Tag Archives: Oprah

Oprah: Inside the Lives of America’s Poor

17 Aug

*I saw myself on Oprah yesterday. Well, I saw the self that I try to forget about, the part of me that I hide and pretend never existed even though I don’t think I can ever forget it did. I saw the part of me that few people even know about, the part of me that most people are somewhat shocked to hear about when I do actually tell them. It is the part of me that I am more likely to share with total strangers than with those people whom I consider friends or even acquaintances.

When I left home to go to college, I started over. I made a new life for myself, a life that most would consider “normal,” middle-class. But the fact of the matter is that I grew up poor, always on the brink of and most of the time below the national poverty line, below the Mississippi poverty line. There were times that I didn’t know it because my mom worked so hard to give her children a “normal” life, but there were also times when I knew the reality of it all too well. Times when I was afraid of what might happen to my family, when I worried about where we would live or how we would pay for things. I knew what it felt like to get free lunch at school and to have a classmate see my mom use food stamps in the grocery line, to wear clothes that did not originally belong to me, hand-me-downs from older peers, and to be pointed out as different, as not good enough, as a poor kid, to be called “white trash” by classmates.

I saw myself on Oprah yesterday, but I also saw other children who have worse lives than I ever did, even at the lowest point. I also saw my mom, a single mom who worked three or four jobs, who deprived herself to give to her children, who knew that there were others worse off and didn’t hesitate to help them. Some people looked down on her and judged her, but I know she did the best that she could with what she was given. My mom sacrificed herself to give her children what they needed to break the cycle and live a better life. I know I had it better than so many other kids, but I had it worse than almost all of the kids that I knew.

For many years, I have lived with both shame and guilt. Shame because at a young age I was taught that I wasn’t good enough, that other people were better than me. Shame because our society associates poverty with some sort of moral or mental decay, or just plain laziness. Shame because our society believes that people live like that because they want to or because they deserve it. I feel guilt because sometimes I buy into that erroneous belief. Guilt because I hide a part of myself that has shaped me into the person that I am now. Guilt because I sometimes pretend to be someone that I am not. I also feel guilt for wanting more and for having more for my life. Guilt for moving ahead while others are left behind. Guilt because I sometimes feel like I don’t deserve the life that I have now because I lived the life that I did then.

What makes me special? What makes me different from other children who are caught in the cycle and can’t get out of it? I know I’m not that different. I was blessed with an extended family that helped out when we needed it without seeing us as a “charity case.” I was blessed with school teachers and church leaders who helped give me the skills and the confidence and the hope that I needed in order to break the cycle. I was different, I am different, because I had hope, because I believed that I could rise above it even though everything in my life told me I couldn’t.

I don’t want to hide myself, or parts of myself, anymore. I don’t want to feel shame or guilt anymore. I just want to be. And I want to give others that same hope that is so desperately needed and so rarely seen inside the lives of America’s poor.

*This post was originally published on March 23, 2006 to my old Xanga blog. I am re-posting it here to continue the discussion over on Living Oprah.

** On another note, I would love to be able to import that blog to this one, but I have no idea how. Does anyone know how to do that?

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A Christian’s Perspective on Jesus, Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and A New Earth

9 May

Fellow blogger, Living Oprah, has a neat project going on where for one year she will live as Oprah advises on her television show, on her Web site, and in the pages of her magazines to find out if Oprah’s advice will lead her to live her “best life” as Miss O claims. Her latest post, “For whom the bell tolls,” led to a discussion on Oprah, her new book club selection A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and how it relates to other religions.

LO asked me, as a Christian, what I think about Tolle’s interpretation of the New Testament and Jesus’ words. This is my attempt to answer that question, though there are others out there who would do a much better job than I would. I am no theologian. I am an ordinary, average person who has chosen to place her life in the hands of a loving, powerful God. When I thought about how I was going to answer this question, I was completely overwhelmed since the subject is so deep. But here is my attempt. LO, I hope this answers your question. Thank you for challenging me.

First, there are several videos floating around the Web denouncing Oprah and Tolle. These videos (some of which are intentionally creating sensationalism in order to sell a book with questionable authorship and motives) claim that Oprah and Tolle are creating a new church with a New Age theology in order to lead Christians astray and essentially brainwash the mindless masses. Though these videos are purportedly Christian, I do not wholly subscribe to their message and am in no way promoting the aforementioned book, its author, of the creators of the videos. I mention these only because they have created a great deal of buzz as well as polarization.

Second, since I am not at a place in my life where I am seeking spiritual direction (I feel I have already found that), I have not actually read Tolle’s A New Earth. That is not to say that I am opposed to learning about and studying other religions and spiritual beliefs. I know there are people in this world who have different belief systems than I do, and I do not want to discount them simply because we are different. The only thing I know of the book and Tolle’s teachings about Jesus is what I’ve heard Oprah and Tolle discuss on her show and what I’ve read on various blogs, etc. That said, I don’t think I can give a comprehensive answer on what I think about Tolle’s teachings on Jesus and the Bible since I don’t know everything he has said about Jesus and the Bible.

What I can say is that I do believe that Jesus is the son of God, not just a teacher, a wise man, or some sort of cosmic revelation to humanity. And by God, I don’t mean the universe or an unnamed higher power or the “I Am” that we all are a part of. By God, I mean the God of the Bible, the Christian God, the divine creator God, the God of redemption and love and grace, the I Am that is above all else. I do believe in the in the virgin birth of baby Jesus. And I believe that Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, not to reveal a cosmic mystery or as a display of ultimate human transcendence, but to reconcile imperfect humanity to a perfect God. I view the crucifixion as an act of love rather than simply an act of revelation. More importantly, I believe in the resurrection, that Jesus did die on the cross and was buried but was restored to life again.

And finally, to answer the question of whether I am offended by Tolle’s teachings, my answer is an emphatic no. He is a brilliant man and an excellent teacher. I disagree with him, but that doesn’t mean that I disregard him as a person. There are Christians, or people who claim to be Christians, who are angered and offended by anyone or anything with a different viewpoint than theirs. I hope that this group, though probably the most publicly vocal, are in the minority. There are a lot of us out here who do stand by what we believe but who also won’t discount, , devalue, shut out, or turn away people just because they don’t agree with us. For me, Christianity is not just a set of religious beliefs that I subscribe to or rules that I follow. It is about having a spiritual, powerful, loving relationship with the God who I believe created me and created the entire universe, a God that is the very essence of perfect love and perfect righteousness, a God who helps me navigate this wonderful, terrible, confusing world daily because I know that I don’t have the power within me to do it on my own. And I have no problem admitting that I can’t do it on my own. To be honest, it is wonderful to know that I don’t have to carry my burdens, and worries, and problems alone because I have a relationship with a God who loves me enough to shoulder the load.

To LO, I hope I have answered your question. I hope I have not bored you or confused you or completely turned you off with my rhetoric. It’s hard to sum up one’s faith in one blog post. And sometimes it’s hard to avoid “Christianese,” or weird, foreign Christian terminology and jargon. I hope that I have shown you that we Christians aren’t the close-minded, hate mongers that some people believe we are. And I hope that my words are clear so as not to be misconstrued.

There are people out there who would probably do a much better job of answering these questions that I. Here are some links for further reading if anyone is interested:

Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” Book Review
Oprah’s New Age Gospel
The Church of Oprah Winfrey – A New American Religion?