Oprah’s Best Life and Bad Advice

15 Jun

I am not an avid Oprah watcher, but I tuned in the other day and was provoked to frustration.  A Newsweek article caught my attention recently about some bum advice that aired on her show, and I was curious.  The title of this particular episode (not the one from the article) was something to do with “How to Live Your Best Spiritual Life,” so I turned it on for background entertainment while I created some envelopes (alas, another story for another day).  

Now, I know “spiritual” is a buzzword as of late, and it is not religion-specific.  It seems to have lost all meaning whatsoever, and now, a broad spectrum of stuff can be called spiritual.  This irks me in and of itself, but what really bothered me was the so-called panel of “experts” – particularly the one who represented my own faith, Protestant Christianity.  I am not hating on anyone’s beliefs, but I get annoyed with panels like this.  The religions are so very different from one another, and it bothers me that Oprah seems to promote the “just be spiritual, any way you feel like it” mentality.  Not one of the panel members (*that I saw) stood up for their beliefs and said, “Well, actually, it’s not all the same…”  

I feel worried for all the people who called in for advice that day and were answered with, “Don’t worry, be happy, the world is full of sunshine, smiles, and rainbows! Those bad things were never meant to happen to you, not at all!  God does not give you sickness – He wouldn’t do that!”  Okay, so the sunshine and rainbows nonsense might have been a slight (very slight) exaggeration.  

This is the stuff that makes me wonder: in what way are these callers supposed to feel comforted?  How is a world where “God is in control of things, and He has your best in mind – despite your understanding” a more bitter message to preach than “God didn’t do that to you, wouldn’t do that to you – things just happen and he has no control over it?” 

First of all, that’s very self-centered advice – but, I forget, it’s all about us, isn’t it?  Let’s just say it is, for now.  If bad stuff is going to happen to us, isn’t it more comforting to believe that:  a) God is in control of it, loves us, and has our best in mind – rather than being told:  b) He is loving, but not powerful over that stuff?  

It seems the issue on the Oprah show is, “How do we make people feel better while not stepping on any religious toes?  What can we say that is what they want to hear, and sounds – on a surface level – true?”  

No matter what you believe, perhaps you agree with me – if Oprah is going to bring in spiritual experts (or, for that matter, experts of any kind), they should accurately represent the area over which they have the so-called expertise. No matter what your religion, you most likely agree that we are not all the same, right?  Does it disappoint you to see a panel of people representing you who pretend we all blend together in our very different beliefs?  Or, if they are not pretending, a panel of people who actually believe spirituality is no more than feeling/doing something and calling it spiritual?  

Sadly, if I was one of those poor people in desperate need of hope and advice, the impression I would walk away with from this episode is “God is loving, but not in control – and more importantly, everything’s all good!  Just do what you can to be spiritual, and everything will be okay!”  This watered-down Kool-Aid does little to heal wounds – it just puts a band-aid over it and makes it look a little better.  The expert from Christianity just agreed, and let them continue to believe this, and I think it’s sad.

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4 Responses to “Oprah’s Best Life and Bad Advice”

  1. Michael Monday / 15 June 09 at 5:45 pm #

    Well, it seems you have a few thoughts going on here. The first is what defines spirituality. I am under the impression that you are of the opinion that only a Christian can claim spirituality? Does spiritualty have to be tied to God as you understand God to be, and everyone else is wrong? It is possible, I am not arguing the thought, simply asking the question.

    Secondly is some thoughts about God, and what exactly God does. Not to be silly, but I do not see God’s hand in my anthill in the backyard, other than the idea that the ants are alive because God created them. After that act of creation, it appears that God has let those ants in my backyard evolve as ants will, or act as is an ants nature.

    It may be possible, just as the bible suggests that on the seventh day God rested. Perhaps as the bible suggests at least up to the flood, God today still takes a hands off approach to us, the earth, and unverse. It is quite hard to have free will, if we do not.

    Perhaps if I may suggest, if we are not allowed free will, and God does not take a hands off position with us, we would not be having this discussion? The matter would be decided for us before we came to exist?

    Some of the things I ponder at any rate.

