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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. AnnD

    All my atheist friends on here can say whatever you like...I've been you, I know what your looking for. You can make excuses to yourself all you want...your looking for that one thing that can convince you, that can give you a little hope...guess what, you aren't going to find it. You won't find it until you open your heart and mind to something greater than you can imagine...its called faith. Saldy, most of you won't find it until it's too late. In the end, as the Live song says, "the greatest of teachers won't hesitate to leave you there by yourself chained to fate..." until then, admit you like it or nor, we of faith will pray for you. : )

    May 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Artist

      Ann my dear, I used to be a christian...in fact I was headed down the path to being a preacher.... it took a while but my best day was when I finally made the big leap and left it behind.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Colin

      So, you are an agnostic, are you AnnD?

      May 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Colin

      AnnD – I ask because once you accept that making a leap of faith is a valid foundation for arriving any particular belief, you have to accept that any other religious view arrived at by a similar leap from the precipice of where the evidence stops is as valid as yours.

      One cannot seriously argue, to the effect, “well, I was justified in unhinging myself from the evidence and going off in this theological direction, but your going over there toward that deity is flawed.” In a dark room without features, any groping guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the next.

      Spin the wheel and see what god it stops on!

      Actually, taken a step further, if you accept the proposition that any religious view arrived at by the leap of faith is valid, this would presumably include those (many) faiths that reject your own chosen god. You have effectively committed theological suicide and leapt to your own atheism, have you not?

      May 26, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • AnnD

      Arty...that is kinda funny...I used to be a DJ on a heavy metal radio station...my best day was the day the truth kinda shook me around and made me see the light...looks like our lives took opposite directions. I don't know about you, but my life is fabulous! I truly, honestly hope the same for you. You may not like it or care, but you will be in my prayers.

      Colin, I'm a christian...I'm just very, very flawed and can admit it.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Colin

      So, AnnD, why do you not believe in Brahman, Krishna, Vishnu or Allah?

      May 26, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • AnnD

      Colin...actually, I do believe in evolution but I also believe in creationism...I think if you really look at it, they don't conflict each other.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • QS

      I've always loved how arrogance is inherently built-in to religion. Once you say you've "found" something that others simply haven't looked hard enough for, you're displaying your self-righteousness for all to see.

      The fact that most religions have some sort of basic tenet that makes "spreading the word" obligatory shows that religion is more about attempting to bring all people into one line of thinking...theirs, than it is about actually "saving" people – which is just as arrogant really – to believe yourself that much better than somebody else that you feel they need your help to figure out who they are, especially when most religious people don't even know who they truly are because their religious indoctrination decided that for them.

      May 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Debunking the REAL Myths

      QS

      I've always loved how arrogance is inherently built-in to religion. Once you say you've "found" something that others simply haven't looked hard enough for, you're displaying your self-righteousness for all to see.

      The fact that most religions have some sort of basic tenet that makes "spreading the word" obligatory shows that religion is more about attempting to bring all people into one line of thinking...theirs, than it is about actually "saving" people – which is just as arrogant really – to believe yourself that much better than somebody else that you feel they need your help to figure out who they are, especially when most religious people don't even know who they truly are because their religious indoctrination decided that for them.

      --------–

      Isn't this exactly what the New Atheist are doing?

      May 29, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  2. Baranga the Great

    I really liked that movie How to Train Your Dragon

    May 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  3. Big_NWK_NJ

    So in short ... Jesus reiterated the law the Moses received from God. What's the problem???

    May 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  4. Big_NWK_NJ

    There are many passages in the Bible that state a clear separation between Jesus and God. All too often people join them together and that is something God speaks against. God has no partners and can not be subject to gender classification.

    There are also many passages that speak on wealth. Below is an excerpt from Mark.

    Mark 10:17-25 says – "As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.

    You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.”

    “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

    Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

    At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

    Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

    The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

    May 26, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  5. Selfish Gene Simmons

    Elitist, conceited, godly-chosen superiority wackery.

    And she's not the only one. I see these types every once in a while, like the Lord has made them os so much more special than others. Get the eflers out of here.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  6. Shawn

    O stating, "To God be the glory,' doesnt seal the deal for me. There are so many gods... I'd like to interview her and hear her speak about her relationship with Jesus Christ...

    May 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Artist

      Shawn, my first question to her would be...was it s e x ual in nature?

      May 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Justin Prestijus

      @Shawn.......1 Timothy 2:5......."for there is ONE God, and one mediator between God & men,the man Christ Jesus"....:)

      May 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  7. maggie

    As a matter of fact i love my mother with all my heart. and as a child, the way i showed my mother love was by being obedient and showing her respect at all time. And still today as growing woman, i honor my mother everyday by being gratefull.

