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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)
  1. Sassan

    What a cheap ploy. She's just trying to get the mom's who watched her and were "conservative" onto her new cable network. I lost respect for her though; truly stupid comment.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Either that, or she's thinking of running for public office...

      May 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  2. JB

    Sooooo, a bunch of people who can't think for themselves and depend on Oprah the Messiah to tell them what to do, think, buy, read and eat are now upset that she doesn't more heartily endorse Christianity, which is also quite popular with people who can't think for themselves and want to be told what to believe. I can't stand Oprah, but I'll hand her this. She sure knows how to make a buck off a bunch of rubes.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • grace

      God Loves you. I know that most of us can't feel the love or hear him. But others do feel it and hear it. It is real. To have a relationship where you feel it is often something that develops as we seek it. I can tell you I have learned to hear it and feel it and it is the best thing ever. It is worth it to find your way to him. Pray for him to show you what is real, and how you can find him and then watch and listen to what comes.
      Often we see God the way we saw the masculine caretaker in our life. If the parent wasn't available we see god as not available, or if he was scary we see God as scary. For myself I turned away from God because he didn't answer my prayers, save me from trouble of my own making and give me everything I asked for. I really needed him to fix some things and he didn't.
      I explored and got a masters degree in eastern religions. I sat with the Guru and danced with the sufi's. I read the Buddha's writings and the tao. I studied logic and reason and could argue on either side of an arguement long after everyone else gave up.

      In the end, I accepted God aint Santa Claus. I forgave him and developed appreciation for all that this earth provides everyday for us. I began seeking christ through prayer, worship and surrender. He is a supernatural God and I began to feel his love peace and power.

      I highly recommend Jesus. He is now a great friend, Savior and provider. He will help hyou find your way. God Bless you

      May 28, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  3. stonedwhitetrash

    In my opinion Oprah's success is mostly due to white folks watching her to convince themselves and others that they are not racist bigots or prejudiced.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  4. jayarby

    NEWSFLASH: Oprah announces that the world will NOT end this October 21st! We thank you Oprah! We praise you Oprah! Glory to Oprah!

    May 26, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  5. Steve (the real one)

    IF she believes there are many paths to God, (there is but one) she not a Christian! That is new age philosophy, which is really nothing new! I am judging her? Yes, but according to te scriptures. But according to the scriptures.

    May 26, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • acts 431

      Jesus said to Pontius Pliate, "Everyone who believes in truth comes to Me." I don't know Oprah personally, but if she is really searching in truth, she will come to the real Jesus Christ. She would not be the first person who was all messed up at the start and came to Jesus. If you need any examples, just look in the mirror!

      May 26, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Steve (the real one)

      acts 431

      Jesus said to Pontius Pliate, "Everyone who believes in truth comes to Me." I don't know Oprah personally, but if she is really searching in truth, she will come to the real Jesus Christ. She would not be the first person who was all messed up at the start and came to Jesus. If you need any examples, just look in the mirror!
      ---------
      You are absolutely correct! No arguement from me. I am saying the word of God is clear, Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father. Anything outside of that is NOT Christian. I also said IF she believes there are many paths.....

      May 26, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Steve

      It is true that the New Testament scriptures say only through Christ can everlasting life be attained, but what does that say? Is that tolerance or intolerance? So a billion Hindu's have to be exterminated over a philosophical issue? If you say yes then what does that say about you? Jain's are completely non-violent, unlike christians, but they would have to killed on judgement day? Twisted is it not? As for scripture it says alot of ridiculous things. You should not wear clothing with two types of fabric..are you doing that? If you discover your wife is not a virgin on her wedding night (hmm..exercise can break the hymen) you are to stone her to death on her fathers doorstop. Sounds to me like a omnipotent, omniscient, loving deity with an eye on the 21st century no? Can you blame people like Oprah trying to rationalize the all roads to heaven thought when the alternative is basically evil. Of course!

