Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon

By Kathryn Lofton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Celebrity Spirit
The Incorporation of Your Best Life

Any story of American religions over the last quarter of the twentieth century would necessarily need to acknowledge the aftereffects of Sixties political radicalism, the domestic consequences of demographic shifts, and the plurality of options available for the wandering believer. Scholars contributing to the study of Oprah Winfrey have pointed to the symbolic date of her origins, sitting as she did in the immediate backwash of these changes, in the heart of the Reagan Revolution.1 From her 1986 syndication, it is possible to perceive hers as a climax in a certain history, one that includes the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, the gay liberation movement, and the palette of critical experimentation that made up the imagined, advertised, and lived counterculture. The subsequent sociological transformations included women entering the workforce en masse, the reconfiguring of the nuclear family, and a rampant diversification of American racial and ethnic populations. Religious history cannot be understood separately from these social and political dynamics. For example, in partial reply to Woodstock abandon and women’s liberation, antifeminist factions within the evangelical subculture advocated a return to full-time homemaking. The same nondenominational outfits restricted church leadership roles for women in direct response to the success of women clerics in other, mainline Protestant denominations, as well as the increasing prominence of women within the reigning economies of secular power.2

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