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Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Dangers of Oprah's Influence

Review of Where Has Oprah Taken Us? by Stephen Mansfield

Oprah grew angry when she listened to her Baptist preacher give a sermon about a ‘jealous God’.  She didn’t understand why God should be ‘jealous of anything that she had to say’.  This marked a turning point in Oprah’s attitude to Christianity and started her interest in ‘New Age’ philosophies. Stephen Mansfield discusses why Oprah did this and the dangers of her incredible influence in promoting this kind of spirituality.

He analyses Oprah’s rather sordid background to see why she quickly misinterpreted the pastor.  He meant that God was jealous of other gods and a loving God.  Oprah overcame relative poverty, a mother who had troubles with men, and racism to begin her road to success.  A clever and ambitious young girl, she always knew that she’d be famous and she had a sense of destiny from an early age.  This made her lacking in humility and impetuous.  She immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion when she heard the pastor speak.

Unfortunately, Oprah’s real success came from covering the sleaziest subjects imaginable.  This is how she beat Phil Donahue, according to Mansfield.  (I remember this and it has to be said that Donahue started covering seamy subjects too).  Then she saw the light (in her eyes) and decided to bring the New Age ‘gurus’ who had helped her to the world.

Mansfield does an excellent job of deconstructing these ‘gurus’ and why Oprah was attracted to them.  Unlike Christianity, Mansfield writes that ‘New Age’ philosophy is self-centred, instead of concentrating on helping other people.  The gurus mostly preach that the lives of people is governed by their thoughts and their intentions.  This can lead to ridiculous ideas, for example, that people are disabled because of their actions in past lives.

He also writes that much of this ‘New Age’ philosophy is inverted Hinduism.  For example, reincarnation is really a process of being entrapped in Hinduism but it’s a way of improvement, according to Oprah’s teachers.  Also, the concept of Karma is misinterpreted.  I didn’t realise this so I found Mansfield’s explanations extremely useful.

Mansfield does study Oprah’s belief system from the point of view of a Christian.  However, he writes in an objective way and includes his personal views in sections at the end of each chapter.

Where Has Oprah Taken Us? is well-written and interesting.  I’m interested in reading more of   books.  However, I thought that it does have two flaws.  Mansfield’s biography of Oprah is heavily based on Kitty Kelly’s and I wasn’t sure whether to trust that.  Also, Oprah’s belief system has obviously worked for her.  Mansfield is, no doubt, right when he writes that it probably won’t help her to deal with ‘problems like God’s just governance of the world and the problem of good and evil’.

NB: I received this book from Book Sneeze.  My opinion of it is entirely my own.

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