The real ‘Course in Miracles’

In 1954, two girls were born into very different Southern families. One, a white girl, lived in a middle-class, rural Virginia home, while the other arrived to an unwed mother in poor, rural Mississippi.

Both girls were given biblical names and attended Baptist churches. The hymns were comforting. God was real to them. Unfortunately, so was evil. Each girl’s life was marred by family members taking indecent liberties with her, leading to an emotional roller coaster ride later in life.

The less-privileged girl pursued a broadcast journalism career and eventually amassed a vast media empire. She has referred to it as her “ministry.” The other girl preferred print journalism and went on to found a small media venture she likewise calls her ministry.

You’re not likely to know the white girl. She is yours truly. You do know the other one. She is Oprah Winfrey.

Today, what separates Oprah and me most, other than vast quantities of money, is the source of our faith. My spiritual journey brought me back to my biblical Christian roots while hers took her on a quest for something deemed more universal, unifying and marketable.

Hailed by many as “Rev. Oprah,” the guru who Christianity Today called “an icon of church-free spirituality,” is now teaching “A Course in Miracles” to the many listeners of her XM Satellite radio program.

What is “A Course in Miracles?” According to its website (, it is “a unique, universal, self-study spiritual thought system” that teaches “the way to universal love and peace ... is by undoing guilt through forgiving others.” Its focus on the healing of relationships gives the course a broad appeal and relevance. Clearly, the world needs that kind of healing.

Upon a closer examination of the course, however, one finds problematic statements such as this: “God and His Creation share one Will.” If that were so, no such course would be needed. Every generation has tried to impose its will on God with disastrous consequences.

“The Self that God created needs nothing,” declared the originator of this New Age philosophy, Dr. Helen Schucman. As an atheistic Columbia University psychology professor, she began “scribing” thoughts and visions she said Jesus dictated to her beginning in 1965. Her view may have been partly true in the original plan, the one that mankind messed up by — oops — willful sin.

Weakness is something to be shunned in Schucman’s teachings. Yet, the Bible teaches that “power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7) and gives many examples of this divine principle at work. Like all religions that seek to borrow Judeo/Christian legitimacy, this one runs into significant problems.

A succinct summary of the course is this: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.” Interestingly, evil and sin are deemed unreal in this collection of psycho-babblings.

Is Oprah selling that to the girls — that’s one of every three — who, like us, have been molested or raped? Some of them reside at her famed South African girls school.

“The Text” of the course declares that “no one is punished for sins, and the Sons of God are not sinners.” Why, then, did Jesus forgive sins as he healed the sick? Did his atoning death and resurrection — the linchpin of Christianity — go for naught because our sins are just perceived “mistakes” that don’t require reconciliation with God?

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God,” said the writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews. That’s because we come face-to-face with the horrible truth of our own sin nature. It’s a purposeful pain, not just an inconvenient perception we can poof away.

I suspect that pain and a fear of weakness sent both Oprah and me in search of significance and, ultimately, a ministry — though hers in on shaky ground.

As we move through the Lenten season into Easter, let us remember that evil is real, it breeds real sin and one real savior cancelled forever its real power. That’s the true miracle that true ministers of the Gospel will preach from pulpits on Easter Sunday. Beware the imposters.

[Debbie Thurman is an award-winning syndicated columnist and author who writes from Monroe, Va. Her email address is]

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