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Convocation Discusses Oprah’s Social, Spiritual Impact

Stephen Mansfield

Noted author and speaker Stephen Mansfield visited Belmont Wednesday, Mar. 28, to speak about cultural icon Oprah Winfrey and the religious impact she has had on society.

Outlining the path Winfrey has taken to where she is today, Mansfield described both her personal life and professional career. Beginning as a radio personality in Nashville and then moving to a news anchor position with a Baltimore TV station, Winfrey gradually moved up the ranks in broadcasting.

When “The Oprah Winfrey Show” first aired, it was known for its sensational, tabloid-style topics but quickly turned to more positive, inspirational fare in the mid-’90s. With the religious transformation Winfrey experienced throughout the years, she began integrating a newfound faith perspective into her show.

According to Mansfield, her theology came down to blending religions, separating religion and spirituality and the understanding that religion is all about self—something very confusing in the minds of her religious viewers. However, Winfrey’s power to shape public opinion–influencing everything from book sales to election results–gave rise to a term known as the “Oprah Effect,” indicating the impact she had on viewers and consumers.

Such an effect can be both powerful and misleading, and Mansfield encouraged his listeners to begin discussing religion in everyday conversation. He emphasized the importance of asking questions and understanding what is happening to avoid becoming swept up in a social movement, like the “Oprah Effect.” Rather, individuals need to gain understanding of their own beliefs and ask good questions.

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