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Book Review: Where Has Oprah Taken Us?

September 28, 2011

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Stephen Mansfield has written a book that every Christian in America should read.

It is nothing if not thorough. It is remarkably insightful. It is generous, but it is exact – open-minded, but wise; decisive, but humble. It is a genuine search to understand the faith of “the worlds most famous woman,” and its impact on our culture.

But, to my surprise and delight, it is also about so much more than Oprah.

Mansfield’s search begins with Oprah’s story, and it’s a fascinating one. He gives an insightful account of her childhood, adolescence, and rise to fame. He goes deeper into the early-adulthood years that became the turning point in her religious beliefs, and in all of it Mansfield is kind.

Then, he steps back and reviews the past sixty years in America’s religious history. Instead of, “Where has Oprah taken us,” Mansfield seems to ask, “Where has our society taken Oprah?” It’s a fair question. He explains – neatly and insightfully – the spiritual path that the baby boomer generation has walked: the rise and mutilation of Eastern religions, the gradual acceptance of Satanism and the occult, and the blending of it all.

The next chapter turns to Oprah’s spiritual mentors and teachers. As Oprah herself has yet to write a manuscript, or clearly outline her spiritual beliefs, Mansfield suggests that just as revealing is to analyze the writings and clear positions of the people whom Oprah identifies as her inspirations, teachers, mentors, etc. Marianne Williamson, Eckart Tolle, Gary Zukav, and Deepak Chopra are all explored.

Finally, Mansfield does his best, based on Oprah’s own statements, to outline her fundamental spiritual beliefs. He draws no unreasonable conclusions.

In all of it, the author strives to write as unbiased a text as possible. He admits, however, that a completely unbiased writing is probably not possible by any author, and so reserves his opinions for occasional interruptions – set aside by wider margins and italics. I appreciated his efforts.

Where Has Oprah Taken Us? is about so much more than Oprah and her spiritual beliefs. It is a brief history of modern American spirituality, and it is a resourceful overview of the New Age movement and the spirit of our age. It draws together important subplots in our recent religious history, asks bold questions, and provides remarkable insight.

For the believer serious about sharing his faith and living in the world to fulfill the great commission in America, this book is a priceless asset.

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