• When Oprah Winfrey first backed Barack Obama as Democratic presidential candidate, a friend of mine wondered out loud whether Obama might be the anti-Christ and Oprah the false prophet! (See Revelation 13)

• The cover of the April 7, 2008, issue of National Review shows a caricature of Obama with the caption beneath reading: “Behold, A Savior is Born.”

• I ran into a blogger who asks when people are going to wake up and realize that Oprah is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” leading the sheep astray.

• Bill Keller, the host of Live Prayer, which has become the most successful online faith outreach in history, recently (on Fox News) named Oprah “the most dangerous woman on the planet.” He had a “high tech cyber debate” with her which can be seen here.

USA Today thinks the “divine Miss Winfrey” “has emerged as a spiritual leader for the new millennium, a moral voice of authority for the nation.”

Whoa! What is going on here? Obama – the rookie out of nowhere – may still be an enigma but we’re familiar with Oprah, who has been called the most influential woman in the world. For two decades she has been coming into our homes five days a week. Day in and day out we have watched her, both scripted and unscripted. We know her best friend, Gayle King, her man Stedman Graham, her dogs, what makes her cry. She has money (with $2.5 billion Oprah ranks #462 on Forbes list of billionaires) and power (anything Oprah promotes is an instant success.)

I think what endears Oprah to her viewers is that they believe she tries to speak the truth and wants to help others. She speaks of asking God what to do with her life and with her #1 talk show. She has built homes for Katrina victims, schools for South African girls, and is lavish in providing seed money for others to go forth and do good. Her philanthropies are many, both sung and unsung.

The Oprah Winfrey show ranges from silly (the best T-shirt) to sensational (the pregnant “man”) to superb (gifted children). She keeps trying to teach and elevate us. In fact, that seems to be where the problem lies. In recent years Oprah has promoted books such as The Secret of “unlimited love, happiness, health and prosperity which runs like a golden thread” through the lives of seers, sages, and saviors. Since the beginning of this year Oprah has offered daily classes on her XM radio station on the book A Course in Miracles. The author of A Course in Miracles, Helen Schucman, claimed that the book was dictated to her by an interior voice, which she identified with Jesus Christ.

Now Oprah has come up with Eckhart’s Tolle’s A New Earth. Close to four million copies have been sold since she started to promote the book on her show. She then put on ten weekly world-wide interactive webcasts in which she and Tolle taught why mankind must awaken or perish. Oprah has said this is the best thing she has ever done. She says she actually got down on her knees and asked God what she should do, and this is it. She believes Tolle is a prophet.

As in any book that is widely embraced, there is much in A New Earth that is good and insightful. Tolle’s pages on the role of TV in our lives are the best I’ve read. He speaks of God as Consciousness, Presence, Being, Source, Intelligence, Life. Page 276: “At that deeper level, all things are one. It is the Source, the unmanifested one Life. It is the timeless intelligence that manifests as a universe unfolding in time.” Though Tolle quotes Jesus often, for him Jesus was just one prophet among many.

In her interview with Bill Keller, Oprah says Jesus did not come to start Christianity but to show us how to live, that there are many paths to God. You are your own authority. You can define your own spirituality, choosing from a “rich array of gems from which to draw illumination.” “Begin to string a necklace all your own.” She calls herself a free-thinking Christian. Tolle’s is an easy spirituality with no personal God that one might call Father, no commandments, no heaven, and no hell. Just tune in, awaken, and stop resisting. I’ll admit I would be very wary of inviting just any spiritual Source or Intelligence into my space.

Oprah is a smart woman. She believes, as do I, that good people who have never heard of Jesus can find their way to God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (847):

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience–these too may achieve eternal salvation.

Also see footnote below, from Lumen Gentium.

But we DO need an awakening. Things seem to be reaching a critical mass. Is it time to turn from “that old time religion” and embrace a spirituality for a new age? Not if Jesus was who he claimed to be. Oprah (and the rest of us) have to decide whether Jesus was liar, lunatic, or Lord.

I believe Oprah has a good heart and is a truth seeker. If I were God, I would give Oprah an A for effort. Many people are praying for her. She reminds me of Abou Ben Adhem:

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?” The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men.”

The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest!

— James Leigh Hunt

Come, Holy Spirit!

“And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall do signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.” Mark 13:21-23.

From Lumen Gentium (Pope Paul VI,1964):
But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.