Where Has Oprah Taken Us?: The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman

Overview

New York Times best-selling author, Stephen Mansfield, traces the fascinating and influential life of Oprah Winfrey, profiling her quest for spiritual enlightenment―a well-publicized journey featuring a caravan of experts, mystics, and gurus―all claiming to have a prescription for inner peace and personal well-being. Mansfield shows how Oprah's story fits into our larger cultural experience and reveals why her spiritual discoveries have resonated so loudly in today's popular culture. In so doing, he sheds needed ...

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Where Has Oprah Taken Us?: The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman

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Overview

New York Times best-selling author, Stephen Mansfield, traces the fascinating and influential life of Oprah Winfrey, profiling her quest for spiritual enlightenment―a well-publicized journey featuring a caravan of experts, mystics, and gurus―all claiming to have a prescription for inner peace and personal well-being. Mansfield shows how Oprah's story fits into our larger cultural experience and reveals why her spiritual discoveries have resonated so loudly in today's popular culture. In so doing, he sheds needed light on the dangers of a spiritual journey fueled solely by a desire for self-actualization.

In the end, we find that the story of Oprah is, in fact, the story of us―of a generation searching desperately for something meaningful to believe in.

"Wow. Stephen Mansfield reveals the Oprah story no other dares to telland with a two-edged sword that rightly divides the truth from the lies."STAR PARKER, nationally syndicated columnist and media commentator

"As a lens can focus all the sun into one searing spot of incandescence, Where Has Oprah Taken Us? focuses the vastness of popular culture through the lens of Oprah's amazing life to bring us this towering and insightful story. Stephen Mansfield offers us an unvarnished account of Winfrey's life (and our own spiritual wandering) told graciously and irresistibly. You will be thrilled, disturbed, and astounded, but ultimately inspired and uplifted."RABBI DANIEL LAPIN, American Alliance of Jews and Christians

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  • May11_4/Stephen-Mansfield_Where-Has-Oprah-Taken-Us_9781595553089_BB_759487a1195460c57d1c4be81807935d
    May11_4/Stephen-Mansfield_Where-Has-Oprah-Taken-Us_9781595553089_BB_759487a1195460c57d1c4be81807935d  

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this work, Mansfield (The Faith of George W. Bush) takes exception to the cafeteria-style personal religion that he ascribes to Oprah Winfrey. Though he begins by proposing to concentrate on the ideas behind Winfrey's spirituality, he doesn't hesitate to characterize Oprah or her spiritual teachers as ambitious, self-absorbed, or silly. Mansfield believes that history gives credence to Christianity but seems less willing to extend this credence to Eastern religions, on which much of Oprah's spirituality is based. He features worrisome quotes from some of her "gurus" such as Marianne Williamson and Deepak Chopra; however, he reuses the same examples over and over. Mansfield does make strong arguments that Winfrey's miscellaneous spiritual practices do little to explain evil or place an individual's focus on something other than himself or herself. He finds most troubling this implied replacement of a separate God with the self. VERDICT Although not for Oprahphiles, this flawed work will still be of interest to readers concerned with the direction of spiritual and religious life today.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595553089
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/11/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,449,422
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Mansfieldis theNew York
Timesbest-selling author of Lincoln's Battle with God,The Faith of
Barack Obama,and Benedict XVI, Searching for God and Guinness, andNever Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill.Stephen lives in Nashville,
Tennessee, with his wife, Beverly. For more information, log onto www.StephenMansfield.tv.

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Read an Excerpt

Where Has Oprah Taken Us?

The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman
By Stephen Mansfield

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2011 Stephen Mansfield
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59555-415-4


Chapter One

Oprah Rising

Life is like a great big roller coaster. Everything in life don't happen like it's suppose to.

—Outkast, "Humble Mumble"

For those who wish to know the spiritual journey of Oprah Winfrey, there is a fracture, a fault line, that must be recognized. It separates all that came before it in her religious life from all that would unfold after. It is a partition in time of the kind historians delight in, a turning point like those in the novelist's tale, and it is essential to understanding what would become the Oprah Winfrey brand of faith.

