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Living by Law: Moses or Oprah?

1 February, 2010

b picCheck out ‘Can You Live by Oprah Winfreys’ Rules?‘ by Shane Watson. This is an interesting article in reaction to the recent book by Robyn Okrant, Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk. Here’s Shane’s introduction:

You may think of Oprah Winfrey as a talk-show host, but, way before that, she is the world’s most influential self-improvement guru. Oprah’s mantra is Live My Best Life, and her mission is to get all of us to do just that by following a daily diet of expert advice, delivered via her media empire, which includes her show, radio station and O magazine. To see if it could be done, one fan spent a year following big O’s every edict and recording the results for a book called Living Oprah. On the eve of its publication, I’ve attempted the two-week, speed version, to see if her brand of self-improvement really can work.

This comes along the same lines as other very interesting books in this genre, such as A.J. Jacobs’s The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, or Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University.

All of these are explorations of Christianity or the Bible which often wholly miss the meaning of either (although there are some surprises). I talked about this sort of missing the forest for the trees in a former post, ‘Good Book,’ Bad Hermeneutic.

The thing that most struck me about this one, with all its mix of in-and-of-themselves decent and bad and just plain silly advice and practices, is that on one hand, Oprah sounds uncannily like Joel Osteen — and on the other, once again there is confusion about what it means to ‘live by law’: specifically, that before God genuine law-keeping is in fact the right path to true life, but only if you actually keep it. For this reason, Oprah and Osteen sound nothing like the ‘obedience of faith’ and the approach to living that flows out of and depends on the Christian gospel, the gospel of Christ’s law-keeping and faithful obedience to gain true life for all who look to and follow him alone.

Not Oprah — at least for everlasting life!

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