Oprah says God behind success of show
Oprah Winfrey, seen in this file photo, told her audience in her final show that God had led her life, even when she didn't realize it.
May 25th, 2011
07:13 PM ET

Oprah says God behind success of show

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - Oprah Winfrey closed her sentimental final show with the words, "I won’t say goodbye, I’ll just say until we meet again."

Then, after a subtle pause, she added, "To God be the glory.”

With her work done, she walked through the audience and left the set of her talk show. During the show's 25-year run, she interviewed more than 30,000 people and won more than 40 Emmys. The credits rolled as she walked the hallways of the Harpo complex, saying goodbye to her staff.

She has been one of the most influential people in America, if not the world. Commentators looked at the power she held over her audience, and some people even likened her viewers to members of a cult.

Winfrey professed her faith and her belief in God, but over the course of the show, some observers saw her more as a spiritual person than a Christian.

In her last show, Winfrey took several minutes to speak to her belief that God - and her staff - were behind the show's success.

"People often ask me what is the secret to the success of the show," she said. "How have we lasted 25 years. I non-jokingly say, my team - and Jesus."

It was a remark that drew applause from the studio audience but also may make Christian commentators take notice.

Kathryn Lofton, who has watched more than 2,500 episodes of the show, said she had recorded the finale and would watch it later tonight. But her friends were texting her about the episode.

Lofton, a professor of U.S. religious history at Yale University and the author of "Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon," was intrigued that Winfrey had mentioned Jesus, since she had used his name sparingly on air.

"Early on (in her career) she was more comfortable in saying that but over time began to use this more universal language of 'spirit,'" said Lofton, who wrote about Oprah's final show for CNN's Belief Blog.

Lofton says Winfrey wants to be viewed as someone who "translates and understands herself as a Christian woman" but reflects a modern attitude about religion and religious institutions.

And that has angered a few folks.

In 2008, Winfrey endorsed the book "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose," helping it sell more than 3.5 million copies after the talk-show host selected it for her book club. Winfrey and the book's author, Eckhart Tolle, took part in a webinar in which she angered some Christians by saying that Jesus didn't come to die on the cross.

"It really was about him coming to show us how to do it, how to be, to show us the Christ-consciousness that he had and that that consciousness abides with all of us," she told the audience.

One viewer even asked the question on the Oprah.com message boards: Is Oprah a Christian?

Pistis07 wrote: "I was surprised because I had always thought she was a Christian but after flicking through her website and watching clips of more shows where she seems to be promoting a type of New Age religion and books from 'New Age spiritualists,' I really doubt that she is a Christian in the way Jesus explained and most Christians understand. Or perhaps she's just confused about the nature of God."

It was an issue her critics seized on. They said she wasn't promoting the God of the Bible but instead was indoctrinating her audience into a New Age spiritualism.

Authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett say as much in their book, "'O' God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah's Spirituality." Sterrett told Crosswalk.com in October 2009 that Winfrey "reflects the common American practice of choosing whatever beliefs seem most attractive and leaving the rest."

Her message in the final years of her show was that the truth of life was within the individual, several commentators have said.

"Christians aren't people who have gotten in touch with their inner selves, but those who actually have Christ living inside of them through the Holy Spirit," McDowell told Crosswalk.

What Winfrey tried to get across is her belief that there wasn't just one right way to be connected to God, Lofton argues.

"The only right way is the way that she herself articulates and embodies, which is multiplicity," she said. "You can be many things. There are many paths to God, she says. It's that multiplicity which very much marks contemporary religious life."

Winfrey wanted to make sure that everyone knew she wasn't being ambiguous about her faith. In her final show, she spoke of how God has always been there, a voice whispering. And that her faith, while it might seem different than the one taught in religious institutions, was at its roots the same: It all centers on one thing.

"Nothing but the hand of God has made this possible for me," she said. "For all of you who get riled up when I mention God and you want to know which God I'm talking about, I'm talking about the same one you're talking about. I'm talking about the Alpha and the Omega. The omniscient. The omnipresent. The ultimate consciousness. The source, the force, the all of everything there is. The one and only, G-O-D. That's the one I'm talkin' about."

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • God • Jesus • TV

soundoff (675 Responses)
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  5. Wade

    God was too busy focusing on Oprah and her money to be bothered with starving children and vilolent crime victims.