  2. owlandsparrow Tuesday / 16 June 09 at 8:44 pm #

    Hey there, Michael! Thanks for taking time to think about my post and to leave your comment – I hope to have time to reply in better detail tomorrow. Just wanted to let you know I appreciate your post.

  3. owlandsparrow Wednesday / 17 June 09 at 8:47 am #

    Okay, I have more time to think now. Thanks so much for your comment, and I’m glad my post got you pondering things. You keep me on my toes! :)

    In response to your thoughts:

    - Though I am a Christian, I am not blind to the fact that there are many religions and many ways to be/feel spiritual. As a Christian, I am a spiritual person; on the contrary, merely being spiritual does not a Christian make. So no, I don’t think Christians are the only ones who can claim spirituality.

    - I also know there are as many opinions out there as there are people – this definitely holds true within Christianity! My frustration with the Oprah show panel is that they didn’t really acknowledge these differences. Perhaps they could have been more explicit in describing which branch of the Christian faith he represents. If I had tuned in oblivious to the many denominations of Christianity, I’d think all Christians believe exactly as he does, which is not the case.

    - Though I know not all agree with me, I feel it is more biblical for a Christian to say God is powerful over all things than to say He is loving but doesn’t have a hand in our lives. The man representing Christianity reminded me of Job’s friends in the Bible – great intentions, unhelpful advice. Here’s a link to a summary of Job – it has a lot to do with this, actually (the whole “Does God have a hand in the pain I suffer?” question):

    http://www.bookofjob.org/quick%20summary2.htm

    It’s kind of long, but I found it interesting and applicable.

    Some thoughts on the questions you raised near the end of your comment:
    - Before I write anything, know that I’m writing from a belief that the bible is true. I totally understand that if you don’t agree with that, you may not agree with what I say. Whatever your beliefs, I’m just trying to point out that the actual written words of the bible support the following ideas:

    - The bible says God created man in His image…ants were merely created. (Genesis Ch. 1&2) I think the bible supports the belief that God created man as special and different from the rest of creation, which man was to name and rule.

    - You made an interesting point, that perhaps God did rest until the flood. One exception that I can think of is in the garden, right after Adam & Eve sinned – God had direct interaction with them (Genesis 3). However, post-flood, the Bible supports God’s very clear interaction, especially with Israel. He communicates quite often with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and later, Moses. (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)

    - The free will v. predestination thing – I will not pretend to be an expert here! I feel it could be a combination of both. This is one reason Lost (the show!) is so intriguing to me, especially this season. I think they’re doing a good job exploring the long-standing debate over this issue. Anyway, I think the Bible supports both God’s hand in our lives as well as our ability to think, reason, and make decisions. It’s not explicit on how limited those decisions are – can we only choose one thing? Do we have a limited several choices? Does God just know His creation, and therefore we have total freedom – but, He has total knowledge and that’s why He created us that way in the first place? I don’t know the answer. I believe what the bible supports – God is good, wise, loving, faithful, just, powerful, and all-knowing…among other things. Knowing those things is more satisfying, to me, than knowing the answer to the free-will v. predestination debate. But that’s just me. I know some people for whom this is a deal-breaker question, but we are all different.

    Wow. That was kind of long – thanks for sticking with me. Thanks again for getting me to ponder along with you! Hope you have a great day!

  4. Michael Wednesday / 17 June 09 at 5:22 pm #

    Wow, thank you for such a well thought reply, that is a post in and of itself!

    I agree with your points, especially about Christianity. Though the nunbers change daily, I have heard or read of thirty-eight thousand flavors of Christianity sprinkled around the world. I may make it plus one.

    I did not watch this Oprah show, but I find myself at times talking back to the television, sometimes with strong emotion, so I understand your feelings on the matter.

    Thank you for the Job link, it is a good read and I will think on it.

    For my ants in the back yard, they have not yet shared with me their concept of God an creation, but I think God has directed them to defend what they feel is theirs to the end, lol! Sorry, a bad joke on the human ego.

    Once again thank you! I am looking forward to more great reading of yours.

    Michael

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