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.