘spark’ of divinity resides within the human body to animate our physical life, innate moral capacity and sentience (“conscious awareness”), still we are flawed, imperfect, and broken in a spiritual sense compared to the perfectness and holy nature of God, our Father and Creator.
As a last point, at least on the merit of it, the most salient point is: “Man has made God in his own image-the eternal, infinite, unnamable was reduced to a mental ‘’idol’ that you had to believe in as God.” Enough cannot be written to counter the damaging psychological effect of European Renaissance religious imagery, iconography and art in portraying supernatural beings graven as images from man’s imagination, regardless of how ‘inspired’ the claims are, or out of the most pious devotion, reverence, and act of worship. It was not without good reason the prohibition in Exodus 20 was given by God regarding making images and idols of anything in heaven. There are even those who worship the angels as heavenly intermediaries between themselves and God and represent these beings in paintings, sculptures, and the like.
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March 10, 2013
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