Everyone knows Oprah. Her show enjoys great rating and large followership. She can be considered the undisputed queen of heart-to-heart television, and numerous guests used her forum for their confession. Today the ‘Church of Oprah’ has cornered the market on celebrity confessions. No matter what seedy scandal or fraud has occurred, if you are a celebrity and tell Oprah all about it, you have a good chance for a fresh start.
What makes her show popular is that it reveals the failures, flaws, maybe even scandals that we have as humans. As we watch others confess, find grace, and a new beginning, we live apparently through them. Recently Lance Armstrong was on her show. The one-time world celebrated cyclist who broke records and established a name for himself but shattered his image when it discovered that he had used drugs to enhance his performance. Armstrong confessed that he has used banned performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his cycling career, most recently in 2005. He admitted that he used erythropoietin and human growth hormone, and that he had blood doped. Doping helped him for each of his seven Tour de France wins, Armstrong told Winfrey. According to USADA, samples from Armstrong taken in 2009 and 2010 as well are “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions”. This confession gave OWN, Oprah Winfrey Network, a glance in viewership.
Talking about redemption, shouldn’t church be the place to find it?
Jesus was known as the friend of sinners. While the religious leaders shunned him and eventually killed him, the Biblical record is clear that common people gladly heard him. I like how the The Amplified version of the Bible really delivers the message; “Now the tax collectors and notorious and especially wicked sinners were all coming near to Jesus to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes kept muttering and indignantly complaining, saying; ‘this man accepts and receives and welcomes pre-eminently wicked sinners.’”
With that kind of a crowd –pre-eminently wicked sinners – there would have been much need for new beginnings. It seems the crowd that used to run to Jesus gets on Oprah today. Why?
Jesus frequently denounced the self-righteous attitudes of religious people, while his arms remained wide open to sinners, prostitutes, tax-collectors, even to the thief on the cross.
Last year Oprah Winfrey stated “I have a dream of OJ Simpson confessing to me, and I’m going to make that happen”. If this confession was to occur, it would have to be because Mr. Simpson feels he needs to get something off his chest.
And getting things off our chest, has everything to do with two powerful human emotions – guilt and shame. Those two conditions attached themself to the first human, Adam, as described in the book of Genesis. When he, by his own choice, disconnected from God who loved him unconditionally, guilt and shame ensued. Contrary to what most people think God never turned his back on Adam, in fact God kept reaching. Still Adam, overwhelmed by his own shame, tried to re-invent new ways to deal with his guilt ridden conscience.
That has been the self-induced plight of humans ever since hence the beginning of religion. Adam and Eve dealt with their shame of nakedness by using fig leaves for cover. Religion, good works, or even the approval of Oprah can give the penitent sinner at least a fig leaf of temporary relief.
Church was supposed to be the place where anyone could find hope for tomorrow and God’s grace to take you there. After all the church was established by him who is referred to as having a throne of grace where we can boldly come to obtain mercy and help in time of need. Unfortunately some churches stand as the place when people’s faults and failures are ridiculed. Ridiculed by people struggling with their secret issues. They have now taken the place of Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time.
Our churches need to be the place where the lost, confused, rebellious, wicked and outcast are found. Afterall those were the crowd in Jesus time.
From Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, to Lance Amstrong, and every one of the rest of us – we need redemption. You can get it, by going straight to God through Jesus. If everyone`s arms are closed to you – God`s are wide open.