This great divide occurred when she was in her twenties and working as a reporter at Baltimore's WJZ-TV. She was also attending Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in those days, and it was there, on a Sunday morning as she sat listening to a sermon by the Reverend John Richard Bryant, that the rupture began. The theme for the day was the oft-repeated Old Testament assertion that God is "a jealous God" (see Ex. 20:5). Winfrey later recalled the moment:

I was just sitting there thinking for the first time after being raised a Baptist ... church, church, church, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday ... I thought, "Now why would God, who is omnipotent, who has everything, who was able to create me and raise the sun every morning, why would that God be jealous of anything that I have to say? Or be threatened by a question that I would have to ask?"

Doubt settled into her soul. What she had been taught of God and Christianity all those years in church suddenly seemed uncertain. She began reaching for some broader, more accessible scheme of truth than what she had been told. Nearly by the end of Bryant's sermon, Winfrey had taken her first steps toward a new faith. "I was raised to not question God. It's a sin. But I started to think for myself ... and that's when I really started, in my mid-twenties, my own journey towards my spirituality, my spiritual self."

It was the kind of epiphany upon which destinies turn, and yet it is surprising that a single theme from a single sermon might lead to so much. It is particularly surprising given that Winfrey might easily have drawn far different conclusions about God being a jealous God from the ones that she did, as we shall see.

Obviously, other factors were at work in her soul. Undoubtedly, there were already fissures in her faith before that Baltimore Sunday morning. There had to be more than just one troubling sermon to account for the new trajectory of her spiritual life and for her discarding of much that she had taken as true before that day. Given the implications of this breach both for Winfrey and for the world, we should ponder her life prior to that critical moment for some understanding of how this turning point came about.

The Mississippi Years

Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, on January 29, 1954. A town of some six thousand at the time, Kosciusko was named for a Polish general who fought on the side of colonial forces in the American Revolution. Perhaps some of his heroism seeped into the people of the tiny Mississippi community. Its other famous citizen was James Meredith, the courageous civil rights leader who was the first African American to risk enrolling at the University of Mississippi.

There has been much debate and mythmaking about Winfrey's childhood, and it has obscured the hard facts and harder experience of black life in rural Mississippi in those days. It has also obscured the character and drive of the people who are the true heroes of the Oprah Winfrey story.

Young Oprah Gail was born to an unwed mother, Vernita Lee, but was raised in the arms of an extended family of such faith, generosity, and affection that it is not hard to understand how greatness might arise from it. At the heart of this family was Hattie Mae, Oprah's grandmother. A stern but loving and industrious woman, Hattie Mae was the granddaughter of slaves and possessed only a third-grade education. Her husband, Earlist, never did learn to read. Yet she would raise six children, and she would create such a gracious and virtuous culture around her that it would influence her famous granddaughter all her days.

We should remember that this was during the darkest season of the Mississippi story, when the state was the poorest in the nation, when racism roamed the night in white sheets, and when poverty crushed African American lives underfoot. For rural blacks, indoor plumbing was as much a dream as respect from white society. A black man faced with an approaching white on a town sidewalk was expected to step into the street when he passed. To vote was, in some parts of the state, to risk one's life. Lynchings were not unknown, and wise blacks taught their children to distinguish good whites from bad whites as a skill of survival. Faced with such conditions, blacks clung to their faith, to each other, and to the belief that character and righteousness would ultimately prevail. These certainties produced the nobility and determination that eventually became the bedrock of the civil rights movement.

Of character and righteousness Hattie Mae Lee knew much. She is remembered as the warm center of her family and an influence for faith and good works in her town. To help keep her family fed, she cooked each day for the local sheriff's office. She was also a skilled homemaker and had the devotion and discipline to transform a wooden house three miles outside the city limits into a thing of beauty, a gathering place lovingly remembered through the years. Katharine Carr Esters, Oprah's cousin, recalls that

Aunt Hat kept a spotless house.... It was a wooden, six-room house with a large living room that had a fireplace and rocking chairs. There were three big windows with white Priscilla-style lace curtains. The dining room was filled with beautiful Chippendale furniture. And in Aunt Hat's bedroom she had this beautiful white bedspread across her bed that all the kids knew was off-limits for playing on.