      May 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Steve (the real one)

      Steve
      It is true that the New Testament scriptures say only through Christ can everlasting life be attained, but what does that say? Is that tolerance or intolerance? As for scripture it says alot of ridiculous things. You should not wear clothing with two types of fabric..are you doing that? If you discover your wife is not a virgin on her wedding night (hmm..exercise can break the hymen) you are to stone her to death on her fathers doorstop. Sounds to me like a omnipotent, omniscient, loving deity with an eye on the 21st century no? Can you blame people like Oprah trying to rationalize the all roads to heaven thought when the alternative is basically evil. Of course
      -------–
      Do you know the difference between the Old Testament and the New? Everything you mentioned scripturally was fulfilled and thus ended by Christ and does not apply anymore! that is the hurdle you must conquer before you understand Christainity.

      May 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • FSM

      it's all bronze age bullcrap anyways haha

      May 27, 2011 at 5:11 am |
  6. Doc Vestibule

    I watched her last episode – "The Gospel According to Oprah" – and was quite surprised through the first half of how there were no references to Christianity.
    I wondered how the prophetess to America's housewives had engendered such fervent loyalty without paying at least lip service to Jesus, as any good politican must.
    Then, BAM – a little over half way through her farewell manifesto she exhorts her flock to get good with God. Like the most convincing of shamans, she claims a greater awareness of the "spiritual energy" around her and promises that anyone can wield The Force if only they open their minds and believe!
    Yes minions! Blind, unquestioning faith is the path to prosperity and happiness! Heed not those nagging voices of critial analysis – nobody likes a skeptic, after all.
    The most powerful woman in America, indeed.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  7. freedom

    =/

    There is no god. I don't know why people are still so hung up over this idea. There is no proof to suggest such a thing exists; it's Santa for adults.

    http://religionresource.org/god/is-there-a-god?
    http://godisimaginary.com

    May 26, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Melvin

      the fool in his heart says there's no God...if you can't look around you and inside of you and see the fingerprints of a divine creator then God help you.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • MD

      1 Cor 1:18-25 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • freedom

      I love that "fool says in his heart" passage. It's the Bible's self-aggrandizing, self-sourcing way of saying "I'm right, and anyone who says I'm not right is stupid."

      Like a child, resorting to insult in an argument when they realize they have no ground to stand on.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Hello

      Spread your agenda to people who want to hear it. I love how atheist think they are free. Keep on believing that lie and going down that same path. You can deny and ignore that concept generically known in the West by God. There is more, sadly you decided to marinate in your anger and stay stuck. You are about as free as fly on a fly strip.

      May 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • freedom

      I'm not angry bro, but the venom you're spewing doesn't say the same about you. I can post to my heart's content. It's a free country, and an open commentary site.

      And I like your twisted idea of freedom though. Stockholm syndrome at its finest.

      May 27, 2011 at 5:02 am |
    • Catie Eliza

      It's faith... we all exercise faith every day is all sorts of concepts, we interpret life and what our senses tell us and come to conclusions. There's plenty of evidence that leads a lot of people to believe in God, but some people believe the opposite, neither is ever going to satisfactorily prove their belief to the other, but if you truly believe in God as I do, you would want to share that which you believe with others because, on the assumption that it is true, it is the lost loving thing to do, to share that truth. I know God, but I can't MAKE you know God, and God won't MAKE you know Him either, because it's your choice... that way the relationship is real. :] xx

      June 4, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  8. CW

    @ Reality,

    HEY....I ACTUALLY AGREE WITH "SOME" OF WHAT YOU POSTED...BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

    Anyway...she HAS done a lot of GOOD works with what she has but I wouldn't say that God was responsible for her show's su.ccess b/c she has had a fair amount of smu.tty subjects, sm.utty guest's and plain sm.ut for God to have ALWAYS had his hand on it. Also notice she didn't attribute her su.ccess to Jesus first she made "her team" first before Jesus. With all that said I'm sure she is a good person...she needs to examine some things b/c all of her beliefs DON'T exactly line up with the Bible.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  9. Adelina

    She is more a Hindu than a Christian. If she was truly Christian, she would have advocated redemption through Jesus and not those self-reliance or self-worship. One can claim to be anything in our world. Use of names is free, without authenticity or coherence.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:14 am |
  10. Peace2All

    The Caption underneath Oprah's picture says:

    "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."

