By James Hirsen
An academic study confirms what many observers have suggested to be the case: that Oprah Winfrey is the purveyor of a religion.
Having studied almost every episode of Oprah's television program for the last 12 years, a Yale professor concludes that Oprah's success is based on her ability to transform herself into a religious icon.
Religion professor Kathryn Lofton examined transcripts of more than 1,560 shows, 105 issues of O magazine, 17 issues of O at Home, 68 Book Club selections and 52 Spirit Newsletters. She sets forth her findings in a book, "Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon."
According to the study, the most important moment in Oprah's career occurred in 1994, when the TV host changed the direction of her program.
"The time has come for this genre of talk shows to move on from dysfunctional whining and complaining and blaming," Oprah said at the time. "I have had enough of people's dysfunction."
"Her spiritual revelation was converted into a corporate makeover," Lofton told The New York Post. "Her show became 'Change Your Life TV.' As a part of this new look and focus for the show, she began to develop her brand, including, eventually, the book club, the magazine, the website, and her Angel Network."
By using a Southern preacher's rhythmic speech pattern with a sermon-like structure, Oprah has been able to create a new "gospel" for each show. The message of her programs became what Lofton refers to as "The Gospel of You."
"Gospel is a word that means 'good news,'" Lofton said. "Oprah says that the good news is 'you.'"