WaPo's Quinn Bills Oprah as 'True Religious Leader'; Likens Her to the Pope

May 26th, 2011 7:07 PM

Sally Quinn pronounced Oprah Winfrey  "America's high priestess" and a "true religious leader" in a Thursday item on The Washington Post's "On Faith" website. Quinn, who waxed ecstatic over Oprah Winfrey's final episode, even went so far to compare Winfrey's last hurrah to a papal Mass: "The pope couldn't have done better."

The writer launched right into painting Oprah as a spiritual guru in her blog post, entitled "Oprah: America's high priestess":

Oprah's final show was a sermon. She finally came out as a true religious leader, an image she has skirted around for these last 25 years.

She is America's high priestess.

Quinn wasn't the only member of the mainstream media to liken Winfrey to a preacher. CBS's Michelle Miller used similar language during a report on Thursday's Early Show: "After a two-day star-studded buildup, her swan song was a love letter to her fans, part pep talk....part Sunday morning sermon."

After noting how the outgoing daytime talk show titan credited the Almighty during her last broadcast, the religion blogger gushed hard over the apparent effect of the TV star's discourse:

It would be hard for even the most hardened atheist to watch Oprah's final show and not have moments of asking how it could be anything but what she calls a "miracle," for a poor, black, abandoned, sexually abused, overweight woman to become one of the richest, most powerful and famous people in the world.

It wasn't just her own conviction about her faith which was so compelling, it was her manner in delivering her testimonial.

Predictably, Quinn then devoted some space to her usual bias against traditional Christianity, elevating Oprah as an example in the process:

Oprah Winfrey has discovered one of the most effective ways of imparting her beliefs to others. Not by telling them what to do, but by getting them to decide what to do for themselves....

In recent years, religious behavior have changed dramatically. More people have left traditional religions to join congregations which are self validating. Gone were the fire and brimstone, you're-all-going-to-hell-unless-you-accept-Jesus-Christ-as-your-personal-savior, the judgment, the fear, the punishment. Many religious and spiritual leaders have taken the lead on this, realizing people don’t want to be lectured to and made to feel guilty for common human failings. People want to feel hopeful, as though they matter. They want to feel empowered.

Oprah led the way. It may be a reach to say that she has changed the direction of modern religion, but people who have tuned into her show for 25 years have come to realize they are not perfect, that nobody is perfect and that she is not perfect.

The Washington Post saved her most reverential and glowing language for her subject for the closing paragraphs of her piece:

It was a flawless performance, an inspirational sermon: Direct and engaging. Tears rolled down the faces of her audience and her own voice cracked and she, too, teared up toward the end as she talked about her childhood as a lonely little girl.

"I understand the manifestation of the Grace of God," she concluded. There is "only divine order here."...

She ended her show saying, "To God be the glory!" putting her hands together in a gesture of prayer, then raising them above her head in a gesture of blessing.

As she exited the stage, misty eyed, the sweet guitar sounds in the background, the words of the song wafted through the air.

"The grace of God is nigh."

The pope couldn't have done better.

Maybe Sally can provide the founding donation for the First Church of Oprah.