    I am curious to know what has led her to 'believe' this and how she has come to the conclusion that "God has led her life, even when she didn't realize it."...?

    In other words, what, why and how did she encode into her life experiences that they *mean* (God)...?

    Interesting...

    Peace...

    May 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • John Richardson

      The fact that she said it hardly means that she meant it.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • Peace2All

      @John Richardson

      Hey -John...

      That is certainly possible. Maybe she really didn't mean what she said.

      I'm going on the assumption that she did mean it for discussion's sake, since she did say it... and given her background and past behavior, especially early in her life.

      So, I'm still curious to find out, as my statement asks above.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      May 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  11. Reality

    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 25, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Derpatron

      God, on abortion:
      Psalm 137:9 "Blessed is the one who grabs your little children and smashes them against a rock"

      Funny how your god's "unconditional love" suddenly doesn't apply to people who don't share the same views as you.

      May 27, 2011 at 5:18 am |
  12. Colin

    I would love a dollar for every politician, sportsperson (usually boxers), businessman and entertainer who claims that the creator of the entire Universe and its billion of galaxies has a personal interest in their individual success.

    I think you can be pretty sure that you created god in your own image when you realize that he wants everything to happen in your life that you do.

    May 25, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  13. Bruce Almighty

    Thank the Lord she's off the air!

    May 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Leroy MM

      Racist.

      May 26, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • deb0155

      I'm there with you Bruce Almighty! I am so sick of this woman and her ego! I'm from Chicago and most of us can't wait to get rid of her! Amen!

      May 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  14. JC

    God is also responsible for failure of OWN Network.

    May 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  15. Bernice

    Read Psalms 24 non -believers. Why do you think God is allowing Satan to destroy this country .Why? Because 2 Chronicles 7:14 will answer that question. Read it you non-believers.

    May 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Adelina

      Nation's downfall is the people's will and choice, especially for countries like USA. The stuff people entertain themselves tell what they are.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:18 am |
    • Yeah

      Yeah Adelina the fact you hang out on a liberal USA media site tells a lot about you! LMAO!

      May 26, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  16. frank

    Is the hand of Baby Jesus behind her wild fluctuations of girth? What's that all about? Does he make her appet.ite jump around, toying with her insulin levels like an inscrutable puppetmaster? I'm scared of this situation! Why does he do this!!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  17. Karin

    Sad when a woman appears strong to so many yet can't even state her show was due to her own accomplishments. I find this to show very weak character. A invisible mega overlord that has simply always existed is responsible for her show. Please!!! I would of been more taken by the words; "With a lot of self-sacrifice and a lot of work I succeeded."... More intellectually honest!!!

    May 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Really?

      Sure, much more intelligent to believe that matter created itself. Much more intelligent to believe that an ever-changing realm of science and incomplete study of reality holds every truth.
      Now THAT would definitely take someone of MUCH lesser intellect and WAY greater faith than Oprah's sensibility in attributing her success to the God who made her and sustains her.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  18. sad

    I was crying hysterically during the show and for an hour after. I had to force myself to snap out of it because I had to go to work. That was intense. Her show means so much to me and I've watched it for as long as I can remember.

    May 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @sad

      Me to. I couldn't even watch my stories, I was so overcome. And then the way she gave all the glory to god...well let's just say I was slain in the spirit, right there on my couch!

      I have heard, that some people in the audience were healed.

      Cheers!

      May 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      David, you're a hoot. Thanks for making me laugh. I can't stand Oprah.

