Oprah Winfrey is perceived like a public figure. She has become an icon of the American dream for the whole generation. There is no wonder that her outlook and spiritual beliefs evoke the interest of community and are able to shape the worldview of her viewers and fans. Even though there have been some debates about the essence of her spirituality, most researchers agree that her outlook is based on blending theological values of several religions from Christianity to Zen Buddhism, which are often summarized as the New Age. These beliefs, in their turn, affect her vision of family, money and career, sexuality, social concerns and the nature of God.
First of all, referring to Oprah's own words, it is important to say that her worldview can be characterized by respect to all major religions, as she believes that the core is the same for all of them, "One of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live and that we don't accept that there are diverse ways of being in the world, that there are millions of ways to please God and many ways, many paths to what you call God" (Eckman, 2011). These words prove that Oprah's outlook is rather spiritual than the religious one, even though the belief in the existence of God and his hand in the life of humanity is essential. This religious pluralism, in combination with faith, often allows researchers to refer Oprah to the New Age movement, which considers a blend of spiritual traditions as a norm. Responding to her guest's confession that she is an atheist because she believes in humanity and love, not in God, she says, "I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, then that is what God is. That is what God is. It's not a bearded guy in the sky" (Winston, 2013).
When discussing Oprah's vision of a family, it is worth saying that her own family history is painful, with a number of traumatic experiences, ranging from poverty to sexual abuse. However, when speaking of her family background, it was one of the most influential factors in shaping her spirituality, as her grandmother nurtured in her the faith in God. She was so absorbed by church life that even as a child she was labeled "a preacher" by her community for reciting passages from the Bible by heart. Decades later, she became a preacher for her audience at a new level. When she started living with her father, she became a member of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. However, it is probably the troubles of her childhood and youth that undermined her belief in traditional religion and urged her to seek for new forms of spirituality. At the same time, since her family was dysfunctional in many ways, having her own trusted and devoted family became one of true life values. So, she and her life partner Stedman Graham have been together since 1986, which proves that Oprah's attitude to family is traditional. However, the fact that they are still not officially married is in line with Oprah's break up with formal institutions for the sake of spiritual ones.
Speaking about Oprah's spirituality in relation to career and money, it is worth saying that she has gone far from rags to riches. She has spent her childhood on a poor farm, struggling to survive, and yet cherishing hopes for a better life. Wealth came to Oprah quite early, though, when she was just 32. Yet, she never forgot about her background and about misery that people might go through. Thus, her spiritual belief that a person does not have the right to enjoy their wealth alone, while so many people on the planet suffer is reflected in her attitude to money. Oprah has made charity one of her social missions, and believes that it is the main advantage of publicity to use one's voice to reach as many people as possible for the sake of improving the world. Her support of African people, especially African women, is in line with her own personal story. Knowing how cruel life can be to a black girl, she works hard to improve starting conditions for them. Education in her point of view is a key to a better life due to which a woman can know about her rights and is able to fight for her opportunities. Oprah is spiritually committed to helping others, which is her vision of wealth's purpose. She says that she does not feel guilty about her wealth because amongst other pleasant things, it gives her opportunities to help others, like building a special academy for girls in South Africa. She believes that rejecting her personal wealth is not the way out for those who is poor, "I do not know how me being destitute is going to help them" (Silverman, 2006).
How It Works
When discussing Oprah's worldview in relation to sexuality, it is natural that her own painful experience of childhood and adolescence cannot be ignored. Her own vulnerability made her tolerant and compassionate about other people's situations. Besides, she was among the first television presenters of her level to start the discussion of sexuality openly with her guests and viewers. She realized that the topic is tabooed to a certain extent, yet there is much controversy and pain that people have to deal with and not just because of their sexuality but because of no opportunity to share their concerns with others. On her show, Oprah discussed a variety of topics related to sex, starting with sexual abuse to new social trends like sexual fluidity when women tend to leave men for other women. Besides, Oprah demonstrates tolerance to diversity, which is one of her key spiritual principles. She is known to be gay marriages' advocate, and has invited gay stars to her show many times. She believes that "gay couples may strengthen the institution of marriage" (Peeples, 2013). In her mind, love between two people cannot threat traditional marriage; on the contrary, it can teach people to treat each other better. Surely, her openness to gay marriages is far from official religious values, yet they seem to be natural in the context of her own spiritual outlook.
All in all, it is possible to say that Oprah Winfrey does not belong to any formal religious tradition. Even though her roots are in Christianity, her personal story and development have made her rethink her values in the course of her private spiritual quest. Indeed, she was influenced by her own traumas that made her both strong and compassionate to other people, and willing to help them. Her outlook includes religious pluralism which presupposes that there are many paths to God, and tolerance to diversity of race, social status, nationality, sexual orientation and so on. Her wealth and popularity are used by her to help improve the world by means of charity and promotion of education, which she believes to be her mission. Oprah also tracks the major trends of spirituality that evolve today in order to be able to react to them and offer to other people.