It is now well known that the unusual name "Oprah" came about as the result of a clerical error. Vernita, likely shaken and unsure at the birth of her first child, allowed her Aunt Ida to suggest the new baby's name. It would be "Orpah," Ida decided. This was an odd choice. Orpah was the obscure name of the sister-in-law of the biblical figure Ruth. According to the ancient story, the two women married brothers who soon died. Ruth decided to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and care for her in her old age. Orpah, after much weeping and show of affection, simply left. She would become a symbol of showy emotion without commitment, and according to the Jewish historian Josephus, she would also become an ancestor of the fearsome giant, Goliath, nemesis of King David. Orpah was not a name that would have evoked noble themes for those who knew their Scripture, and perhaps this is what Ida intended. Fortunately, the midwife at the child's birth, Rebecca Presley, inverted the letters in the biblical name and entered "Oprah" instead.

There was another oddity on the birth certificate. The father of Oprah Gail Lee was listed as a man named Vernon Winfrey. Vernita had identified him as one of three men she had been with and the most likely candidate for father of the child. Vernon, a tall, slim, kindly man who worked as a coal miner, took Vernita at her word and accepted Oprah as his own. He would become the only father she would ever know, and he would do much to shape Oprah's character and thus the woman the world would one day celebrate. Years later he would realize that he was not the child's father. By then, it wouldn't matter. He had invested too much, loved too deeply. Oprah had already become his child in every sense that mattered.

Since Oprah's mother was an unwed teenager who worked off and on as a maid, mother and daughter lived in Hattie Mae's home and enjoyed the fruits of that kind woman's character and liberality. The family was poor by nearly every standard, but hunger was always kept at bay and the home was filled with storytelling, laughter, and warmth. By all accounts, Oprah lacked for nothing. Her grandmother doted on her. Hattie Mae worked for a wealthy white family named Leonard, owners of the main department store in the area. Often Hattie Mae would return home from work carrying clothes, toys, and books the Leonards had sent along as gifts. Little Oprah had everything the Leonards' daughters had, family members recall, and this was an astonishing grace given the times and the vast economic chasm between black and white.

Besides providing richly for her granddaughter, Hattie Mae also fashioned her early character. "I remember when I was 4 watching my grandma boil clothes in a huge iron pot," Oprah has said.

I was crying, and Grandma asked, "What's the matter with you, girl?" "Big Mammy," I sobbed, "I'm going to die someday." "Honey," she said, "God don't mess with his children. You gotta do a lot of work in your life and not be afraid. The strong have got to take care of the others." I later came to realize that my grandmother was loosely translating from the epistle of Romans in the New Testament—"We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak" (15:1). Despite my age, I somehow grasped the concept. I knew I was going to help people, that I had a higher calling, so to speak.

On Sundays, the child was dressed up and trotted off to Buffalo Baptist Church. It was there, as in Hattie Mae's home, that the essentials of the Christian faith were embedded in young Oprah's soul. Books and materials being in short supply, children were encouraged to learn their "pieces"—memorized Bible verses and stories, favorite religious poems—and to recite them often before appreciative grown-ups. It was how a caring community assured that their faith lived on in the next generation. At home, Hattie Mae taught her granddaughter the Bible stories so dear to her. This was done with drama and devotion. Oprah took to it with zeal. In time, she perfected the story of Daniel from what she had learned from Hattie Mae and from the poetry of the black pulpit. She delighted in retelling the tale and was not beyond playfully hitting an adult to announce the start of a performance. She came to love Scripture, first its drama and later its meaning, and this early religious education served to awaken both her imagination and her gift for oratory.

It is touching to consider how devoted to learning Hattie Mae's family was. The common slur is that rural Mississippi negroes of the era were ignorant and happy to be so, that an innate practicality of mind kept them from valuing higher thought and literacy. It is a lie. Though Hattie Mae had only a third-grade education she taught Oprah the shapes of her letters as soon as the child would sit still long enough. An uncle then taught Oprah to read. In fact, she was so well taught at home in those early years that when she began school she had already learned sufficiently to bypass kindergarten and enter the first grade. This was fruit of the family's understanding—an understanding widely shared in the black community through the influence of Booker T. Washington and others—that education would empower the black man's rise. Oprah's cousin, Katharine, absorbed this belief and later became the first in the family to earn a college degree. "It took me twelve years of night school to get that diploma, but I finally did it ... I bought a thesaurus and read it like a novel."