    May 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  8. maggie

    Gaven,
    Evolution is a theory of a series of very fortunate" coincidences,"
    Those coincidences include the following:
    Earth's location in the milky way galaxy
    The solar system
    The planet 's orbit, its tilt, rotational speed, and our beautiful moon.
    the magnectic field and its atmosphere that serve as a double shield.
    Natural cycles that replenish and cleanse the air and our water supply all came about by chance. You need more than faith to believe such a nonsense.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Colin

      They are only "fortunate coincidences" if you think it was all directed toward us. The opposite is true. We are what we are becuse we evolved to fit the environment, not visa-versa. It is like a fish claiming the ocean was created to suit his gills.

      Now, a few thing you prponents of the talking snake have to ignore – (i) the fossil record; (ii) coal, oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels; (iii) the ice ages; (iv) the geology pf places like the Grand Canyon and Hawaii; (v) distant stars and galaxies; (vi) DNA and genetic mapping; (vii) linguistics; (viii) comparable anatomy; (viii) radiodating; (ix) continental drift.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • LinCA

      Whooosh.....

      (Colin's explanation going over Maggie's head)

      May 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  9. AnnD

    Isn't it funny how all these non-belivers are always hanging around belief web sites? Who's are you trying to convince us or yourselves?

    May 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Artist

      AnnD

      Isn't it funny how all these non-belivers are always hanging around belief web sites? Who's are you trying to convince us or yourselves?
      -----------–
      While we dont feed you to the lions anymore, you still have some entertainment value. Come on now, raise those hands in the air like you just don't care.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Justin Prestijus

      amen!!!

      May 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • AnnD

      Arty, we find you guys pretty entertaining too! Keep 'em comin'. It's ok if you don't believe in God, he still believes in you : )

      May 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Artist

      AnnD

      Arty, we find you guys pretty entertaining too! Keep 'em comin'. It's ok if you don't believe in God, he still believes in you : )
      .
      lol sure thing. Ann, does god talk to you? Do you hear his voice?

      May 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Frogist

      @AnnD: A discussion of belief encompasses the position of non-belief. CNN acknowledges this by publishing stories about atheism here as well. What is funny is believers who misunderstand this think that means atheists are seeking god by their complete rejection of the concept.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • AnnD

      Arty...what? you don't? maybe you should crank up the volume!!!

      May 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Colin

      I do wish CNN would get a science section. Even Fox has one of them – and it is very good, believe it or not.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • LinCA

      @AnnD. It's entertaining as hell. Also, there may be someone who's still on the fence about all this god crap. Maybe we'll save a soul.

      May 26, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  10. AnnD

    Wow Gaven, anyone so hostile must have some doubts about their rantings. It's ok, Jesus loves you too : )

    May 26, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Gaven

      Keep your Jesus to yourself. I don't need a zombie loving on me. Thanks.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • AnnD

      Oh, I think you do. Deep down, you really want it : )

      May 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • QS

      Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...oh, are you talking about that Jewish carpenter guy?

      May 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  11. kxkxsh

    I love when "Christians" say that you can't pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe. Catholics are Christians, Protestants are Christians, Mormons say they're Christians....and yet they all pick and choose which verses are most important. I am constantly shocked at how Christians are always quoting the Old Testament and Revelations....but I hardly ever hear Christ himself quoted.....He's too hard....I think it's pretty obvious the contribution Oprah has made to this culture...to all except the dull.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  12. mrsecretary

    Maybe she has realized that no matter how rich a person can get, life still reduces down to one thing and that is the condition of one's soul.
    Everybody seems to want to play on life's playground forever before they actually admit that what happens after death is all that really matters.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  13. maggie

    To Colin,

    It is your prerogative to believe you came from a dumb animal, I on otherhand, was created.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • AnnD

      Me too Maggie!

      May 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Gaven

      Wow...you must really hate your mom and dad. You're a really crappy daughter.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • AnnD

      Poor Gaven, what are you about 15?

      May 26, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Lars

      I'd rather come from a semi intelligent life, than be made from dirt. Unless you're a woman (which I am assuming you are) be made from the rib of "Adam".

      May 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  14. Alex

    God ...???
    God is behind you success? your show is over so can hallucinate and say anything you like.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  15. maggie

    To LinCa,

    Yes i do take into account the era and the people around the time the bible was written. I understand you do not believe in the bible, or God that is fine with me. I am not here to turn you into a believer. I do not need the bible, to know that God the creator of all things exists. All I have to do is to look at myself in the mirror and realize what a miracle that I am. Evolutionists say that I came from nothing or a lower dumb species and evolved to a higher being, however, I do not see me evolving but rather deteriorating every day just as the bible says.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Colin

      Maggie, anybody who still questions evolution is either totally lacking in education or blinded by their religion.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Gaven

      Maggie, evolution has been proven beyond any shadow of doubt and only the most ignorant of people would denounce it.

