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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. When love comes to town Im going to catch that train!

    Once Oprah was POOR!! She went through a hard childhood like others and she got into trouble. But somehow perhaps her faith helped stabilize/ground her. And she did say that yesterday on her last show. She was well aware that her oath was guided and as she developed into herself.. she was able/blessed enough to connect with the viewers and the GUESTS to HELP them. She had the character that impacted the world.. not just America. Even other faiths. She probably never knew when she was younger were it would all lead but it lead to somewhere where she realized her mission in life was helping people and giving. Sure those cars/houses were sponsored but Air Time is expensive and those Companies I guess got to advertise their product with Oprah's name. I know there is always those negative aspects and we put everything under a microscope. Sometimes we feel less when we compare what we have done. There are others on her level that did a lot too. She is sort of on a level with princes Diane in a way that people admire her. She helped educate/employee people and she is only human. She is not perfect either but at least she had an opportunity and helped people. It makes America look good. Cheer up. I know if you compare yourself you.. some people feel how can I compare to that. You have to do your own thing. Carry your own light no matter how small.

    God gave the world the Commandments. Lots of people don't follow them. It is written a man who has not loved is like a man that never lived. People confuse LOVE with things it is not. Sometimes love is not returned right away and it's easier to turn to the other side. Every little thing you do to be positive will return to you. God made the universe/The word. He made a lot of varying nationalities. And he choose a people.. but he made all people. He made the world by FREE WILL. If Jesus came as another nationality then people may hate that nationality. All people are Gods people.

    There was a time I stopped watching The Oprah Show but I caught it once in a while if there was something interesting on topic. I admired Oprah's mothering character/The way she came across at first as a normal coffee buddy. And in the later years she became like the rock star. Sort of did not appeal to that but for what she has given the world well. That is more important and she deserved to enjoy her self. She NEVER missed a SHOW. She did not call in sick and complain. She loved to work. I think there is great inspiration to draw upon there..

    Peace & Love

    Wayne

    May 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  2. sam

    Oprah was on the air for 25 years she's help a lot of people get through many a thing. And this is what your article is about not what good she's done or will do. Not what her last message was about instead it's about her faith or that she prefers like some to take from many and live life as they see it you can mix religion, faith and whatever else you've received and still love and worship God. What is the problem with you so called Christians.
    Wonder why attendance is down in churches it's people like you posters.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • haha

      sam...uhhhhh, this is the BELIEF Blog section, which is where Belief topics are discussed...you must've traveled away from the Star Wars section-

      May 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  3. Humanist

    GOD = globally obsolete dogma

    May 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  4. jacks

    It's funny she calls herself a christian, but she doesn't even believe in the same christianity as Jesus's disciples did. This is not just biblically but historically...All the people of the early church including Jesus's closest followers died proclaiming a belief. Yet she said that Jesus is not a belief...so she is not christian she has her own Oprah religion she is a liar when she says she is a christian.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • tamarlove

      Maybe she follows Jesus in the same way that Buddhists follow Buddha?

      May 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Not you

      I am glad that Oprah is done with her ridiculous show.

      She is no more Christian than the idiot who predicted May 21 as the end of the world.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • helen

      oh shut up

      May 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • f

      @jacks and NOT YOU.... She is no more a Christian than the Muslim sympathizer in the White House.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  5. Mike in RI

    I'm successful because Jesus loves me. Apparently, he hates the rest of the people he hates, because they don't have as much money as me.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  6. Patricksday

    Oprah was wise not to alienate people like our churches do so well, she welcomed all as Jesus did, and she told life stories with ideas of doing things differently to help heal your Spirit and lift those up who had no voice. She walked her talk, unlike many Priests and Ministers who point their fingers in judgment and then pass the collection plate around. Oprah is a teacher and a minister to many around the world, and those who took the journey with her have grown in Spirit and have new eyes when it comes to looking at others and how we see them- with understanding and appreciation for what they bring to the world. Others dont get it and they never will, they only serve themself and make fun of others who do "get it".

    May 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  7. Dave

    Good riddance Oprah. She'll be back though, she loves herself too much not to be in the headlines, kinda like that loudmouth Rosie O'Donnell.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • f

      Add to your list Lady Gaga, Lydsay Lohan, Madonna, almost every so-called "singer" "artist" "performer" out there. They are all self-centered-sniveling-whining Holier-than-thou bullies who just want to tell the rest of the world what to buy, wear, think, listen to, read, watch, do, etc,etc. Good riddance Oprah....No wait.. Bad Riddance and don't come back. Go have a fling with your lesbian lover Gail King.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  8. Art

    Her Jesus is very much American – your very own personal Jesus.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  9. Pastor Carlton Evans

    Christian is a word people used to recognize those who professed and followed Christ. Those of us who really know God are believers, disciples, and are sold out as His adopted son and daughters, and are not our own!!! Get some revelation people!!!

