Oprah: Prophet, Priestess … Queen?

Source: The New York Times

In the fall of 2014, Oprah Winfrey ran a “transformative two-day live event,” a traveling roadshow that was held in eight cities around the country. For this interactive revival-tent experience, she was joined by her “handpicked life trailblazers,” authors and personalities whose work she considered essential for the theme of the roadshow, “The Life You Want.”

The trailblazers included, among others, Iyanla Vanzant, a spiritual teacher of New Thought, a 19th-century movement with links to Christian Science that emphasizes the idea of God as “infinite intelligence” and the human capacity to think our way toward godlike power … Rob Bell, an erstwhile evangelical megachurch pastor who has reinvented himself as an itinerant preacher of the vaguest sort of Christianity … Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love,” the megaselling memoir about finding religious ecstasy in India (as well as great pasta in Italy and a hot romance in Bali) … Mark Nepo, the poet-philosopher author of “The Book of Awakening” and other tracts on the spirituality of the everyday … and of course Deepak Chopra, the aging prince of the New Age.

I list these figures and their theologies because in all the thousands of words that the political press has written about Oprah since her Golden Globes speech on Sunday night invited 2020 presidential speculation, there has not been nearly enough focus on the most important aspect of Oprah’s public persona, the crucial and fascinating role she really occupies in American life.

We’ve heard about Oprah the entrepreneur, Oprah the celebrity, Oprah the champion of holistic medicine and the enabler of anti-vaccine paranoia, even Oprah the neoliberal (don’t ask). But though she is entrepreneurial and rich, Oprah is not Jeff Bezos; though she is famous, she is not the Rock; though she has elevated various dubious approaches to wellness, she is not Gwyneth Paltrow.

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