Katharine's achievement could not have been made easier by the economic devastation that befell her community in the late 1950s. Apponaug Cotton Mill, the town's largest employer, closed and jobs became so scarce that many blacks in the area decided to move north in hope of work. They thus joined what became known as the Second Great Migration of southern blacks into northern cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee. Already two million had moved north in the First Great Migration of 1920 to 1930. Now, for the same reasons as before—southern racism, northern economic opportunity, and hope—five million more made their way north from 1940 to 1970. Oprah's mother was among them. In 1958, realizing that there was no future for her as a maid in a declining economy, Vernita asked her Aunt Katharine to drive her to Milwaukee. Oprah stayed behind. She was four and a half and spent the next eighteen months of her life being raised by her grandparents.

Vernon, Vernita, and the War in Oprah's Soul

What the family recounts in hushed tones is that Vernita was soon swept up in the loose morals of a big northern city. She spent her money unwisely and gave her heart and her bed to a succession of men. She had a second daughter, Patricia, by one man in 1959 and then her first son, Jeffrey, by another man in 1960. She was in her mid-twenties, away from her moorings and caught up in a lifestyle she could not control. It would mark Oprah's life all her days that at this moment she rejoined her mother in Milwaukee. Her grandfather had recently died and this left sixty-year-old Hattie Mae to raise the child nearly alone. Soon in ill health, she could no longer bear the responsibility, and Oprah was shipped north.

It did not take long before all concerned realized that Oprah could not live permanently with her mother. Vernita and baby Patricia lived in a boarding house with rooms so tiny that Oprah had to sleep on the porch when she arrived. Having raced through a succession of low-paying jobs, Vernita was finally on welfare, and there was barely enough money to care for the two children, given their mother's habits. It was then that Vernon Winfrey reentered Oprah's life.

By 1959, Vernon was living in Nashville, Tennessee, and working for Vanderbilt University as a janitor. His life was pleasant. He had married Zelma Myers in 1958, a marriage that was happy and lasted until her death decades later. They lived in a brick house in East Nashville and were committed to their Baptist church and their community. Vernon had changed since those earlier, wilder days during which he had become embroiled with Vernita. He was more settled now, more dignified. He had become a man of genuine faith. Tall and lean with kind but somewhat sad eyes, he had come to understand the kind of character that was worth having, that would lead a man to better things. When he became a barber and opened his own shop, he hung a sign that proclaimed, "Live So the Preacher Won't Have to Tell Lies at Your Funeral." The words summarized the manner of the man.

When Vernita could no longer care for Oprah, the child was sent to live with Vernon. This began a season of shuttling her between Milwaukee and Nashville that left its mark. As Vernon later said, "It was a mistake. King Solomon taught long ago that you can't divide a child." Still, Vernon gave it his best. As an antidote to Vernita's meager, unstable world, Vernon offered love, discipline, and rootedness. "We welcomed Oprah and gave her a proper home with structure—schooling, regular visits to the library, a little bit of television, playtime, and church every single Sunday. I'd drive us to the Baptist church in my old 1950 Mercury and cover the seats to keep the lint off our clothes." There were children to play with in the neighborhood, trees to climb, and a community that pulled together in adversity. Oprah thrived and became the sweet, responsive child Vernon knew she could be.

In 1963, though, she returned to Milwaukee to be with her mother. This devastated Vernon. He knew what had happened. Oprah had chafed a bit under his stern rule and had complained to Vernita. Nearly ten and longing for greater freedom, Oprah yearned in particular to watch more television than Vernon allowed. Vernita, seeing her opportunity, told her daughter that if she would return to Milwaukee she could watch all the television she desired. Oprah took the bait and returned to Milwaukee. "I never saw that sweet little girl again," Vernon lamented years later. "The innocent child that I knew in Nashville disappeared forever when I left her with her mother. I shed tears that day because I knew I was leaving her in a bad environment that was no place for a young child, but there was nothing I could do about it."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Where Has Oprah Taken Us? by Stephen Mansfield Copyright © 2011 by Stephen Mansfield. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction....................ix
1. Oprah Rising....................1
2. The Turning....................35
3. The Age of Oprah....................75
4. Oprah's Spiritual Family....................117
5. Oprah's Favorite Things....................171
Epilogue....................213
Acknowledgments....................217
About the Author....................221
Notes....................223
Index....................233
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2012

