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. Ralph

    You people don't understand the whole Jesus thing. If you have ever told a lie. That makes you a lier. If you have ever stolen something. That makes you a theif. If you have ever used Gods name in vein ( used it in place of a four letter filth word). You are a blasphomer. If you said yes to these you have broken Gods law, the 10 Commandments. This is just three of the ten. By your own admition you are a liing, theiving, blastphomer. Breaking even one of Gods laws is sin. The penalty for breaking Gods law is death and eternity in the devils hell. So when you stand before God on judgement day and he judges you by his law. You will be guilty. And if you are judged guilty, you will not go to heaven. Is that concerning to you? It is concerning to me, for you. This is why Jesus is so important. He is the way back to God. Accepting His free gift of salvation and repenting of your sins. He will forgive you.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • streetcar01

      Someone earlier asked why we atheists care about what you believers think. Just read the above and think that someone like this could be in congress, or a police officer, or in some other area where his actions can have an effect on you.

      So please don't ask why we care any more. It should now be obvious.

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

      Ladies and Gents, I give you NUTJOB
      Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.
      As the illness continues, psychotic symptoms develop:
      • False beliefs or thoughts that are not based in reality (delusions)
      • Hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not there (hallucinations)

      May 26, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  2. Gazork

    Who are the "important" Christians that criticize Oprah?

    May 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  3. Sean Webb

    Finally Oprah admits that she changed her local talk show into a syndicated tent revival. Testify!

    May 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  4. maggie

    You do not need the bible, to obey God. Read Jobs. He did not have the bible but he was a righteous man because he asked questions and reasoned well and he listened to his conscious , which all of us do have but the conscious need to be trained properly inorder to work otherwise it would be just as a defective compass, it would lead you in the wrong direction.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • streetcar01

      You are either a troll or a really scary person. Which is it? ( pleeeeeese answer )

      May 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • QS

      I've read about Steve Jobs, pretty smart guy really....oh, wait, you meant Job, didn't you? Silly me, I should know by now that most "Christians" don't even know the bible as they demand others should.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  5. Ricote

    Really sad that she had to use religion and God as a tool to atract stupid viewers. Thay may work with that profile of audience, now in the wild she will alienate many others that we don't want to hear or smell that stinking garbage.

    Stop pushing your religion! Go next to your Jesus, the sooner you all are "raptured" the better for the rational world.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  6. James

    Oprah has made it very clear that she does NOT believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven (easy to find on Youtube). Anything else she has to say about spiritual matters is completely irrelevant...why does her opinion on God matter in the least? If your spiritual life is affected by popular opinion, then you don't really have one in the first place...

    May 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  7. Rod

    I sometimes wonder how annoying it must be to live an atheistic life.........do atheists avoid applying dates or sheepishly refer to years (2011 AD, uh supposedly :), do they avoid reading currency or visiting state capitals or Federal bldgs in Washington where God is etched into the marble and stone facades all over the city. How bland it must be to live a faithless life, assuming that this is all cosmic happenstance with complete darkness/finality in death, amongst a nation of believers in a country founded on freedom of (not from) religion. They treat us believers with indignation and pity from a completely baseless and bleak perspective yet portray themselves as common-sense intellectuals. Gosh, sign me up?

    May 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • streetcar01

      Try it. You might like it.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • pat

      Is God a man, a woman, both or neither?

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

      Rod, does your god talk to you? Do you hear voices?

      May 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  8. Oh No

    Should have been . . . she owes everything TO JESUS and her team - you should know better about giving thanks! ALWAYS PRAISE THE LORD FIRST.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Amber

      You should just be happy that she included it in there!! Who cares what order it comes in? I doubt she meant to place her team before God for crying out loud!

      May 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • sayit

      Amen..and how can you claim Jesus while living in sin and fornicating?

      May 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  9. maggie

    There is a purpose for everything including the bible and the purpose of the bible is to advertise the coming of God's Kingdom. the same kingdom all of us who claim to be christian are praying for, although they never really took the time to understand the Lord 's prayer.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  10. Jen

    She's talking about God, not herself. Of course she is imperfect. It takes a miracle for a black woman to be able to accomplish something like this in this country. That miracle can only be explained as God.

    May 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Eric G

      Wow! So, by default you are saying that your god loves Oprah, but hates most black women in this country because he would only help Oprah?

      If only your god is responsible for her success, only your god is responsible for others failures.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  11. maggie

    to LinCa,

    I do read the bible. I would read the entire bible every year otherwise I would not be commented on something I know nothing about. You on the other hand, I have serious doubt of you reading it.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • LinCA

      Critically reading the bible, all of it, is the fastest way to enlightenment. Reading about it's history and understanding the times in which the books were written and when they were assembled into the bible, will leave very little room for doubt. Anybody who does that will reject the existence of any god as sheer and utter nonsense.

      You will have to do your own research and not rely on what a preacher tells you.

