Jesus as Oprah

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the guardhouse at the prison while one of the chaplains was waiting to be searched by the guards. (BTW, I'm not a chaplain, I'm a volunteer.) Shift change was happening so the chaplain had to wait while the guard took care of those who were leaving. Finishing with them the guard said to the chaplain, "Sorry to make you wait. Thanks for your patience."

Hearing this I quipped, "No worries. Jack's a Christian. His Lord commands him to be patient."

It's funny but most Christians don't seem to think of Jesus like this. That is, Christians say "Jesus is Lord" but they don't really mean it. Jesus isn't commanding things as much as he is offering us good advice, tips on living well.

Basically, I think most Christians think Jesus is sort of like Oprah.

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14 thoughts on “Jesus as Oprah”

  1. A group of us have decided to read the gospel of Luke together. Last night we read chapter 6. When we got to vs 46 it was for a few a real- OMG! moment. -" why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say" The reason it was such an OMG moment was that for some it was the first time we realized Jesus was talking about the sayings he'd just been expounding to his disciples. "love your enemies", "do good to those that hate you"-" if someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also" etc etc. Up until that moment most of us had only ever heard vs46 used to force people to accept church dogmas or our former sects salvation doctrine. As I looked around the group I was reminded of a quote I once heard attributed to Shane Clairborne. -" the more I get to know Jesus, the more trouble he gets me into"

  2. Interesting thought. Inverts my own observations from working at Oprah's magazine that to many of her fans/followers, Oprah is sort of like Jesus. she is exalted in some ways (her extraordinary success, her great empathy and ability to inspire and motivate, etc) and in others she suffers under the gaze of the same consumerist/spiritual culture she represents and exemplifies (her lifelong struggles with her weight--i know, but to her fans this makes her vulnerable and human, it puts flesh on her glory). There's more: oprah sees herself as destiny's child, chosen by God to live a life apart from the rest of us... Anyway, your idea further deepens the mystery of oprah, since the equation now goes both ways--oprah is sort of like jesus (the jesus of TV, of self-actualization) and jesus is sort of like oprah (Live Your Best Life).

  3. I don't know, Richard: those in the Osteen camp might see him so, but I think most American Protestants see him foremost as an insurance policy.

  4. You are my favorite blogger, but I don't love it when Christians criticize Oprah. My mom tells me that no one ever talked about incest before Oprah did and once she did a horriffic amount of women in her hometown came forward and sought therapy. I've done work on domestic violence initiatives where I've seen first-hand how dysfunctionally cultures without an "Oprah" regard these tough issues. We couldn't even put a chinese-language advrtisement for abuse help on chinese radio (in Canada!) becasue apparently that "wasn't happening". We owe a lot of where we are as a society to her. I admire everything she has done for women, ethnic minorities, and hurting people. I suspect it's common for Christians to make jabs at her because it should have been the church bringing that kind of healing and outreach to the hurting, where instead, they often cause more damage (patriarchy, shaming divorced people, etc.) 

  5. Very well said. And I appreciate being called out in this regard. Oprah has, and continues to do, much good in the world.

    For the sake of clarification, I'm using Oprah as a sort of archetype or advice-giving TV sterotype. But using that sterotype, as with all sterotypes, misses a great deal and distorts the person underneath.  

  6.  I didn't read this post as a criticism of Oprah, so much as a criticism of American-style Christianity.  The post (as I took it) was simply portraying Oprah as a prominent and influential person who dispenses advice - a position that is neutral regarding the content or accuracy of such advice or the Oprah herself. 

    The critical tone is obviously directed at Christians (myself included) who fail to view Jesus as LORD and look at His teachings as true commands - not just advice to be considered.

  7. You're over-thinking us, Oranges4226.  qb doesn't like her simply because she is such a relentless self-promoter, kinda like the guy at 1600 Penn.  (Their theme song?  "It's all about MEEEEEE!")

  8. I recently returned to full-time youth ministry from the corporate world and I have determined that this time around, I want to do things differently.  I want to be better.  Be more.  I am reading more and studying more and wrestling more in prayer.  I stumbled across your blog about a month ago while reading Patrick Mead's blog.  Thank you so much for continually pushing me out of the boat.  You have no idea how much your writings have meant to me over a short period of time.  I feel like Jonah - recently vomited onto the beach, after running from God.  Nineveh, here I am!  (Hopefully without the whining about repentance and worm thing).  Jesus is Lord!

  9.  I read it the same way oranges did too. I believe it has to do with the
    public campaigning against her taken up by a lot of Christians. There
    exists a book called Don't Drink the Kool-Aid: Oprah, Obama and the
    Casting Crowns included a line in a song that pitted Oprah against
    Jesus, and many a pastor publicly refused to
    accept her declaration of belief in Jesus, along with her giving "All
    Glory to God" on her final show for everything she accomplished, because
    she doesn't take a stand against abortion, etc. Much
    Christian rhetoric states Jesus and Oprah are opposing forces and you
    must choose Jesus or have Oprah suck you in with her philanthropy then
    drag your soul to hell. That being said, after reading Richard's reply
    and re-reading his post I can see how he wasn't explicitly going for a Jesus versus  Oprah dynamic. I think it's the title of the post automatically brings
    up the Oprah-is-not-good-enough-for-Jesus-club-and-she-must-be-stopped
    discussion for those of us who've listened to it. She has done so much
    for our society and for the kingdom and it's disappointing that her
    ministry is dismissed or opposed. Wouldn't it be nice if Christians made
    the news for furthering Oprah's work and bringing healing to those who've been hurt? rather than for
    bashing the woman who altered our entire society to do just that? I think
    that's all that oranges was saying.

  10. Thanks for being humble here. Sometimes we step into a world of discourse (e.g., Oprah-bashing) that we don't mean to step into. I, myself, hang around Oprah-idolaters rather than Oprah-bashers, so I read your post in that light. She has done good--but I have reluctantly concluded that salvation does not lie in "raising awareness."

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