This false religion effectively combines forgiving without contrition, and materialism without consequence.
Two young well-dressed women picked up the same book from a prominent display at the biggest bookstore I had ever seen. Over 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to the U.S. for a friend’s wedding. After the festivities, I found myself having to kill five hours waiting for my ride. The best place was the multiple-leveled bookstore with a coffee shop. Obviously.
One of the women looked over the book, not sure what she thought of it until the other one declared with delight and confidence that it was Oprah-approved. “What’s Oprah?” I asked, thinking that it was possibly an award or a prestigious readers guild. “Not what!” Both women looked at me as if I just beamed in from a different planet. “She’s just a very wise, very down-to-earth woman.” Back then, I had dismissed these two women’s adulation of Oprah as some kind of weird personality cult. Little did I know.
The talk of Oprah becoming the next president, thus making sure that any critic of her could be labeled a misogynist and a racist, appeared right around the time a dear friend suggested me to read A Wrinkle in Time. As a reader and a writer of the fantasy genre, I was happy to oblige in order to find out about this book that was rejected countless times by publishers at first, just to be sold in millions later. Now, A Wrinkle in Time, the movie, is slated to come out in 2018, starring none other than Oprah Winfrey herself.
In case you, like me, are part of the small crowd who had not heard of Madeleine L’Engle’s book, it is about a young woman’s search for her scientist father who disappeared. Meg Murry is a troubled rebellious girl who finds herself awkward and unattractive. She has a close relationship with her 5-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, who is portrayed as somewhere between a genius and a mood-reader.
Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who are two neighbor ladies, who dress in weird clothes and act even weirder. As it turns out, they know where Meg’s father is, and they are willing to take Meg, her brother, and a boy named Calvin to the planet where Mr. Murry is imprisoned. Enter Mrs. Which (played by Oprah Winfrey), who is the oldest and wisest of these women who are actually supernatural beings in disguise. These beings have the power to “tesser” — that is, to bend space so that one can travel immense distances in an instant.
The most important concept that is relevant to Oprah and the spirituality she promotes is the Black Thing. When children tesser with the help of the Mrs. Ws, one of the first things they find out is that the Earth is under the attack of a cloud-like evil creature that is slowly taking hold. Their father is captured in a planet that is completely under the control of the Black Thing. In this lost planet, every individual is controlled by a giant brain, IT, who wants to eliminate unhappiness and sickness by making everyone exactly the same. The genius brother also ends up being controlled by IT.
The problem with the Black Thing and IT is that people are exonerated from personal responsibility. One needs to see the difference between the Devil, as taught by the Church, and the Black Thing that is portrayed in this book. As powerful as Lucifer is, his influence is limited, since he is a mere creation. Even though the Father of Lies and his minions can tempt us in order to lead us astray, we have free will and the grace to resist him. The Devil cannot force us to sin. On the other hand, the Black Thing seems so powerful that good fighters like Jesus, Buddha, Mrs. Whatsit and Mr. Murry risk death and freedom to keep it at bay, often unsuccessfully. It is almost impossible to resist IT’s hypnotic powers, so much so that in an entire planet full of people, only Mr. Murry was able to keep his wits about him. Even the prodigy Charles Wallace is freed only after Meg reminded him of their bond that was forged with love.
The line of thinking that sin is irresistible and evil is an all-powerful external force paves the yellow brick road to squishy relativism, which Oprah has been able to socially and financially harvest with her entertainment empire.
Mrs. Which, Oprah’s character, is depicted as a shimmering light throughout the book because as the old and wise leader of the celestial characters she finds it hard to maintain a corporeal form. Apparently, Director DuVernay did not even hesitate whom to cast for Mrs. Which: “There’s not even a question if you’re trying to have the all–knowing, wisest lady in the universe, who happens to be one in real life, and you have her phone number.” The weird personality cult I had dismissed over a decade ago had ripened to its fruition with a rich but relatable supreme priestess and its graceless religion where desire to be good is enough, as long your wardrobe is full of Oprah-approved products.
The Wrinkle Religion espouses that free will is nothing but a pushover, and everyone is mindlessly waiting to be taken over while a few heroic figures fight the darkness in futility. As L’Engle subscribed to the oft-heard universalism, where a good God would never send anyone to hell, for years Oprah offered feel-good fake redemption to her guests and audience through the sacraments of on-air confession, absolution from any wrongdoing and penance of positive-thinking. Millions of women gathered in front of the screen to fulfill their obligation, in order to fill the void that a decaying watered-down Christianity had left behind.
This religion effectively combines forgiving without contrition, and materialism without consequence. As long as a person acknowledges a misdeed — whether she did it or had it done to her — and decides to take a positive step forward, all is forgiven. There is no God, no sin, no justice and no faith. There is no room for moral absolutes or judgement of sin in the Wrinkle Religion, one only needs to bend the spiritual space to one’s will to feel better. The thought of traveling through the narrow gate in this valley of tears is appalling.
The reason having a President Oprah is not so far-fetched is that no matter how much secularism hammers in the idea that belief, religion, spirituality are irrelevant and have no place in the public life, millions who settle in front of their television to watch Oprah beg to differ. They want a temporal leader who shares their spirituality.
However, just like many others before her, Oprah can offer only the dissatisfying solutions of men to those who are looking to tesser their way into salvation. When there is no perfect God who cannot look upon our sin and there is no true understanding of free will and its consequences, we are left to emulate the false gods we ourselves carved. It is the same dish the pharaohs of Egypt, golden-calf makers of the Old Testament and relativists of modernism tried to serve. But the promise is empty.
Despite the secular atheism that is constantly being pushed, the fact that Oprah’s Wrinkle Religion had spread so far and wide only shows that hearts are still restless. Sooner or later the temporary satisfaction of buying the latest bag or feeling cathartic after a public confession fades. Because confession without true contrition and absolution is only an exercise in patting one’s back, and no amount of material possession will be able to fill the void. Then, when we tesser to the nearest good feeling, but find no satisfaction, only Christ’s true redemption will set us free. Unlike the book, Jesus was not a simple warrior, a mere pawn, in a grand battle against the Black Thing, but His sacrifice on the Cross broke the hold IT had on us, and his Resurrection from the dead defeated the Black Thing once and for all.
The war is won, and true freedom is within everyone’s reach. As millions are grasping at straws to find love, forgiveness and redemption, we should take heart that this is a field waiting to be gathered. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,” Our Lord said.
Yes, the Wrinkle Religion might give us a President Oprah to suffer through, but all we have to do is to become laborers in the Lord’s field and show that the eternal tesser goes through the Cross, because we cannot travel the distance to salvation by ourselves.