      However, the whole world over is still waiting for your Jesus or God to show himself to prove once and for all they actually exist.

      Yup....still waiting.

      Science – 54758437 Religion – 0

      May 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • QS

      Do you also take into account that much of the story of the bible was taken from previous cultures and religions, and was simply adapted to fit the particular beliefs of man at that time?

      You obviously have no idea of the true concept of evolution or you'd understand that you can't "see" yourself evolving on a daily basis....though I suppose one might believe that....if they can believe that woman was created from the rib of a man – in essence man gave birth to woman, then proceeded to procreate with his own rib-offspring, siring an entire world population of inbred children; then a talking snake, which was really a bad angel in disguise, convinced the woman to do something that would lead to a rule revision and thus cause every person ever born to be born as a creature that has sinned before they ever existed.

      I'm convinced, that's so much more believable than the process of evolution!

      May 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Frogist

      @QS: I figured out the talking snake thing... Eve was a Slytherin.

      May 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Jon

      "Evolutionists" (whatever that is, I guess you mean Biologists) do not say you came from nothing and evolved from a lower form. All life is related, which is what Evolution shows. Modern Humans (You, me, even Oprah) share a common ancestor with Modern Apes, Chimps and Bonobos. There is nothing degrading from that statement, it is merely a fact of nature. If you feel that you are nothing that is your own mind telling you that. I feel uplifting whenever I think about that though, how all life is related. In fact, we are all African!

      May 26, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • LinCA

      @maggie. Sorry, I missed your post. I don't typically read every post, especially wen there are 100s. Bit to answer your post, here is my reply: Whatever Colin, Gaven, QS, Frogist and Jon said.

      Next time, please reply to the original post.

      May 29, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • Debunking the REAL Myths

      My problems with evolution is in the animal kingdom animals tend to kill deformed young. And two of these deformed young male and female would have to survive in close proximity to each other and mate and so on. And why haven't animals on the lower levels of the food chain adapt so that they are no longer victims of predators?

      May 29, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  16. mac jones

    And thank you Jesus for the billion bucks.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  17. ego

    why are fighting she is perfect or not go find about your self / your own self

    May 26, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  18. van

    No one should judge Oprah or anyone else. She is not a preacher, she never acted in a capacity of a religious teacher, and based on that, it's not fair that any one should judge her. God knows her intentions, and she could very well be sincere in what she says "that God has been leading in her life." Matter of fact, I believe she's being sincere. She wouldn't have gotten whereever she is without GOD. Even though at times she may have stumbled in what she said about Jesus, it's good to always remember that we are all not perfect. And to leave the judgement to God for only HE knows the intentions of the heart. Remember what Jesus said "judge not, that you may not be judged," and "remove the log in your eye before you can remove a spec in another person's eye." Let's learn from that, for that is true wisdom.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Gaven

      And, as an atheist, what your Jesus said means nothing to me. People that profess all this "God did this" and "God is responsible" are lunatics. They believe in something man has manifested into something so grandiose and "all-powerful" yet has never seen or heard it...seriously, that is what we call mental illness. Schizophrenics also "hear voices" and "see people". Every pious person is a certifiable nut job if they truly believe a fairytale is responsible for their success unless they penned a Disney story. Yes, that includes you, whoever you are.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Carolyn

      Gaven, WOW. The anger most atheists carry surely comes off nicely with your views. There is more – you can ignore or deny it. The choice is yours.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  19. van

    No one should judge Oprah or anyone else. She is not a preacher, she never acted in a capacity of a religious teacher, and based on that it's not fair that any one should judge her. God knows her intentions, and she could be very well be sincere in what she says "that God has been leading in her life." Matter of fact, I believe she's being sincere. She wouldn't have gotten whereever she is without GOD. Even though at times she may have stumbled in what she said about Jesus, it's good to always remember that we are all not perfect. And to leave the judgement to God for only HE knows the intentions of the heart. Remember what Jesus said "judge not, that you may not be judged," and "remove the log in your eye before you can remove a spec in another person's eye." Let's learn from that, for that is true wisdom.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Gaven

      What would your response have been if she thanked the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy for her success? Would you praise as much...or would you scorn her for not giving props to your Jesus/God/Prophet of choice?

      And who are you to tell people not to judge? Christians are the most judgmental group of individuals the world has ever had to endure. I will judge Oprah, moreover as someone that has done a lot of good for a lot of people around the world. In the mean time, you have no business telling anyone not to judge, hypocrite.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  20. Gaven

    I wish Oprah would have started saying, "Allahu Akbar!" It would have impressed Muslims around the world and instilled fear and terror into the hearts of her audience who would all be wondering if those would be the last words they ever heard.

    Please, Oprah, no proslythetizing even if it is your last show. It is unbecoming to mix religion with business unless your business is a church.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:20 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.