    September 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  6. Marie Kidman


    June 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  7. SandraR

    Okay, I admire Oprah as a business women, but don't really feel that the Oprah show was God Inspired. Too many times when viewing her show I felt that she was exploiting a tragedy more than anything else.
    Of course, that is just my opinion.

    June 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  8. Catie Eliza

    "alright everyone lets stop judging each other" she said judgmentally ;] hahah. :] xx

    June 4, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  9. fcsanders

    God had nothing to do with this TV show.Stupid gullible people did.

    June 1, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • baatman74

      fcs, do you think it is fair to call gullible people stupid? lol (snicker)

      August 24, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  10. 2 Blessed to be stressed

    Lord have mercy on thier souls!!

    June 1, 2011 at 4:44 am |
  11. Chris

    Or maybe... get this... God is made up by people and doesn't actually exist! Or can that concept not possibly be conceived by such great philosophers as yourselves?

    May 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  12. Overcoming Illness With Joy

    I was as surprised as many to hear her say the name 'Jesus' on the show. It certainly didn't seem that Christianity was her religion. I decided to take her at her word because that's what I want people to do with me.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  13. Jose S

    I don't see any with Oprah with Jesus as a believer, but hope someday She will be realize when something with Jesus. Orpah is a human as us, that's all

    May 30, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  14. frank

    @grace–"It sure is fun to hate people and to feel superior, but that is not of God." Really??? That describes the personality of the god in the bible perfectly...

    "God commands all of us to love him" Exactly. Pretty f'in twisted concept of love, huh...?

    May 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  15. May

    I agree God gave Life what you make of you life is up to you.
    Everybody has a mind of their own or did you think that God must think for you.
    You can not expect to have a good life sitting around doing nothing expecting God to make you rich He already gave you your own Brain so you think and make choice of what you do with your life.
    If there were no God I guess all the non believers just happened to pop out of the air because I come from a generation that was created by God
    Where do you come if you don't believe in God. Who created everything thing
    and everyone that's exist if there is no God Maybe I would really like to know it there is an answer?

    May 28, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Who created your "god" ??

      May 28, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  16. CJ

    God created each person with Freedom of choice and help those who help them selves.
    Yes she made her show a success cause but God gave her the strength to do so.

    May 28, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  17. Reality

    Once again, Winfrey's support for abortion negates any thought of her being assisted by some all good and gracious god. She is simply another member of the Immoral Majority, those 76+ million "mothers and fathers" of slain growing babies who put BO in the White House and will do so again in 2012 with the help of Winfrey's support and money.

    And all because 76+ million "women and men" either forgot to take their daily Pill or left their condoms in their pocket. No Respect-for-Life candidate has a chance in 2012.

    What BO can do to at least lift part of the Immoral Majority leader label?

    He says abortions should be "safe, legal and rare" but says nothing about the basic tenet of proper human conduct i.e. Thou Shalt Not Kill. And where is BO's sense of indignation that abortions are not rare and that these acts of horror demean the Golden Rule considering that he says he is a Christian. And where is his sense of indignation that women who use the Pill do not use it properly resulting in an failure rate of 8.7% as per the Guttmacher Inst-itute statistics. Using these and other Guttmacher Insti-tute data, this failure of women to use the Pill properly results in ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year. And the annual abortion rate in the USA is?? ~1,000,000 as per the CDC.

    And do males use condoms properly? No, as said failure rate for this birth "control" method is 17.4%!! Again using Guttmacher data, said failure rate results in another ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year.

    The Guttmacher Inst-itute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the Pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male con-dom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

    May 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • grace

      God loves us all. He wants each of us to love and seek him with all our hearts. Praise, prayer, bible reading and listening for his guidance. When we act without a relationship with the holy spirit it is us acting out of our wounded and imperfect soul. It can be hard to hear his voice, but we must seek it. It is there. When we point out others sins as if we too were not sinners, we offend non chritians or baby christians and drive them away from God. We are called to be fishers of men. Judgement is mine saith the Lord. I hope we can all find our way to hearing Jesus guide us and feeling his power through the holy spirit. When we movein his love and compassion for the needs of people all around us then we are fishers of men. God bless us all on our Journey towards becoming more like Christ. In all things we do we strive towards, what would Jesus do or say. Being Human we all fail at times but when the spirit moves us we can win to the glory of God. Hate does not glorify Jesus. We all have sinned. I am so wanting people to find the loving Jesus who will lead us and relate to us now, everyday. He can be our best friend, if we surrender to him and love him. Less of me Lord, more of you....
      God Bless you and bring you peace.

