The latest Census figures from the U.K., released this week, confirm what many have long suspected: Hinduism, under the guise of “Star Wars”/New Age terminology, has become the unofficial religion of popular culture.
“Jedi Knights” is now the most popular faith in the “Other Religions” category on the Census and the seventh most popular faith overall, according to the latest population survey of England and Wales.
But let’s back up a bit. If you are going to understand the wielding of all these light-sabers, you need to go back and understand its leading guru.
No, not Obi-Wan.
There can be little doubt about the power, the influence and the inspiration of Oprah.
Her career began with a local radio station when she was just 19 years old. Then, through hard work and talent, she climbed her way up through television as a newscaster and anchor, through Tennessee and Maryland, until finally, in 1984, she moved to WLS-TV in Chicago to host a local talk show, which became such a hit it eventually went national.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Now she is arguably the best-known woman in the world, with an influence that extends into television, magazines, movies, book publishing and the Internet. By her 20th anniversary as host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she had become a billionaire and assembled a U.S. television audience of more than 49 million viewers each week—which does not include her broadcasts in 122 other countries. Forbes magazine has named her the most influential celebrity.
Her latest venture? Her own television network.
But Oprah is more than a celebrity. She is even more than a brand, or a business.
She has become a shaping cultural force.
Oprah can single-handedly turn a book into a bestseller; she has been sued for crippling an entire industry simply by publicly denouncing its product. She even launches words; the Wall Street Journal coined the word “Oprahfication” to describe “public confession as a form of therapy.” Jet magazine uses “Oprah” as a verb, with sentences like, “I didn’t want to tell her, but … she Oprah’d it out of me.” Even our political process has been altered, as politicians now hold “Oprah-style” town meetings.
But her most significant role may be that of America’s spiritual guide.