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By Ann Oldenburg, USA TODAY [Excerpts]

After two decades of searching for her authentic self — exploring New Age theories, giving away cars, trotting out fat, recommending good books and tackling countless issues from serious to frivolous — Oprah Winfrey has risen to a new level of guru. She's no longer just a successful talk-show host worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes' most recent estimate. Over the past year, Winfrey, 52, has emerged as a spiritual leader for the new millennium, a moral voice of authority for the nation.

With her television pulpit and the sheer power of her persona, she has encouraged and steered audiences (mostly women) in all matters, from genocide in Rwanda to suburban spouse swapping to finding the absolute best T-shirt and oatmeal cookie.

"She's a really hip and materialistic Mother Teresa," says Kathryn Lofton, a professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore., who has written two papers analyzing the religious aspects of Winfrey. "Oprah has emerged as a symbolic figurehead of spirituality."...

...Although the concept of the Rev. Oprah has been building through the years, never was it more evident than this season of her talk show, during which she conducted the public flogging of author James Frey. Feeling stung and embarrassed after endorsing his memoir about addiction, A Million Little Pieces, which turned out to include exaggerations and falsehoods, Winfrey had Frey on the show to do an about-face.

"I left the impression that the truth is not important," she said on the show. "I am deeply sorry about that because that is not what I believe."

It was a watershed Winfrey moment, showing herself as not only a talk-show host with whom you don't want to mess, but also someone who is fully aware of the power of her own image. Think back: She appeared in New Orleans to take on the government after Hurricane Katrina hit last August, and she sent a message to us all about civil rights as she stood by the casket of Coretta Scott King in February. Last week, she shed a tear with Teri Hatcher over sexual abuse memories, and she jumped on the Darfur bandwagon, encouraging viewers to support refugees there.

"She's a moral monitor, using herself as the template against which she measures the decency of a nation," Lofton says...

...Love her or loathe her, Winfrey has become proof that you can't be too rich, too thin or too committed to rising to your place in the world. With 49 million viewers each week in the USA and more in the 122 other countries to which the show is distributed, Winfrey reaches more people in a TV day than most preachers can hope to reach in a lifetime of sermons.

"One of the things that's key," says Marcia Nelson, author of The Gospel According to Oprah, "is she walks her talk. That's really, really important in today's culture. People who don't walk their talk fall from a great pedestal — scandals in the Catholic Church, televangelism scandals. If you're not doing what you say you do, woe be unto you."

Read more.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All that and spending Tuesdays with Morrie. She's good.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

It's that last paragraph that speaks volumes of truth about leading in anything today: living what is taught.

Excellent reminder.

Blogger NerdMom said...

I had someone tell me recently that she really was starting to listen and adopt some things that I said and believe. She said it is because she has been watching me (for 10 years) and I actually live what I say I believe. It amazes her to find someone who is real and not always posturing and she is 50. I think what draws people to Oprah is her transperancy and her walking her talk. She is open that she has personal desires (expensive sheets, etc;) but helping others is important. What saddens me is that she isn't taking all this attention and crediting Christ (I believe I have heard her claim Chrisitianity) for helping her walk that walk and not just for making her rich.

Blogger Kathryn said...

i haven't fall under Oprah's spell, don't see myself doing so. I like to make up my own mind about things. Not that i'd spurn helpful hints or book recommendations, nor would i want to turn a blind eye to issues she may raise that should be raised. . . i just really don't see her as a 'guru'. . and i don't want to be running around with everyone else going "Baaaaa".

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shloggy, my friend, I went there earlier this week on the premise that if power corrupts, and ultimate power corrupts ultimately, do you think Oprah ever screws with us?

My wife watches her almost daily, thanks to the magic of the DVR, and thinks she's one of the greatest forces for good in the world today. Me? I just don't regard her as a spiritual authority. Therefore, (as I've said before), I feel perfectly comfortable disagreeing with her when I need to without it affecting my opinion or perception of her. She occupies the same place in my esteem whether or not I agree with her. So I can easily think that she's a force for good and lionize her without canonizing her.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Cacch, that's only because I'M the only source of spiritual authority you need in your life right? There's a SHLOG shaped hole in all of us that Oprah just can't fill. And don't you forget it.

Anonymous hollybird said...

So I guess we should call you Shloprah???

Seriously, I think ultimately we have to see whether or not what she is saying matches up with Holy Scripture. Is she a good and giving person?? Absolutely. Is she a spiritual authority? At least not for me.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's true!! TRUE!!! You're my Shloggi Lama. I will renounce my Oprostasy. You're the only plump black woman I need in my life.

Blogger GrovesFan said...

This is me bowing gracefully to my Shloggi Lama.


Blogger Paula said...

Shloggi Lama!!! That's a scream!

Hi everyone. Been gone a while...new job and all (Manager of Word Bookstore in Sydney CBD) all very exciting, but still reading my weekly Shlogs courtesy of Bloglines :)


Anonymous Dan da Man said...

I swear...

One day, Oprah's going to say some secret code and all 49 million viewers will rise up from their chair and immediately insist that she be named president of the United States.

There's at least some sort of i, Robot type of plot going on behind the scenes, I'm sure of it. Maybe Oprah is a robot controlled by a multinational corproation.

Well, if I don't get killed because of this post, you'll know I watch too many movies. If I do, you'll know I'm right. Either way, it's just scary how many people follow her every word.


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