Ross Douthat lays it out once again in his column on Oprah Winfrey–prophetess or president.
He pretty much sums it up as he catalogues her religious appeal to Americans.
I’ve written more about it over at Patheos for today. Go here.
The idea that Oprah could run for president should be the cause for ribaldry or jest.
Remember how easy it was for everyone to joke about the improbability of the Donald becoming president.
If he bullied his way into the White House who’s to say Oprah could not ooze her way into the White House with a bewitching mixture of New Age sentimental clap trap and tender hearted do goodism?
Ross’ column is also good on the analysis of religion in America today.
I have suggested that American culture is divided between three broad approaches to religious questions: one traditional, one spiritual and one secular. The traditional approach takes various forms (Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Orthodox Jewish) but its instincts are creedal, confessional, dogmatic; it believes in a specific revelation, a specific authority and a specific holy book, and seeks to conform itself to teachings handed down from the religious past. The secular approach is post-religious, scientistic, convinced that the laboratory and the microscope will ultimately account for everything that matters, while hopefully justifying a liberal society’s still-somewhat-Christian moral commitments along the way.
But in between secularism and traditionalism lies the most American approach to matters of faith: a religious individualism that blurs the line between the God out there and the God Within, a gnostic spirituality that constantly promises access to a secret and personalized wisdom, a gospel of health and wealth that insists that the true spiritual adept will find both happiness and money, a do-it-yourself form of faith that encourages syncretism and relativism and the pursuit of “your truth” (to borrow one of Oprah’s Golden Globes phrases) in defiance of the dogmatic and the skeptical alike.
I don’t get the Oprah thing, but I remember vividly several years ago at a Bible study, the discussion question was, “Who do you consider to be a modern-day prophet?” Two women in the group responded “Oprah.” And they were serious.