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America’s Secret Christianity

According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, 80% of the U.S. is Christian. The percentage has always seemed high to me (especially when driving SoCal freeways), but demographic 180px-Cruikshank_-_The_Radicals_Arms.pngstudies like this and this seem to support those figures.

This could explain why Rep. Pete Stark’s profession of non-belief was such big news. The Secular Coalition for America, an association of eight atheist and humanist groups, offered a $1,000 prize to the person who could identify the “highest level atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States.” Apparently, they found their man.

What’s more shocking to me, however, is not that there’s a professing non-believing politician, but that so many of our politicians consider themselves Christian.

Okay, so I’m being judgmental. But the statistics just don’t jive. Especially when you look to the Bible as the arbiter of what it means to be a Christian. And maybe that’s our problem. We don’t.

Anyway, the stats took another hit when I stumbled upon The Secret in our local Costco. Call me out of touch, but it’s the first encounter I’ve had with this “ground-breaking,” “life-changing,” gazillion-raking new work. Far be it from me to not want to know How to Attract Prosperity and Create Harmonic Wealth Through Proven Principles. I’m big on “harmonic wealth.”

The website calls it

. . .The Great Secret of the universe. It has been passed throughout the ages, traveling through centuries. . . to reach you and humankind. This is The Secret to everything – the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth: everything you have ever wanted.

Zoinks! That’s a tall order! Everything? I’ve got this ugly growth on my. . . never mind.

story.jpgYet the key to The Secret’s success appears to be less its contents, than it’s handlers. Enter O. Yep, the Queen of Daytime Talk has studied, scrutinized and heartily endorsedThe Great Secret of the universe.” The result? Cha-ching!

Needless to say, there’s nothing “secret” about the info in this book. It’s rehashed, regurgitated gnosticism. In Oprah’s Ugly Secret, Salon columnist Peter Birkenhead roundly criticizes the omelette of overused ideas. The way I look at it, after the James Frey debacle, Oprah is playing it safe. I mean, you can disprove facts about people’s past (ala Frey). But how can you disprove “the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth: everything you have ever wanted”? It’s a no-brainer.

The sad thing is that, not only does Oprah have Christian roots, she postures herself as a friend of the religious. It is not a stretch to suggest that Oprah Winfrey has become, for many Americans, an incredibly influential spiritual leader. So here’s my question: If 80% of Americans are Christians, and the Secret is a mishmash of gnostic, non-christian, humanistic, fluffy self-help principles, who’s reading all these books?

We’ve one of two options: Either 80% of Americans ARE NOT really Christians, or the type of Christians they are is a big Secret.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Jeanne Damoff March 16, 2007, 1:54 PM

    If you’re out of touch, I am, too. This is first I’ve heard of The Secret.

    The quote about The Secret’s unlimited powers made me laugh. My alter ego, Marge, sometimes promotes her (imaginary) book, Advice for Everyone about Everything. She always gets a good laugh. Maybe she should actually write it, send it to O, and she could be laughing all the way to you know where.

  • dayle March 16, 2007, 8:04 PM

    We’re on a roll, Mike. I agree with you again. I don’t think Oprah is overcompensating for that last mistake.

    She has been trying to redefine Christianity for several years. She often uses the phrase “My God wouldn’t (insert modern christian thought here).”

    I believe she has fell into the trap of liberalizing Christianity. Everyone is good, no one is responsible for their own actions. And hell is too horrible for a loving God to let anyone spend eternity there.

    I think the statistic of 80 million evangelicals is closer to the truth. That’s roughly 27 percent. The rest just want to “claim” that they are on team Jesus.


  • janet March 16, 2007, 9:55 PM

    Okay, I admit it. When I’m cooking supper, I ping pong between Oprah and Ellen. I like to keep and eye on them. Anyway, I did see The Secret episode. There was this one Christian lady in the audience who kept asking very reasonable questions about how this secret-thing could jive with the Bible. Of course she was given all kinds of babbling answers about what Jesus really meant when He said such and such. And, Oprah insisted, “I’m a Christian and I endorse the Secret…”
    Well, the next day, Oprah had a show about women who realized after they got married that they were lesbians. She was pretty darned supportive of them too. Hmm.
    I think Christianity is as warped as Christmas has become in the minds of people. Redefined.
    Jesus didn’t say we’d have everything. He said we’d be persecuted, hated, strangers, aliens if we were doing it right. And the Bible has been around for a long time and readily available to most Americans. It’s NO SECRET.

  • Ame March 17, 2007, 12:41 AM

    priceless photo of oprah for this piece 🙂

    perhaps … if we began biblically defining christianity within the church, it might seep outside the walls of the church, too.

    btw – so glad i visit your site – i’d have totally missed that there even was a secret much less what that secret was!!!

  • Flo March 25, 2007, 6:29 PM

    The problem with “The Secret” is that it has just enough small truths to make it dangerous. And that, unfortunately, is what is making it attractive to church groups. There are a few scriptures in the Bible that can be taken out of context and used to back up this drivel. And that is precisely what is being done.

    God help us all!

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