    The first thing that I would like to say is that before reading

    The first thing that I would like to say is that before reading this book I had very little knowledge about Oprah Winfrey let alone know about her roots and spirituality. The book “Where Has Oprah Taken Us? - The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman” by Stephen Mansfield recounts her fascinating life and all that went into shaping her as she is today, both the good and the bad, chronicling her resolve and her beliefs that have evolved over the years and throughout her life. Oprah thought started off as a Baptist has been influenced by numerous beliefs and practices which in my opinion does not go well with a celebrity, more so if that celebrity happens to be the icon of a significant section of society.
    Over and above I feel that instead of the title that this book has it should be called “Where does Oprah stand?”. I did not enjoy reading this book as much as I had looked forward to it mostly because the subject dried as I read on.

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  • Posted May 3, 2012

    Where Has Oprah Taken Us? by Stephen Mansfield is a life story b

    Where Has Oprah Taken Us? by Stephen Mansfield is a life story behind Oprah Winfrey's success talk show and how her religious influence to the audience and the world has been. Very detailed and thoughtful observation by the author, yet still easy to read.

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  • Posted October 30, 2011

    A thought-provoking read -- worth checking out

    Where Has Oprah Taken Us by Stephen Mansfield is an absorbing, thoughtful examination of the role of faith in Oprah's success story. Directed at the average adult reader, Where Has Oprah Taken Us studies Oprah's beginning, her rise to success, and the contribution of her brand of spirituality to her life and the lives of others. I found the book to be a thought-provoking read. It inspired much self-examination and evaluation as to what brand of spirituality we each espouse and follow. Mansfield presents a strong, compelling argument that Oprah's brand of spirituality-the self-actualizing kind-is a counterproductive, misleading wandering. The author communicates that being overly focused on the development of the self--making that your religion in and of itself--separates one from the community, from the world. Oprah's journey to find spiritual enlightenment has been shared with millions of viewers, many of whom are from her own generation. Rejecting the tried and tested faith (in favor of putting one's own feelings first) has led Oprah on a fruitless journey, according to the author. Putting one's own interests ahead of tradition and the wisdom of the many who have come before, actually takes one away from the true objective: understanding one's purpose. This takes place within the context of a shared life in community with other human beings. The spirituality of self-actualization is a dead-end path as it starts and ends with the self. Disclosure Note: Thomas Nelson has been gracious enough to give me a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    Where has Oprah Taken Us?

    "Where Has Oprah Taken Us?" by Stephen Mansfield will be a magnet for many. With Oprah being a household word, readers will flock to this book. Most who have watched Oprah's show over the years love her. They may agree with some of her topics and disagree with others. But the general consensus is they like her and like her guests and topics of discussion. Some of those discussions have been difficult to watch, such as child and spouse abuse, murder and rape. Others have been enlightening. This book covers her personal life, her rise to fame, and her TV show and acts of charity and generosity. But the main thrust of the book is her faith journey and where it has led her.

    Raised as a Baptist, Oprah has made a 180-degree turn, and then another turn and another turn. She's studied many religions including most Eastern ones. And, according to Mansfield, Oprah has created her own "religion of self" based on the aspects of each religion she prefers. It was an interesting book about Oprah's life but I disagreed with the Mansfield attempt to blame her for leading her fans astray. If a fan is moved to the point that he or she abandons his or her own religion then that person was searching for something different anyway. If a fan is so wishy-washy that he or she changes each time Oprah features a new guest and new religion, then anyone could have changed that person's beliefs. If someone is strong in his or her faith, watching and listening to Oprah would have been interesting but not earth shattering.

    If you are searching, read this book - it may lead you somewhere new. If you are strong in your faith, read this book - it will be interesting but won't affect your beliefs. If you have no faith, then the book will still be interesting but have little or no effect on you. Me? It didn't affect me in any way other than to learn a bit about Oprah's childhood, climb to the top of her career, and her beliefs.

    Mansfield's "Where Has Oprah Taken Us?" is a quick read but only if you're an Oprah fan. If not, move on to read something with more substance.

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  • Posted October 25, 2011

    Oprah's Biography

    This book is about Oprah's biography and her spiritual beliefs. I found this book quite enlightening and engaging. Readers can relate to her spiritual life. If you're a big fan of Oprah and a christian, you must read this book. We all know that Oprah made a huge impact to everyone's life. She helped many lower income family, homeless and even lost people. She has a talent that brings smile to everyone. Even right now, she shared her experiences world wide. If your a follower of her, you know the Oprah's lifeclass. She's a wonderful woman with a good heart.

