About Oprah And The Prosperity Doctrine

In response to buzz about a possible 2020 presidential bid by Oprah Winfrey, a recent TIME article seems to think Winfrey and Donald Trump have more in common than not: a belief in the so-called “Prosperity Doctrine.”

From the article, “Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump Promote the Same Populist Theology”:

Winfrey and Trump both preach a gospel of wealth, health, and self-determination, following in the relatively recent prosperity gospel tradition, which broadly speaking says that God wants people to be wealthy and healthy and that followers are responsible for their own destiny here on Earth.

This “doctrine” has both religious (see mega-preachers such as Joel Osteen, etc.) and secular (The Secret) manifestations. But it’s important to note that the basic teachings all come from the same place: ancient mystery religions. We’re talking the very basics of Hermetic teachings: “like attracts like” (thus, if you have positive thoughts, positive things come to you; thus, if you have “rich” thoughts, money will come to you; if you have “poor” thoughts, you will be eating meat out of a cat food tin, and so on).

In and of itself: there is nothing wrong with the basic foundations of these beliefs. These beliefs, in their most original form, were more akin to scientific inquiry than anything else…figuring out how the universe “works.”


I completely understand how these beliefs can be used to ignore the plight of the poor, as a methodology for manipulation, and so on.

To use an analogy: the keys to the magic are there. But you can take it and turn it into white or black magic (or, more likely, contrasting hues of gray magic) if you want.

The other caution with this stuff is—the Prosperity Doctrine and The Secret and so on are not ATM machines. The danger is that they present simplistic views of the heavy mechanics of these universal laws. The danger is that you can’t simply “tune in” to a certain mantra and so on and boom! you fulfill your life’s purpose and pay your rent and buy a new car.

These things require a degree of research, contemplation, discernment, patience, and perspective. (something that most people don’t want to hear about)

Now, most people won’t use these teachings in an effective manner; they are just warm bodies to buy books and seminars, but they won’t have the time or inclination or comprehension to really understand this stuff. They just see The Secret, Oprah, their local megachurch preacher, and so on as sacred talismans of Success, hoping some of it will rub off.

But you don’t need to go down the Oprah route, or the Evangelical Christian Route, or the Trumpian “Art Of The Deal” route to explore these beliefs and see how they might benefit you. You don’t even need to spend a single penny on it. Many self-help & “success” books from the golden age of this doctrine—the New Thought movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries—are available for free, sans copyright, on the Internet: here is a good start.

That all said, I think to say that an Oprah presidency will not be that much different than a Trump presidency is naive in the extreme. Would I prefer Oprah to Trump? Sure. Is either of these celebrities what America really needs right now at this critical juncture where automation is poised to take away so many jobs? No. Would a true Progressive with his or her sympathies planted firmly with the People—with the people who will lose these jobs in 3, 5, 10 years—be the best choice at this specific juncture? Sure. Is that going to happen? No.

For all of Oprah Winfrey’s good intentions—and to be clear, I neither doubt she has good intentions, nor do I deny she has done a lot of philanthropic things—it is still going to be another episode of America The Television Show.