      May 25, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Adelina

      Tom, I think she is very nice, although nice-ness means nothing in a society of hedonists.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:36 am |
    • Tom Piper'Sr.

      Don't laugh too hard son, your nose bubbles.

      May 26, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  19. rexta

    Oprah don't give God any of the credit. He doesn't exist. You did it all yourself babe. You rock. I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 25, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Patty Biller

      you WILL find out…

      May 25, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
    • Barb D

      Are you SERIOUS? What an awful thing to say! I pray that God will forgive your ignorance and grant you time to repent. I'm so grateful that Oprah finally acknowledged the true source of all her success. I'm sure God was well pleased with her final words. The Bible says, "If we acknowlede him he directs our paths." I'm a living witness to this truth. The word of God also states that if we deny Jesus, he will deny us before the father on judgement day. May God deal with your heart and give you a true revelation of who he is.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • america

      You guys are so defensive. Could it be because you know you're wrong? Of course, but you won't admit that.

      I agree, Oprah should be proud of herself. Maybe she's just trying to be modest?

      May 26, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Leroy MM

      You think Christians being defensive is pathetic?

      Try people who don't believe in God or Christianity doing everything they can to take shots at those who do. If you don't care or believe in it, why do you care if others do? Does it make you feel better about yourself?

      It's easy to take shots at people who openly stand for something. Weak and closed minded people do it everyday.

      May 26, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Frogist

      @Barb: It is not an awful thing to say that she did it all on her own. I cannot believe you would tak that statement so personally.
      @Leroy: First of all no one said anything about anyone being "pathetic". It's this kind of ridiculous defensiveness that america is referring to. Neither rexta nor america's statements were particularly agressive, yet you feel the need to go on the offensive. They certainly took no potshots at you while you lay into them in a threatening and personally insulting manner. If this is your idea of being a Christian, I don't understand why anyone would want to be one.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • america

      Leroy, you put words in my mouth. If religious ideologues would stop trying to inject their backwards views into our laws, our schools, and our children, then I would honestly care less. Funny how you choose to not count defending a critical thinker (rexta) who was being attacked by religious supremacists as standing up for something.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Steve

      1. Paty – funny how I never hear atheists threatening anyone with retribution and revenge when somebody disagree's with them. Always the Christie's threaten. Agree with us or eternal torture eh? What wholesome goodness. Funny how outspoken atheist intellectuals always seem to need bodyguards to protect them from death threats from religious nuts but pastors basically never do.

      2. Barb how does god guide your life? The bible says one's faith can collapse a mountain on its own...can you do that for us? Can we do a scientific test in your ability to do so? Can your faith heal an amputee and bring their arm or leg back? What you feel is strictly in your head just like when a 3 year old has an invisible friend that is not there, just like David Koresh thinking he is the messiah you are not any less delusional. If it always seems to come down to "what I feel in my heart" how can we distinguish between the sane and insane? Maybe a nutbar who claims he is napoleon reincarnated is who he claims..he certainly feels it in his heart. Maybe Harold Camping really did have god speaking to him but the latter decided at the last minute to give us extra time. How do we know that wasn't the case? If God speaks to you perhaps we can verify it. Can you take us to JImmy Hoffa's remains? Where is Alexander the Great's tomb? God would know..he could tell you and then you could tell us. Deal?

      May 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  20. John Richardson

    Yeah, god wanted some good daytime tv and Phil Donahue just wasn't cutting it. So he created Oprah in his own image. Or something like that, right?

    May 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Amused

      Jon, I think you may be right! God REALLY IS a large black woman with weight problems and too much money, so GOD made Oprah in her own image! Yes, I think I'm becoming an Oprah-ist. Let us spread the gospel of Oprah! Don't fret about abortions and fried chicken for everyone!!!! Come join Oprahism with us! The most sincere disciples will receive a new car and a trip to the Bahamas ! Yay !!!

      May 26, 2011 at 10:43 am |
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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.