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  • Posted October 22, 2011

    A Question Worth Asking and an Answer Worth Reading

    In this biographical commentary Where Has Oprah Taken Us?, Stephen Mansfield answers a question that many have been unwilling or unable to ask. Oprah Winfrey has for the last twenty or so years been a dominating force in the world of entertainment and in the last ten years or so has taken on a much more iconic role in American culture, as she is venerated by millions of followers. Mansfield rightly asks the question of how Oprah has used this staggering influence to shape those who hold her dear and ultimately society at large, looking specifically at her religious or spiritual influence. He begins by taking us on a brief biographical tour of her upbringing and the major events that shaped her life. Then he moves on to discuss the key players in Oprah's evolving theology and how a symbiosis between these spiritual guides and the Oprah marketing machine led to the spread of a very New Age and often incoherent hodgepodge of beliefs amongst the baby-boomer generation. Mansfield's efforts here are well-worth the read. Oprah has indeed had a measurable impact on the beliefs of our culture. I have seen the names of her gurus come and go in my own circles--from Deepak Chopra to Dr. Wayne Dyer. The book is insightful and vigorous yet fair and kind. Mansfield's one weakness in this book is his inability to shake his own religious bias; however, this is a weakness that he himself perceives and points out to the reader as it happens. In this, his weakness becomes the strength of honesty. Where Has Oprah Taken Us? is an important book for those who wish to understand the beliefs of the world around them. *Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®dotcom book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*

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  • Posted October 16, 2011

    Exposed

    While Oprah has easily become a household word (and presence), one cannot deny her influence. She merely mentions a book on her show and it becomes a best-seller. Millions of people listen carefully to everything she has to say. There was so much about Oprah I did not know. I was not aware of the fact that she had rejected her Christianity that she had relied upon so firmly in her younger years. I was not aware that she believed there was more than one path to God and to enlightenment. However, it was the prayer that she gave at the "Prayer for America" that made me forge ahead and read the entire book as quickly as I did. In just weeks after 9/11, her prayer was as follows: "When you lose a loved one, you gain an angel whose name you know. Over 6,000, and counting, angels added to the spiritual roster these past two weeks. It is my prayer that they will keep us in their sight with a direct line to our hearts... Hope lives, prayer lives, love lives... [let not] one single life have passed in vain." Seriously--what does that mean? It sounds like nonsense. And that is just a foreshadowing of what turns out to be Oprah's blend of highly televised and publicized buffet table of spirituality. Stephen Mansfield, in Where Has Oprah Taken Us, focuses solely on Oprah's influence in areas of religion and spirituality. He gives the reader the detail background necessary to understand who Oprah was and where she came from without turning into a full biography. He then turns to how Oprah's current beliefs were formed, and from whom she pulls her source of inspiration. She relies heavily on people like Marianne Williamson (who essentially rewrites Christianity in her own terms), Eckhart Tolle, Gary Zukav, Ed Bacon, and Iyanla Vanzant. Essentially what results is a belief system that asserts that life as you know it is that way solely because of you. You are the center of your universe. If you are good and believe you are good--good things were happen. Likewise, bad things happen to you because of your bad thoughts. Yes, it sounds over-simplistic--but this is pretty much it. While loosely based on Hinduism, it even rejects those tenants and has become a belief system that has no grounding in anything at all, but is merely a "hodge-podge" spirituality that will only fail in true times of testing, trial and trouble. Now why is it important enough to write a book about how and what Oprah believes? Some reviewers say "who cares" and we should just be praying for her. Well, the problem is that Oprah asserts this belief system to millions of people. These are the people who drink in her words, buy the books that she promotes, and eventually use the language that she uses. This is dangerous. She is leading millions of people in a direction that is nonsensical, empty and void. Sure, it is easy to say that a person is solely responsible for what they believe, so why blame Oprah. But isn't it our responsibility to hold each other accountable? Particularly so if that person is so open and public about what they believe, actively pushing it as their platform an selling it to millions of people? Public figures need to be accountable for what they promote to the world. I learned much in this book that I will not soon forget & highly recommend it. I was provided this book for free from the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program, in exchange for my unbiased review. Thank you BookSneez

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    Oprah Takes Us Down The Road We Paved For Her

    I received a free copy of this book through the blogger reviewer program at Booksneeze in return for writing an honest review. I received no other compensation.