      Good luck.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • streetcar01

      You probably do know the bible pretty well. But I know many people who know the bible as good or better than you that are sure it is just a book of stories, and no more. What do you know that these people dont that proves to you that anything in the bible really came from god himself?

      May 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • LinCA

      By the way, having doubt is a good way to start. Question everything. Don't accept "because I said so" as an acceptable answer.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  12. The reality is...

    Jesus himself said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one come to the Father except through me." One way and only one way.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Eric G

      How, exactally is that reality? Do you have any evidence that the "father" you refer to exists?

      May 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Jesus said that? The last time I was in New York City, there was an old man standing on the corner saying the exact same thing... he was very persuasive...

      May 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Believer

      Eric – Do you see the wind? Or gravitiy? Does that mean they don't exist? Abosulutely not. They are there. The only evidence we have of the wnd is when we it moves the leaves or things like that. Its the same with our creator. Our Father. You don't see him but he moves you using the holy spirit but one thing is you must believe. Either way you and all who see this were created by our creator God the father. And his son was sent as an example to live life. His son Jesus died so we could be forgiven but whether u believe is a choice God gave you. Think about that. Faith – believing in what we don't see.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • streetcar01

      It is not the same. The wind can be measured. Predictions about it can be made and tested. Please think a little.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  13. streetcar01

    Arguing about the inconsistencies in the bible is frankly a waste of time, except to point out that it is clearly NOT the word of God. Any book transcribed over centuries from passed down stories would have the exact same issues. Anyone who argues the truth of their faith by using one of these "holy" books has just dug themselves a deeper hole to get out of.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • James

      Who are you trying to convince? Seems like you're looking for some sort of affirmation from others that your opinion is popular....

      May 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  14. QS

    I like Oprah, I think she's a good person and does more for others than most people in her position would. But I do have to say, since I watched the last episode, that she sort of contradicted herself a bit in what she was saying.

    She said things like – we are all made of energy and that we are all responsible for our own energy; she said that life isn't Jerry MacGuire, nobody completes you; then she turns around and says that although we're all responsible for our own energy and nobody but you has control over your life, there are no coincidences and that god controls everything that happens in our lives.

    Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. It's also ultimately self-defeating in a way...saying that we are all responsible for ourselves and nobody else can live our lives for us, which is essentially what I believe, but to then immediately turn around and give all the credit to an imaginary being rather than actually accept that credit for yourself as you should...

    It's always bothered me when people do that because they are the ones that got them to where they are, not god and not anybody else. To me, if you insist that people take responsibility for themselves that should include when they do something good. And if you give all the credit for what you do to god, you are essentially handing over not only the credit but the responsibility as well.

    In other words, if you're going to accept responsibility for yourself and your life then you must also accept the credit that you have earned all by yourself.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  15. Imperfectone

    To God be the glory! Amen!

    May 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • sheep

      Thank You! What Oprah said was more than words can explain. It's nice to know that someone as rich and powerful as her has not sold her soul to this world...Satan!

      May 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • LinCA

      Deny glory to FSM at your own peril. You will one day stand before It and have to answer to your blasphemes ways!

      May 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  16. Stacie

    Only GOD knows who it is that Oprah gives lip-service to.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  17. maggie

    To all,
    Although the bible does teach and preach love and God is love, but the theme of the bible is "the Kingdom of God". Read it again start from Genesis to Revelation.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • LinCA

      By all means, read it again. Read it again critically and if, after having read and understood it, you still believe, go get some help.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Rodger

      That's a very open ended theme Maggie.
      If there were suppose to be a theme to the Bible (and it may just be a matter of opinion) it would definitely be "Only obedience to God's commandments leads to true happiness".

      May 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  18. Faith

    Only a true Christian and Believer knows exactly what Oprah is saying and what she means. If you do not know God's Will for all people who has accepted Him as their personal Savior...then you are cluess. I've heard the voice and I know God has moved in my life and done miracles because what was impossible for me.....thru HIM it was POSSIBLE. Oprah I believe from distance was a very compassionate and caring person; who I believe was called by GOD to do all that she was called to do for THE LORD. Alot of you bloggers will never understand or even experience the POWER OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD. Oprah I love you and will miss "the Oprah Winfrey Show". God Bless you and continue to be a vessel for the Lord.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Margaret

      Oprah contradicted Jesus many times and ran an online course based on a New Age book. She contradicted Jesus by saying there are many ways to God. She's not a Christian.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • ElPasoan

      Amen !!!

      May 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • JJ

      Wow, you must have a personal line to "GOD". You must be very special.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • QS

      "True Christian" – Ranks in the top 10 of all-time greatest oxymorons.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  19. shamgar50

    It’s good for TV personalities to push god. Good for their careers that is. Most viewers are god lovers, and just lap that stuff up.
    Just look at American Idol. Both finalists had publicly given thanks to god, and Haley, who was jewish, lost out to the corn-pone loving christian vote (She was so much better than Loren).
    Yes Opra, god has been good for your business.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  20. kmonroe

    Go ahead Oprah!

    May 26, 2011 at 2:39 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.