“Oprahdoxy.” This philosophy focuses on the self (and a little on others) and blends numerous forms of spirituality into one non-descript feel-goodism. It’s church building is the studio, it’s liturgy is the interview (and occasional dance from Tom Cruise) and it’s sacraments are the giveaway beauty supplies (or diet supplement, or book, or whatever). It’s vicar is Oprah Winfrey. This is Oprahdoxy, and its a brand of spirituality that rules the airwaves (and video streams) and has won millions of adherents. It has entered the homes and hearts of the world and promised people a spiritual vitality that seems to be lacking in their life. From the comfort of the recliner, you too can empower yourself for today. Or say yes to your “no’s.” Or envision a new vision. Or whatever. It’s a spirituality that seems to say good things, but in the end, really says nothing at all. It gives people an opportunity to be “spiritual” without having to be “religious.” It gives credence to everything that seems open-minded, yet closes its mind to anything asserting credence. Joseph Sunde writes about the phenomenon known as “Oprhadoxy:”
This is not about “love” as selfless, unconditional devotion to the other, tied to transcendent commitments and cultivated through relationships not of its own design. This is not, as the One True Guru might say, the last shall be first. This is cultural consumerism at both its highest and lowest — humanistic in its instincts, privileged in its priorities, and carefully glazed with all the right marketing to deceive itself that justice is at hand and Neighbor Love has the wheel. It’s as if human desire has grown so weary of natural constraints and so content with its own appetite that it would prefer to label self-indulgence as “self-help” and be done with it. It’s faux-self-empowerment for the self-centered, heart-religion as a mantle for hedonism.
What may seem like the most loving thing is actually the most harmful. What promises to feed the soul actually deprives it of nourishment. This is why “Oprahdoxy” (and other similar philosophies) tend to be so successful—they leave people wanting and coming back for more. The next big thing eventually fizzles. Like inviting people to a bonfire yet forgetting the matches, “Oprhadoxy” promises big results without the true means to make it happen. It’s the equivalent of Facebook for spirituality—only showing the good times and the happy moments, never the pain and sorrows of real life. Besides the unbiblical nature of this form of religion (because, it is a religion), the issue that should deter people the most from this brand of feel-goodism spirituality is its utter lack of power to deal with the reality of suffering in our world. No matter how good you feel about yourself, boats still capsize in South Korea killing hundreds of passengers. No matter how many times a day you meditate on the universe, numerous infants are still murdered by a mentally-unstable mother. No matter how many cleanses you have, spouses still cheat on each other and rip apart families and cause incalculable amounts of emotional anguish.
“Oprahdoxy” simply cannot account for why bad things happen, at least not in any meaningful sort of way. This is what consumerism does best. When bad things happen, you need to forget and indulge. Lost your job? Buy a new wardrobe. Husband cheated on you? Live it up with a night on the town. Your son or daughter is diagnosed with a terminal illness? Find solace in a bottle of the latest designer booze. This is not meant to sound crass at real issues which result in tragic outcomes, but this is to say that “Oprahdoxy” is simply unequipped as a philosophy or way of life to deal with such real-life issues. Sunde goes on to say
We’re all looking for a soul at rest, and we’re all looking for inner peace. But where God is Self and Self is God, we ought not be surprised when we find ourselves at the mercy of human depravity, stuck in first-world ruts of self-obsession and excuse-making, afflicted by our own prosperity and privilege. The “life we want” surely requires “something more,” as [Rob] Bell would say, but that certain something must be life-giving in its essence and orientation — absolutely, thoroughly, and completely.
The “Oprahdox” are ultimately at the mercy of depravity, whether they realize it or not. Some may be able to live the “Oprhadox” life and have a relatively easy and carefree existence, free from reflecting on the dire straits of a sinful world. Those ones, however, are usually writing the books and telling others how to do what they’ve been able to accomplish. And the cycle of consumeristic spirituality begins afresh. How can the “Oprahdox” elite deal with depravity and suffering? They simply don’t. There is no room for suffering when the best expression of spirituality is envisioning the best life for oneself and making self-love the priority. But when real suffering hits, where do the “Oprahdox” turn? Well, I guess they have to tune in next week and hopefully find out.
HT: The Federalist