    Where Has Oprah Taken Us chronicles Oprah's spiritual biography and some of the cultural influences that have made her audiences so receptive to her eclectic spiritual ideas. It exposes the conflicts between traditional Christianity and Oprah's pastiche of beliefs drawn from widely divergent religious traditions. The premise is that Oprah, through her celebrity influence, has normalized the idea that religious truth is weighed more by how our feelings resonate with it than by scriptural evidence.

    Mansfield is a talented writer. I do think this is a book worth reading, but I can only give it 3 stars out of 5 because I think Mansfield turns a judgmental eye in the wrong direction and in doing so, kills the appeal of the book for anyone except those who already agree with him. This is unfortunate and ironic since the author made such a point of identifying himself as an evangelical.

    I agree that Oprah's faith is not in accord with the teachings of historical Christianity, for all of her laudable good works. Mansfield offers some eye-opening revelations about how Oprah arrives at her own version of truth, even if I also think he sometimes paints with too broad a brush. Before we pass judgment on Oprah, though, let's get the board out of our own eye. Oprah hasn't taken us anywhere except right down the road that we evangelical Christians paved for her. As a young adult trying to find God in the midst of residual pain from an unstable childhood and sexual abuse, she found in Christianity a set of burdensome rules, not grace. While I heartily wish she had investigated Christianity further, we are remiss if we do not accept our own responsibility in failing to communicate God's healing love to her strongly enough.

    What's more, we ourselves ensured that her future audience would find her brand of "how does it make me feel" spirituality appealing. We have failed to teach our youth or our converts how to discern real truth from subjective emotion. We have fostered a culture of Christian entertainment that glorifies celebrity and the opinions of celebrities. We have embraced a cult of personality by elevating pastors and performers to unrealistic heights. We have baited seekers to join our club with the things the world finds appealing instead of offering real community and real substance. We were making all of these mistakes before Oprah's rise to spiritual stardom. If Oprah's brand of feel-good-self-actualization disguised as spirituality has found a foothold among Christians or led seekers astray, we must blame ourselves first.

    I would love to see Mansfield turn his pen to the subject of what the Christian church might have done to produce a different outcome to the Oprah story. I don't mean to absolve Oprah from her considerable hubris or her unfortunate choices, but I think we should remember that Jesus reserved his sharpest words for church folk. I think church folk will read this book and find it right on the mark, enthusiastically highlighting in yellow all the parts they agree with that show where Oprah's theology is all wrong. Sadly, Oprah's followers will likely not rush to unite with them. It's a shame. We "evangelicals" are great at talking to each other, but we're often hopelessly inept at communicating with those outside the fold.

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  • Posted October 11, 2011

    Very Insightful, Christian Oprah Fans Should Read!

    "Where Has Oprah Taken Us?" a book by Stephen Mansfield takes the reader through Oprah's sometimes tumultous life and sometimes glorified life. As we travel through her life we begin to understand where she came from and how she traveled away from her faith during her lifetime. The author introduces the reader to the kind of "faith" Oprah has brought in front of her audience over the years, and even gives the reader an in depth evaluation of each of her spiritual guides.




    The book was a fast read, especially during the story of her life and how she came to fall away from the church into this "new age religion" she now extols to the country. I have to tell you that I watched the Oprah show from time to time, and I was completely in the dark about her faith, which the author states many people are unaware of. It became pretty clearly that while she portrays herself as a Christian she is by no stretch of the imagination a Christian. I was shocked to find out that she mostly follows the practices of Hinduism, but that really she kind of molds all different kinds of faith together into whatever suites her at the time.




    I found this book quite enlightening, and engaging. A must read for anyone who is both a Christian and a fan of Oprah. From this book I would say being both could be a danergous thing! Though the author is obviously writing from a somewhat biased opinion, that of a Christian, he does a great job of keeping his opinions to himself while he writes, unless it is in a special section, where he then makes his very personal comments. Comments that I very much enjoyed considering. Overall, I would recommend this book, it is an eye opening experience.

