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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. Mike in KC

    Just because Oprah's beliefs doesn't fit within your narrow view of who is a Christian, doesn't mean she isn't one.
    She does not have to answer to anyone but God for what she believes and doesn't believe. Her relationship with God is HERS, not yours. You don't have the right to tell someone that their relationship with God is not right just because it is different than your relationship with God.
    Look at a family with multiple kids. Each kid's relationship with their parents is different than the other kids in the family. They are not the same because each kid is not the same as the others. Does that make one kid's relationship with their parent any better than any other kid in the family? NO. So why should it be any different with our relationships with God?

    Havung watched her for 25 years, I can say that she is a woman who has and is living her faith. She doesn't limit her beliefs to what is contained in the Bible. She has realized that limiting God to what is in the Bible, and ignoring the rest of creation and the universe, is limiting the ability for our faith to flourish and grow.

    In addition, she is not promoting one belief system over another, she is giving credit where credit is due. For her, it was her team and Jesus.

    We need to stop judging others to make ourselves feel superior or better than others. No one has the rights to God or Christianity, so what works for one person may not work for another. And there is NOTHING wrong with that.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Sybaris

      When politicians that subscribe to her faith stop tryig to weave the dogma of their faith into the laws of this country then maybe the desparaging remarks will cease as well.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  2. Kay

    Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven. He is the way the truth and the life!

    May 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Kebos

      Not true! One can also get to heaven through a small worm-hole found in the 6th dimension but it requires too much energy to get it to open.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  3. Joe

    May his Noodly Appendage pasta-slap her blaspheming face. Seriously, this makes me heart-sick. Another mentally-ill person with a gigantic following.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Kebos

      Totally agree. When she started up on all that I had to wonder why people like her in such unique positions in life ought think they are favored by a god or gods. Very child-like thinking.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  4. maggie

    every one thinks that is no right way to reach God. But that is not waht the bible says. The bible says there is one to God is follow Jesus Christ. What does that mean to have faith and to follow Jesus? A true Christian is a Christian at all time not when they are in puplic or when it is convenient for them.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • JT

      But you see...for those who realize the babble is nothing but a collection of stories told around the camp fire by bronze age Sheep herders, it is not the evidence you so religiously follow even as you Cherry pick as all do. So, you are one of the most rare of Christians.....a True Christian®?

      May 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  5. Kebos

    I just knew it that God was responsible for the success of that show. There was just no way that show could be that successful from the creativity and effort put into it by mere mortals. To know that God was behind it now makes so much sense to me. Does anybody know if God was a producer for Family Guy, Seinfeld and CNN? And what He might have his eye on for the upcoming viewing season?

    May 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • maggie

      How can you say that? Look at God's standards and see if that shaw met his standards. I would say not. God has nothing to do with what went on on that show.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Kebos

      I say so because Oprah said so. Isn't that enough? Of course, I'll wait for God to come out and substantiate what Oprah said. BTW, I was told that God helped produce Little House On The Prairie too. I would agree God's standards have slid a bit but these are the days of too much haste getting shows out. Sometimes quality can suffer s a result.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Sybaris

      God must've really liked M*A*S*H

      May 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  6. anobody

    So sad when people cannot stand up on their own two feet and take credit for their hard work. There is inner strength in all of us, we have everything we need within ourselves to do well and succeed. If we work together there is no limit to what we can accomplish. Stand tall respect yourself and give yourself the credit you deserve. Fantasy and mythology are helpful and necessary for the creative process but certainly not the sum total reason for success. Believe in your inner strength and the strength of others and you will go far.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Geez

      Maybe inner strength is what some people consider god... People are so quick to sit on their high horse and judge others belief as myth. Thats why there is so much misunderstanding and hatred in this world... Everyone just lumps everyone else in to these tiny boxes.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • anobody

      The best philosophy is get out of any box and be yourself. I find it interesting how adversarial people of faith tend to be. So sad when that happens. I do not believe in a God that requires heavy financing and constant punishment or a watchful eye on everything I do, we are grown ups accountable to ourselves personally, locally, and globally.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  7. maggie

    To Steve,

    This is where who have to reason. According to the bible when a man marry a woman, he and her become one. Does that mean they are now one person or two. John 1:1 If the word was with God there is no way the word can be that same God. The word can also be god since he was with God. all the spirit cretures in the heaven are called gods because they are sons of God. The bible is a translation, although it retains most of the original ideas but along the way being copied and recopied a couple things are bound to be misplaced. You need to cross reference scriptures.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  8. EddyWithani

    Is God responsible for those hammock sized bags under her eyes?

