by Anna Blanch on July 17, 2008

What would Oprah do?
An interesting twist on the “What would Jesus do” question that spawned and entire industry of wrist bands and merchandise; as an aside – those fluorescent WWJD wristbands remain the most shoplifted item from Christian bookstores. This phrase originally comes from Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps (1896) and was picked up in the 1990’s by the social gospel movement before becoming an international phenomenon (at least as far as Christian merchandising is concerned).

One woman…Robyn Okrant, who is now often called LO (as in Living Oprah), is conducting a social experiment over the course of this year to live according to Oprah’s recommendations and advice for how to live life as presented on Oprah’s “television show, on her website, and in the pages of her magazines”.

Okrant explains that this idea comes from trying to see whether it would mean “living your best life” – the tagline of Oprah’s website. Viewing LO’s website and accompanying blog is an interesting experience – this is not a fanzine or a woman seriously intent on idol-worship rather LO, as Okrant has come to be known, expresses significant ambivalence about the big O(prah) (Note: calling Oprah the Big O was cribbed from one of the readers commenting on Okrant’s website, I wish i was that original). I am impressed at the attempts made by Ms Okrant to try and keep this as real as she can. For instance, she still has her day job, and until the interview with NPR’s All things Considered, she had been anonymously posting, she also won’t take any corporate sponsorship to assist her in her experiement.

The concept of Living Oprah got me thinking about how those around us whose suggestions and recommendations we happily (and sometimes blindly) follow and whose lives we may think we’d like to live. What kind of person am I (and you) trying to be? Am I trying to be the best **** insert occupation here **** I can be in order to be the best as judged by my peers (even though the reality is that as you specialise this group of peers gets smaller and smaller in number unless your occupation is trying to become famous by being famous), am I trying to emulate individuals lives that I admire thinking that this somehow gives me the certain blueprint for a laudable life?

You are a unique child of God with all the gifts and talents that he has in his gracious wisdom chosen to bless you with. This means that blindly following anyone or seeking to emulate the life of another is really like wandering over hill and dale on a bumpy track which has signs in a language you don’t understand. You might think you have a map, but the map may be very outdated – try navigating around Sydney, San Francisco, or Sarajevo with a map that’s 30 years old. What I think this means is that we are all called to walk our own paths. I am not suggesting that we completely dismiss or ignore the experiences of others or the advice of those who know us and whom we trust. Indeed, it is a biblical principle, and just plain common sense, to seek wise counsel.

Postscript: I was reminded a few years ago now that “what would Jesus do?” is not actually not the best question, rather it is often more helpful (and leads to much less confusion and self assuring aggrandising) to examine and be reminded of what Jesus did (WJD.)

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