Idol Chatter

Newsweek reports this week that Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama share more than a wish to see him be president: Oprah attended Obama’s church when she first moved to Chicago, and both called the troublesome Rev. Jeremiah Wright their pastor. The difference is Oprah got out while the getting was good.

Sources in Oprah’s camp says the talk-show host joined Wright’s church after moving to Chicago in 1984. “For spiritually minded, up-wardly mobile African-American living in Chicago in the mid-1980s, the Trinity United Church of Christ was—and still is—the place to be,” writes Newsweek’s Allison Samuels. Some say Oprah realized early on that an allegiance to Wright (and by implication his radical liberation theology message) could come back to haunt her, as it has Obama’s hunt for the White House.
But there may be more to her departure from Trinity. Unlike Obama, who was looking to understand black America after being raised mostly overseas by his white mother and grandparents, Oprah knew the black church and black America well. As her current fascination with the best-selling German New Ager Eckhart Tolle shows, Oprah was on her way to broader spiritual horizons. She left the church in 1986, though, Wright maintains, she continued to introduce him as her pastor socially after that. Pastor maybe, but not her ultimate guide.

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