Filling the Oprah void

Caryn Rivadeneira

Last Friday, Oprah tweeted, “A lot of ‘lasts’ today. I’m really feeling like it’s the end. Still all sweet, no bitter.”

Since this was the day before the supposed Rapture, I had to admit, I started getting nervous. Was she talking just about her show or the end of the world, too? Sure, I was among the masses rolling my eyes at Harold Camping’s camp, but this was Oprah - maybe God himself had as hard a time imagining the world going on without her show as her fans do.

Of course, I’m kidding. About God at least. But not so much about her fans.

Although I’d stop short of putting myself in Oprah's fan camp and I’m confident the world will go on without "The Oprah Winfrey Show" after its last airing today, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I sense a void opening up.

Certainly, as an author, I’ve had to mourn the dream of “getting on Oprah.” I can’t imagine a bigger coup for a writer. But as a woman, I’ll miss something more.

Oprah has offered our culture - and women, in particular - something that was lacking for most of human history. She’s been a woman leading national conversations on topics that are important to women. At least, thus sayeth my friend Tracey Bianchi, Pastor of Women’s Ministry at Christ Church of Oak Brook and an unabashed fan of Oprah.

And, Tracey adds, Oprah has legitimatized these conversations and topics. “I heard it on Oprah” is a respectable way to start a conversation - not an intro to a joke or an example of how silly women and the things we cared about are. In fact, Oprah proved to the world that the things women really care about are far from silly.

“Who else was talking about orphans in Africa on daytime TV?” Tracey asks.

And she’s right. Not only did Oprah continue the Phil Donahue tradition of not talking down to women who were home during the day, but she continued to broaden worlds, enhance communication and change lives in her rather fearless discussions of global concerns, literature and family secrets.

Oprah understood the power of speaking truth as a method of healing. And, for all the people who criticize us for being a talk-show culture, ever-keen on spilling our guts, there are many more entirely set free by knowing we are not alone in our troubles.

While Oprah is far from perfect - and leaves room for plenty of fair critique - she leaves a void for good reason. She did a lot of good. Her fans are right to wonder who will fill that void.

While everyone from Katie Couric to Sarah Palin to Oprah herself on her OWN network will no doubt try, of course, there will not be another "Oprah Winfrey Show." There will be a void, but there doesn’t need to be one.

With the end of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," I hope this ushers in a movement of people of faith to step in to fill the gap. I hope Christians - men and women - fill it by ramping up our engagement, transformation and creation of culture in areas of the arts and of global injustices, in truth-telling and label-removing. Goodness, even in matters of celebrity and our favorite things!

I hope that those of us who have learned or been shaped by a thing or two from Oprah will bring it to God and look to him to see what he would have us do with what we’ve learned. In this way, each of us can help fill the voids that are truly lacking in our world.

(Photo courtesy of vargas2040/Wikimedia Commons.)

Topics: TV, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, News & Politics, Media, Justice, North America