A new book by Yale religion professor Kathryn Lofton, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, floats the theory that Oprah Winfrey, consciously or not, has become a religious icon, attracting a congregation of millions by using language and techniques that you might find in a traditional religion. Mixing the speech rhythms of a folksy preacher with homiletic nostrums, Oprah apparently had an epiphany in 1994, laying the ground for her current deification. According to Lofton, "Her spiritual revelation was converted into a corporate makeover. Her show became 'Change Your Life TV.'"
The author came to her conclusions after a bout of total-immersion Oprah therapy. She read over 1,500 show transcripts, 105 issues of O magazine, seventeen issues of O at Home, sixty-eight Book Club selections, and fifty-two Spirit newsletters. All the talk of angels probably doesn't hurt the theory either. Lofton said "Gospel is a word that means 'good news.' Oprah says that the good news is 'you.'"
I guess you could say Oprah's version of the miracle of the five loaves and two fish is turning a show ticket into a bounty of swag. Finding a parallel in the forgiveness and prescriptions of typical religious instruction, Lofton explains, "Women are asked to be perfect in many roles. Oprah says, first, you don't have to be perfect; and second, she gives endless advice so you might try to be [perfect]." Does that make Dr. Phil sort of God's vice-president, or would that be Gayle King?