If you’re a regular listener of this program, you know that I rarely find common ground with Oprah Winfrey. I’ve critiqued the rampant consumerism and the New Age beliefs and practices that she promotes on her show, and I’ve talked about what a danger they pose to our culture.
But today I’m giving credit where credit is due. Today I’m here to tell you that Oprah got one right.
A few days ago, Oprah announced her new pick for her book club: two classic novels by Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. (The two novels have been packaged together in one volume by Penguin Books.) Oprah told her audience that she’s never read Dickens before—that in fact this is the first time she’s picked a book that she hasn’t yet read.
I’m simultaneously delighted by her choice, and curious as to whether she has any idea what she and her audience are in for. The truth is, they’re about to experience two big doses of Christian worldview.
It’s not the first time that Oprah has picked a classic with Christian roots, but this just might be one of the boldest expressions of Christian truth that the book club has yet encountered.
You may remember that I talked about A Tale of Two Cities last year on BreakPoint, when the book had its 150th anniversary. There’s a lot going in this long and complex story, but the ultimate theme of the book is the supremacy of mercy and love over revenge. And the ideals of mercy and love are depicted in an explicitly Christian way.
At the very heart of the book is the redemption of a seemingly unredeemable character, who then goes on to embrace Christ-like heroism and self-sacrifice.
Great Expectations is a very different kind of story, but one that also conveys valuable ideas and principles. The selfish main character, entranced by visions of wealth and status, has to learn some bitter lessons about humility, grace, and the things that truly matter.
And into this story, Dickens—ever the social reformer—worked some of his sharpest criticisms of the justice system and the prisons of his day. As you can imagine, that’s the sort of thing that never gets old for me.
Now, as I’ve said many times before, I don’t believe that literature is supposed to be propaganda. A great book is a story, not a sermon. (And please understand, I wouldn’t call Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities Christian novels.) But at the same time, every story reflects a worldview, and the worldview that Dickens presents in these two books is deeply influenced by biblical truths.
I couldn’t be more pleased to see that Oprah Winfrey is using her clout to promote such great literature to an audience of millions.
And so for once I’m following in Oprah’s footsteps and recommending that you buy, read, and reflect on her new book club selection. You might even consider giving it as a Christmas gift. We’re offering it right here at the bookstore on our website, ColsonCenter.org. Of course, if these two novels don’t appeal, please be sure to check out our recommended reading list.
The Lord does indeed work in strange and mysterious ways. Even through Oprah’s book club.