Salon: Oprah’s ugly secret

kinnon —  March 6, 2007 — 7 Comments

Thesecret NewagenonsenseSalon takes apart the New Age crap of Oprah’s Secret – which sounds an awful lot like the Norman Vincent Peale nonsense that Joel Osteen is peddling. (I was in a Toronto bookstore last year where Osteen’s book was prominently displayed on the end aisle of the New Age section. I should have taken a picture. It was so appropriate.) From Salon:

The main idea of “The Secret” is that people need only visualize what they want in order to get it — and the book certainly has created instant wealth, at least for Rhonda Byrne and her partners-in-con. And the marketing idea behind it — the enlisting of that dream team, in what is essentially a massive, cross-promotional pyramid scheme — is brilliant. But what really makes “The Secret” more than a variation on an old theme is the involvement of Oprah Winfrey, who lends the whole enterprise more prestige, and, because of that prestige, more venality, than any previous self-help scam. Oprah hasn’t just endorsed “The Secret”; she’s championed it, put herself at the apex of its pyramid, and helped create a symbiotic economy of New Age quacks that almost puts OPEC to shame.

A church I once attended had an Oprah addict as one of their two senior leaders. I wonder whether The Secret has made it into their church bookstore. This sounds awfully familiar:

Here it is on biblical history: “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus were not only prosperity teachers, but also millionaires themselves, with more affluent lifestyles than many present-day millionaires could conceive of.” And worse than the idiocy and the bullshitting is its anti-intellectualism, because that’s at the root of the other two. Here’s “The Secret” on reading and, um, electricity: “When I discovered ‘The Secret’ I made a decision that I would not watch the news or read newspapers anymore, because it did not make me feel good,” and, “How does it work? Nobody knows. Just like nobody knows how electricity works. I don’t, do you?” And worst of all is the craven consumerist worldview at the heart of “The Secret,” because it’s why the book exists: “[The Secret] is like having the Universe as your catalogue. You flip through it and say, ‘I’d like to have this experience and I’d like to have that product and I’d like to have a person like that.’ It is you placing your order with the Universe. It’s really that easy.” That’s from Dr. Joe Vitale, former Amway executive and contributor to “The Secret,” on

and later:

You might expect a powerful person who thinks of herself as “deeply spiritual” to have a less worldly conception of it, and you might hope that she would encourage her followers to do the same, instead of urging them to buy books that call Jesus a “prosperity teacher.

later still:

That “Secret”-style faith, whether it’s in God, or in one’s own preordained destiny to be an “American Idol,” which takes all of a moment to achieve, is perhaps its most important selling point. Here’s “The Secret” on arriving at faith: “Ask once, believe you have received, and all you have to do to receive is feel good.” The kind of faith that couldn’t be reached by shortcut, the confidence of the great doubters and worriers, of Moses and Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ, has been replaced by the insta-certainty and inflated “self-esteem” of “The Secret’s” believers.

I can’t believe that people really by into such nonsense…but they do. Even in the church. Read the entire article at Salon, please.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

7 responses to Salon: Oprah’s ugly secret

  1. Bill,

    Much of the junk taught in THE SECRET sounds familiar. In Tulsa, OK in the eighties you could hear this theology spouted almost every Sunday and Wednesday in the large charismatic congregations. As a student at ORU, it was regular faire in many chapel services. I heard the stuff about most bible characters being rich over twenty-five years ago. The ones that struggled…they had not had a full revelation of the gospel.

    Rhonda Byrne will become more wealthy than any health and weath prophet. Why? Her audience is huge…by the time they figure it out…their pockets will be empty.

  2. Great comment, Jimmy. ORU was one of the many fonts of the prosperity gospel stream. How incredibly sad.

  3. ORU actually had good theology on campus in the eighties, albeit it was kept in the theology departments at the time. The undergrad department was pretty concervative. Professors from SBC, UMC, AOG dominated the field and the seminary was a standard UMC school. Hard questions were asked everyday and bad theology was challenged.

  4. There’s a certain church down the street from me that teaches this stuff.

    I downloaded the video, and I must say, I found a lot of similarities to Paul Yongi Cho’s book “The Fourth Dimension.” I stole a copy from my school’s library, mainly because I didn’t want anyone else to read it for fear of them melting, or something… Here’s a quote from Yonggi:
    “You were as much a baby inside your mother’s womb as you were when you were born into the world… Last evening I knelt down here and prayed to the Lord [for a]…desk, chair and bicycle, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I conceived that desk, chair and bicycle. It is as if they’re inside me, growing right now. And they are as much a desk, chair and bicycle as when they will be seen by the people at the time of their delivery.”

    There is no secret to a happy life. If there was, would it only cost us 19.95 plus tax?

  5. I apparently missed this post, but wanted to comment. I have 2 well-grounded, Bible-believing Christian friends who regularly watch this video, to really “help change their thinking.” I was astounded, and pointed out it’s completely New Age. Oh yes, they said, but they filter it through their Christian beliefs. They know it’s really God, not the universe. And the Bible does say God will give you the desires of your heart. We had quite a discussion, after which I had the distinct impression they didn’t regret watching it, but DID regret asking me to join them.

  6. Jan,
    And that is the state of much of Western evangelicalism today. The sad thing is to see this translated to the church in the developing world.
    We in the West are blessed beyond belief – and yet we find more to desire…believeing God will give us those desires – when they are, in fact, chains.

  7. My 21-yr.old stepson, a student at a state university in Texas, was shown “The Secret” in his communications class, and now wants to share it with those close to him. I told him it was false doctrine, and went against the God of the Bible. That was news to him, because he has not made himself familiar with the God of the Bible. His is a generation ripe for deception.


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