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    Oprah is STILL taking us places

    I received this book from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review. All Opinions are my own.
    Well what can I say. I didn't like it. This book is about Oprah, her religious beliefs, and her followers. There is also a lot of information about Oprah that I did not know before. The book was well written and very informative. I feel as though it lacked an ending. Oprah is not done yet, and is still taking us places. I also feel as though Oprah is just like any other baby boomer, in regards to religious beliefs. She is different because she is famous, and people tend to listen to her, no matter what she is saying. No doubt that she is extremely talented and well known. However who is really following her? Are people really following or are they just going along for the ride? I also feel as though this could have been a book about Oprah, rather then about her religion.
    Stephen Mansfield is the author. He starts the book by stating that he is catholic, and that there may be some bias involved. I respect that he told me this, but it made me think that the bias is big enough to have to tell his readers. Wherever Religion is concerned there usually is bias.
    All in all the book was a good read, It just did not keep me interested. I learned a lot about Oprah and religion. I also feel that the main theme of the book was that Oprah has the power to reach people. No matter what she is doing.

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  • Posted October 5, 2011

    good read

    Where Has Oprah Taken Us is a book written by Stephen Mansfield. This book was a wonderful read.
    Since a child, Oprah was a household name in my home. I remember my mother watching her faithfully every day at 4pm.
    Oprah has been in the lime light for a long time, and she has made a significant impact on a lot of different people and issues.
    The book tends to discuss the religiuos aspect of Oprah and her impact on today's society. The book kept my attention and was very interesting. It also opened my eyes to a lot of things that I did not know. If you are an Oprah fan, this is a good book to read.

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    Where Has Oprah Taken Us?

    I believe that most everyone has heard of Oprah Winfrey. Over the past twenty-five years, her daytime talk show has been wildly successful, while at the same time a roller coaster ride at best. In the beginning it was one of negativity, trash, filth, and the very worst of societal topics, thus earning her the name, as Stephen Mansfield writes, "Slime Queen of daytime television." At the end of its run her show had become positive. Her daytime talk show had become a launcher of careers, an influencer of people, and an encouragement for good around the world. What happened? Oprah started dealing in religion. In "Where Has Oprah Taken Us? The Religious Influence of the World's Most Famous Woman", author Stephen Mansfield takes an honest and in-depth look at the events, people, tragedies, and successes that have made Oprah Winfrey the cultural icon that she is today. Although she has influenced many in many areas, Mansfield chooses to write about her religious influence upon Americans and those around the world. Mansfield begins by looking at Oprah's early years growing up in the Baptist church. He shows what was the basis for her conservative evangelical faith and then what forces began to challenge that faith. As Oprah become more successful in her broadcasting and television career, she began to open herself up to and eventually embrace eastern religions. Mansfield explores her shift from a biblical faith rooted in the worship of God to an eastern type, meditation-driven spirituality rooted in the worship of self. Mansfield writes, "It is not going too far to say that spiritually she is the composite of all that her gurus have taught her and that to know her one must first know them." He then lists who those influential gurus are. They include Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, Gary Zukav, Depak Chopra, Rev. Ed Bacon, and Iyanla Vanzant. "Where Has Oprah Taken Us?" is well written, thoroughly researched, and intentionally balanced, allowing Oprah's words to speak for her. I found this book very informative and intriguing. I believe that with great influence comes greater responsibility. I believe Mansfield is right when he says that Oprah doesn't know who she is. Mansfield describes Oprah's faith system this way, "She found no tension in blending a Hindu version of reality with ancestor worship with chanting Hindu mantras with The Secret's Law of Attraction with yoga with an animistic honoring of the spirits in nature with a belief in self-divinity with channeling with astrology with karma with the Bible with the certainty that right spirituality is rewarded with wealth and well-being with prayer to whatever force is god with the confidence we create the evil we experience with the unwavering assurance that a super-natural destiny rules human affairs. This was the buffet of beliefs she had chosen for herself and that she urged others to embrace as well." I believe this book will be especially helpful to Christians. Anytime someone has the stage to influence millions of people, especially in the area of religion, to understand their beliefs is vital to defending a true biblical faith. If you place your convictions and standards on the altar of pride and self, you allow everyone else to define who you are. I recommend this book to all. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I

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    Posted October 4, 2011

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    Posted November 1, 2011

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