    May 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  10. lcbluize

    It gets mildly annoying when people of faith preach theirs is the ONLY way to God. As if their is only one version of the bible. Being a spiritual person, if that is your connection to God, is your business. Being a Christian, is your business. Being Jewish, that is your business, Musliim, Buddahist, etc. How could one religous group claim theirs is the only way to God? My point is, she's a successful woman who came from very little means. She created an empire. She gave back in thousands of ways to those who had nothing. She put people through college, she gave children without education a school, she rebuilt an entire neighborhood in New Orleans. She certainly did not hold on to her money, not be thankful and return her good fortune to others. Why is everyone so down on Oprah Winfrey? Jealousy, envy, prejudice, loathing, fear, self-righteousness, doesn't sound very God-like to me...Leave the woman alone. If you don't like her, you shouldn't have watched her show. If you don't want to hear about her, again with the free-will statements, change the channel. There are plenty of ways you can exclude her from your lives if you don't want her in it. For those who are inspired by her and set a goal to acheive because of something she said or did, terrific. Live and let live.

    May 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • What The....?

      I change the channel, but THERE IT IS AGAIN!! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh

      May 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Valerie

      AMEN!!!!!!

      May 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  11. Lily

    It is disappointing to see somebody like Oprah still believes in an omnipresent god. I thought from her position and her career she would have came to the realization that there is no god. That is my only disappointment with Oprah; otherwise i think she is one brilliant woman!

    May 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • f

      DIE INFIDEL ! ! ! ! ! !

      May 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • hope2

      Time will tell...then knees will bow. It won't be long!

      May 27, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  12. phoenix

    oprah is a godly heathen give your wealth to thepoor then follow christ make thee a nunnery.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • citizenruth

      I can guarantee she's more "godly" than you are, phoenix. She gives money away, she encourages people, she spreads messages of love. You are just small minded and snarky.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  13. What The....?

    Here we go again enduring yet ANOTHER story about Okra. O-fra must own a large chunk of CNN.com to get this much "airtime". Dang, how much must we digest about her leaving the airways???? Enough already. Period.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  14. Vivek Chaudhary

    I am a devout Christian but I resent the word 'Christian' that is being used loosely now a days. Recently I heard one of the audio clips of Mahatma Gandhi who was not proclaimed Christian but a great follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings. In that clip he says 'if Christians were truely Christ like, most of India would be Christian (loose terms) [follower of Jesus Christ]'. The hypocritical nature of so called Christians have established a bad example and repulsive testimonies among non-followers.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • stephanie

      i agree completely.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  15. Pat

    I was under the impression that she thought she was "God"...She use to shut everyone up when they mentioned Him on her show..Why the change??

    May 26, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  16. Takina28,richmond va

    OPRAH!! Your religion is your religion. You have done amazing and wonderful things for many people. People are going say a lot and 90% isn't even going to make sense. Who really cares what the haters say?? I congratulate you because you have accomplished many goals and you care for others. We are black people and some individuals don't want to see you and I succeed. YOU showed them though, I'm not even close to where you are but one day I will be able to help millions even the haters not just the homeless man on the corner. I pray for you and wish you the best!!

    May 26, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  17. Just saying

    God is merciful. That being said, we have no idea what God is willing to forgive of mankind. If Oprah had a change of heart or understanding, then to God be the glory. We should all pray for these media, and social leaders who seem to entrance the world with their performances to all have a change of heart and understanding. Remember the book of Jonah! He was angry with God for not bringing His wrath on the masses as God told him to preach. But, the king and the people had a change of heart and understanding, so, God forgave them. He can forgive what we as humans can't.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  18. Denker

    If reality is too harsh, turn to God.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • trudat

      Amen.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Is that a new pill from Pfizer or something?

      May 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  19. Joo Li

    Dragging God into everything nowadays! Another sign that the world is desperately in need of Buddhism.

    May 26, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • f

      Uhhhh.. isn't Buhdda your God??

      May 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  20. The Dimension Machine

    All the truth that you can imagine is at www TheDimensionMachine Dot com Thanks Rudi

    May 26, 2011 at 11:40 am |
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About this blog

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.