On several occasions over the past several years I’ve found myself starting a conversation with these words: “I have a confession to make. . . “, followed by “The other day I was watching Oprah and . . . ” I usually get some funny looks as people begin to assume that I’m a big fan. No, I’m not a big fan. But there is something about Oprah and her show that I find somewhat mesmerizing. She and her show offer a great window into the world of contemporary culture.
Just yesterday morning I was chatting with a couple of bright conversationalists who I love engaging with at my church. We usually find each other after worship and sit for an hour to talk about whatever. One’s a Chiropractor who is very, very well read. A really thoughtful guy who knows a lot about a lot of stuff. The other is a college prof who I find absolutely fascinating. Our hour-long conversations jump all over the place. . . so I have no idea how we ever got onto Oprah. . . oh. . . I do remember. . . it started with me saying “I have a confession to make. . . ” After their initial shock wore off, we started to talk about Oprah, her attraction, and her legacy. One thing led to another and we began to discuss her strange blend of spirituality. In fact, just last Friday. . . when (I have a confession to make. . .) I was watching Oprah, she quoted a few of her favorite Bible verses. Not only that, she encouraged her audience to be praying.
One of my conversation partners got to thinking out loud about Oprah’s appeal. He summarized with things like she’s powerful, she does nice things for people, she gives things away, she’s full of surprises, she is engaging, she’s overcome much to get where she is, etc. He’s right. People are drawn to this lady who somehow gives them hope. . . . and hope is something we all want, crave, and need. Have you ever seen the looks on the faces of the studio audience when Oprah is introduced and walks into the studio?
It all ends – at least the daily TV show that’s part of what I call “The church of Oprah” – after three more episodes. The yearning for hope, however, will continue. Everyone who sits in that audience has – as the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us – “eternity written on their hearts.” Can we, as the Church of Jesus Christ, so deeply know the Word and the world that we will offer a compelling signpost that points to truth that is not muddied or watered down with human opinions and personal preferences? Can we offer an all-encompassing Christ-centered vision for life that satisfies the human-longing for significance and redemption?
And by the way. . . I really don’t watch Oprah that often. In fact, starting Thursday I won’t be watching her any more. I promise.