      May 28, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Reality

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

      I might believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


      May 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Thomas

      James 2:10-11 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," said also, "Do not kill." If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.

      When you refer to the immortal majority, and considering the above, what crime have they committed that you have not? Any lies, hate, infidelity or envy in your heart is the same crime in the eyes of God. As far as who God will help, it is arrogance to assume a person can know the purpose of God. If all of us are transgressors in the same way, why would he not help one of us if he would help any of us?

      May 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Reality

      Hmmm, the James epistle? Said epistle was labeled by Luther to be "an epistle of straw". And the cited passage, James 2: 10-11 appears to be a duplicate of Matt 5: 19. Plagiarized? With respect to Matt 5: 19, many contemporary NT scholars have concluded that it was not uttered by Jesus. e.g. Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 138, " The saying is inauthentic, since its roots are in the situation of the community and its spoken by the "Exalted One". See also, http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=393_The_Least_Commandment i.e. a single attestation found no where else in the NT and therefore historically unreliable.

      May 29, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • spike94

      You are so right! You took the words right out of my mouth! Just like these people that have a Jesus fish on the back of their car right next to an "Obama '08" bumper sticker. Hello people...Obama promotes abortions. Last time I checked Jesus wasn't in favor of killing babies. Something doesn't add up...and Oprah's endorsement of him says volumes to me about her lack of true Christianity.

      May 31, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  18. Ron

    Even your fat boobs showing in the above picture can`t make me like you Oprah. Good riddence.

    May 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • grace

      Hate and Judgement are not what God is calling you to. It is seductive to all of us. Don't give into that type of Christianity. God reserved that type of anger not for unbelievers but for the Pharasee's. Those overly concerned with rules and their own superiority. They were called white washed tombs, because their relationship with God and the holy spirit was dead. When you are connected to God what flows is compassion, love, and acts of faith. As Christians this is our mandate. Anything less is sin, and so we have all sinned. The bible says all sin is equal, that there are no big sins and little sins. Fear is the opposite of faith. Judgement and hate the opposite of Love. I am concerned for you and for the people who will read your comments and be driven away from God by them. We are accountable for every soul that dies without knowing God. Consider how many might read your words, and decide carefully what God would want you to say. We are to be fishers of men, not Judges. I hope you can hear this. I have acted as you have but have come to see it is not the way, and I hope we as christians can move to be more like Jesus was as he walked the earth. Imagine how the world would change if we did. The Christians represent the Church ans that must be a welcoming safe haven. Failing to represent ourselves as such feeds the need in our country for alternative religions. Everyone who takes the time to listen is seeking God and failed to find it in Christianity. He loves all of us so much. Rules are important, but the willingness to surrender comes to all of us after we feel the love. Hitting people over the head with their sin is definately not what Jesus did and it hurts the church.

      May 28, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  19. Timmy

    I was thinking God was the one who ended the show. Thank God

    May 27, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • grace

      It sure is fun to hate people and to feel superior, but that is not of God. I've been guilty of the same in my past. God commands all of us to love him and one another and to spread the good news. We must not drive people away from God with hate and judgement. I hope you find the joy of the Lord, through worship, prayer and seeking the voice of God. It is there....do not settle for less. Please answer his call. He is with yoyu all the time, waiting for you to turn inward and to radiate the love he has for the world.

      May 28, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Karin

      God does not feel he/she/it is superior to his creations? Does he/she/it want to be worshiped? Does he/she/it have a history of erasing his/her/its creation because he/she/it found his/her/its creations to be flawed? Does he/she/it have a plan in torturing his/her/its creations whom do not follow his/her/its own self promoting superior rules?

      We humans have much better morals than the god in which is in your head! It appears the god in your head is gravely flawed!

      May 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • FairGarden

      Karin, atheists and humanists have no morals, just pathetic self-adoration. You guys butcher babies and sleep around and then declare, "We are good humans." You guys are insane, to put in plain language. Be ready for Judgment Day regarding all your blasphemies.

      June 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.