What Would Oprah Winfrey Do?

With Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball airing Monday night on ABC, we will be offered a rare glimpse inside Oprah's Montecito home, where "25 legendary black women" (and 1 Mariah Carey) convened for a weekend of "You Go Girl"-themed mutual appreciation. USA Today notes that the Ball, along with that hour (minus commercial interruptions) of fury unleashed at disgraced book club exile James Frey, were milestones in a year that saw notable shift heavenward in Winfrey's public perception. Having graduated long ago from the lower ranks of mere talk show host to full-fledged life guru, Oprah—even her name sounds divine—is now America's spiritual shepherd:

With her television pulpit and the sheer power of her persona, she has encouraged and steered audiences (mostly women) in all matters, from genocide in Rwanda to suburban spouse swapping to finding the absolute best T-shirt and oatmeal cookie.

"She's a really hip and materialistic Mother Teresa," says Kathryn Lofton, a professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore., who has written two papers analyzing the religious aspects of Winfrey.

While she may not be quite as "hip and materialistic" a Mother Theresa as Theresa biopic-starring hopeful Paris Hilton, we still agree that the analogy in Oprah's case is not entirely off-base. On the contrary, if you simply tweak a few biographical bullet points (i.e. replacing "lived in destitute poverty" with "makes billions and ain't afraid to spend it," and "cared for lepers," with "hugs celebrities") they become virtually the same woman.