Oprah bailed out of Obama’s church?

The plot thickens in the matter of Oprah Winfrey’s belonging to or attending Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th St. in Chicago, as mentioned in various places, including in a Chi Trib piece in January 2007:

At least one member of Rev. Wright’s church apparently had her fill of [his] rhetoric. Oprah Winfrey, a staunch backer of Mr. Obama, began attending the church in 1984. But sometime in the mid-1990s, Christianity Today reports the superstar abruptly stopped going.

That’s John Fund in the subscription-only Political Diary of the Wall St. Journal.  He’s referring to Christianity Today’s 4/1/02 piece, “The Religion of O,” which quotes a Black Collegian magazine column in which Wright shows himself irked by Winfrey’s departure and indulges in some unseemly backbiting:

Wright mentioned Oprah as an example of African Americans who forget their roots in the church after finding success. “A lot of us do not even like the word faith anymore,” he wrote [in the column]. “We prefer the more chic-sounding word, spirituality! We are caught up in an Oprah-generated mentality and a 12-step vocabulary that prevents us from using the very words and the very bridge that ‘brought us over!’ “

He makes her out to be a cheapskate in his comments to the CT writer:

“I think it is hard for most very wealthy people to be a part of the church,” he says. “Somebody who makes $100 a week has no problem tithing. But start making $35 million a year, and you’ll want to renegotiate the contract. You don’t want to be a part of ‘organized religion’ at that point. That’s a generalized statement, but that’s what I’ve found across the years. The wealthier somebody gets, the more they pull away from the church.”

In any case, she had not attended the church for eight years, Wright said in 2002, presenting her as a backslider:

“She has broken with the [traditional faith],” he says. “She now has this sort of ‘God is everywhere, God is in me, I don’t need to go to church, I don’t need to be a part of a body of believers, I can meditate, I can do positive thinking’ spirituality. It’s a strange gospel. It has nothing to do with the church Jesus Christ founded.”

Fund speculates that she wanted “to distance herself from [Wright’s] fiery speech” and notes that Obama “took a different path,” remaining in the church.

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