    May 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  9. May

    The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.(The Blessed Trinity) So yes, The Spirit guides also.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  10. EddyWithani

    That makes God a selective racist. He sure is not doing much for Africa these days.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  11. Karin

    I thank each and every days accomplishments to my invisible pink unicorn and to all the cute little leprechauns for guiding me. To all unbelievers I will pray for you.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Wow

      This is original.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • brian

      Heretic! Pagan!

      Glory be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the one true god!

      May 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I'll be having lasagna for dinner... would that be considered a type of communion?

      May 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  12. Nacho1

    Anyone who has a load of money CANNOT attribute it to GOD...............after all.......was it not Jesus who chased the money changers from the temple and is he not supposed to be the son of GOD?....................She simply sucked it up when the sucking was good................

    May 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  13. Liji

    Thank you for giving the GLORY to God...I was just AMAZED by those words Oprah chose to end her show, "To God be the Glory..." Bless you Oprah!

    May 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • EddyWithani

      God bless idiots like you that make it so much easier for me to get a job.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Yeah, your god shows so much favor to it's worshippers that it sends tornados to destroy their churches but bestows 100's of millions of $$ on little ole Oprah.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Renee

      EddyWithani

      It's not a matter of intelligence that one believes or disbelieves. There are minds far greater than yours or mine that fall on both sides of the fence.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  14. Mark

    Key to success? Bored Women with no lives of their own.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  15. 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... I would love to hear more elaboration on this.

    Peace...

    May 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  16. No sense news

    Pompous woman. So, God likes her more than other talk-show hosts. God, of the millions of americans suffering, focuses on her success? Really? One day all you believers will notice that you have been sitting in a box named 'fear of reality' and realize the place where your 'higher power' lilves is in your desperate, insecure mind. You will realize, there is death and that is it. Nothing after, as much as you want there to be. I read the bible and realized 'God' is going to kill me...so, I killed him first and now I am in charge of my own destiny, my actions, my values. And man, am I happy!

    May 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • fuadramses

      Amen.

      Seriously, well said.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  17. Hee HeeHee

    Not true with JW comments said negatively here – but I understand your frustration talking with them. You see.., they say the same thing about you. Problem is that God is not in the midst of any who believes He needs their help to draw what is
    his. Oprah.., is not a Witness. Witnesses do not embrace lewd living. God does not embrace lewd living. Oprah's TV shows do not come from a plan from God to make her a TV diva. People do that – which is why she gets old and fights
    stress. She lives and dies like all of us. In forty years someone else will be popular for the generation hearing them. There is indeed a true God but by the look of this audience very very few really seek to know him.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • maggie

      Amen.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  18. James

    "To God be the glory.”; but the profits be to Oprah.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Nacho1

      She does NOT know God and God does NOT know her..................she knows money and money knows her................Obama should be thankful for how much she put under the table for him when he ran............that will someday be public..........will the REAL Oprah please step forward?

      May 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • stejo

      Nacho – in one breath you claim to know what God knows, and in the next, you spew hate towards the President. You better be glad the rapture didn't happen – cuz you'd be mighty surprised u were still here, methinks.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  19. Kathy

    Thank you Oprah. God is the beginning and the end. To all those unbelievers I will pray for you all. One day you will believe.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • fubar

      why don't you get a job instead and pay taxes.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Ri

      While you're praying or them, pray for Oprah too. I don't believe she is Christian. You can't be a Christian and say the things she has said on her show. And there are not many paths to God. There is just one and He wrote a map for it in His book. Oprah can say what she likes, and Jesus may have made her career possible, but doesn't mean she has a relationship with Him or has accepted Him as her Lord and Savior. Just sayin'

      May 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  20. Mark

    Every time someone attributes "god" to what ever they are doing it makes me want to puke. Oprah's success has nothing to do with god, she was just a great communicator and she has a great personality.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Nacho1

      Yes......from complete poverty to wealth......she is the great communicator............the Pied Piper of Hamlet.............may all of her sheep applaud her daily......................but............to use God for a crutch........tsk.....tsk.......c'mon Oprah........be realistic...............God did not put the mike in your hand...........

      May 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
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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.