Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Author Fails to Answer His Own Question as to Where

Where Has Oprah Taken Us? The Religious Influence of the World’s Most Famous Woman by Stephen Mansfield is a frustrating read. Why, because Mansfield does not capture the extent of that influence at all.


He does a thorough job of highlighting the spiritual celebrities who frequented the Oprah show, but does not offer up what impression they really made on the audience. He tries to capture what impression it made on Oprah’s personal belief, but that is speculation and conjecture.

Another disappointment—the heavy reliance on Kitty Kelley’s Oprah biography. I have not actually watched an entire episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show and so Mansfield may be assuming a familiarity with the program in his readers that I don’t share. Still, it would be a much more substantive work and more true to the title if there was empirical evidence of influence.

Is it is possible that the people featured on the show were received as mere entertainment?

The strongest quality to the writing is a clear exposition of New Age, Postmodern relativism that glorifies the individual to a God-like stature. Mansfield does a good job of documenting how these New Age personalities (Iyanla Vanzant, Deepak Chopra, Gary Zukav, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson) contradict each other and logic and even the faith traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Tao, Zen, and Hindu).

He effectively points to Oprah Winfrey’s attempts to embrace all of these as inspiration and revelation—and that such a response to this is absurd.

Yet, he fails to finish that with the mark it really made on her viewers and fans. If Mansfield really believes that Oprah has become, “the priestess of an innovative brand of spirituality, one that was even reshaping the place and nature of religion in American life,” (xiii) he needs to make that case.

The book is an assumption that because Oprah highlights these works and words on her enormous platform it resonated in an impactful way with the viewer.

Perhaps it did, but Mansfield needs to demonstrate that, not assume it. This is an interesting compilation of modern humanism but does not accomplish what it sets out to do.

I read and reviewed this book as a part of Thomas Nelson Publishing Booksneeze program.

1 comment:

  1. "The priestess of an innovative brand of spirituality..." Really? Considering that there's nothing new under to sun, I find that statement to be ridiculous. Moreover, I don't think that Oprah herself holds such sway over her audience as to become their (ahem) priestess. But if Mansfield is suggesting such a thesis, then he needs to support it with some sort of data. Otherwise, it just looks like he's trying to profit from another's star status despite saying nothing in actuality.

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?