Religion

Oral Roberts, 1918-2009

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Twenty-two years after God threatened to call Oral Roberts home to heaven if you didn't help the preacher reach his fundraising target, the Lord's only begotten 900-foot son has welcomed the evangelist to the other side of the pearly gates. Brink Lindsey offered an overview of Roberts' career in a 2007 story for Reason, "The Aquarians and the Evangelicals." Here's an excerpt:

The cover story was actually about Christian hippies, but what the hell, I'll use it here. Two, three, many Jesus Revolutions!
Time

In 1947 Roberts, who believed he had been healed of youthful tuberculosis directly by God via a faith healer, was a minister with his own little Pentecostal Holiness church in Enid, Oklahoma. He felt frustrated and trapped as a dirt-poor, small-town preacher with a pleasant but complacent congregation. One harried morning he picked up his copy of the Good Book, and his eyes fell on III John 1:2: "I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." It changed in an instant his whole understanding of God. God is good, Roberts now saw: God wants us to be healthy; God wants us to succeed; God wants us to be rich!

Roberts achieved great success as a revivalist and faith healer–which is to say, he became a central figure in a marginal movement. But his ministry transcended Pentecostalism's lowly origins. Not content with success as a traveling tent preacher, he built a far-flung empire of evangelical outreach, complete with television and radio programs, magazines, newspaper columns, even comic books. In 1967, as he was being sworn in as president of the university he built from scratch, Roberts knew he had brought his upstart faith into the American mainstream. There to pay their respects were not just government officials but representatives of 120 of the nation's colleges and universities.

Roberts' rapid ascent was only one spectacular example of the larger evangelical uprising. Between 1965 and 1975, while mainline denominations were shriveling, membership in the Church of the Nazarene increased by 8 percent. The Southern Baptists grew by 18 percent, and membership in the Seventh-Day Adventists and Assemblies of God leapt by 36 percent and 37 percent, respectively….[E]vangelicalism aligned Christian faith with the Holy Grail of the affluent society: self-realization. Unlike the classic bourgeois Protestantism of the 19th century, whose moral teachings emphasized avoidance of worldly temptation, the revitalized version promised empowerment, joy, and personal fulfillment. A godly life was once understood as grim defiance of sinful urges; now it was the key to untold blessings. "Something good is going to happen to you!" was one of Oral Roberts' favorite catchphrases.

Like the late Jerry Falwell, Roberts was an accidental modernist: an alleged reactionary who in retrospect looks more like a radical, a man who did far more to bring such secular forces as television and a love of worldly success into conservative Christian communities than he did to preserve those communities' old character. Part of me dismisses Roberts as a scamster living off gullible people's donations, and part of me can't help but admire the artist who gave us such wonderful Boschian images as a giant Jesus bearing hospital plans. He was a visionary, a charlatan, and a showman, and for better or worse he helped create the world we live in now.

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  1. “Like the late Jerry Falwell, Roberts was an accidental modernist: an alleged reactionary who in retrospect looks more like a radical, a man who did far more to bring such secular forces as television and a love of worldly success into conservative Christian communities than he did to preserve those communities’ old character.”

    I beleive the term would be false prophet. Oral is doing a lot of explaining and genuflecting right now.

    1. The fat old flesh of the charlatan is decomposing – nothing less, nothing more.

      1. Why don’t you go kill yourself just to make sure.

        1. You go first and if you can prove to me otherwise I am right behind you.

          1. I can’t. Its a mortal sin. You, however are an athest so it won’t be a big deal. And you are going to end up in the same place anyway or if it is a surprise why not find out now.

            1. Sorry John – I got a wife, three kids and a company that needs me today and tomorrow. I figure I got 40 to 50 years left on this earth to help them as well as well as enjoy every fucking moment that I possibly can. When my fat flesh is ready to decompose it will do so with no regrets.

              1. “Who would’ve thought hell would really exist? And that it would be in New Jersey!”

                1. For John maybe NJ is where I will have my corpse shipped – I love a win-win solution.

            2. Far be it for me to get all Jesusy on you, but is it really Christian to suggest that someone commit suicide so they can go to hell faster?

              Just saying, pricks like you are why real Christians have a hard time getting traction with us heathens.

              1. Toxic, hate to be disagreeable, but…pricks like John are not why real Christians have a hard time getting traction with me. My own wife and family can’t get traction with me.

                Pricks like John are merely what I have come to expect when I profess to being “heathen”.

                1. I suggest you check your sarcasomemeter. I doubt very much John is seriously suggesting hari kori. Personally, I admire most of John’s posts and his consistency to his beliefs. A Christian who stands up for his beliefs, and in a refreshingly vulgar way, just shows me a flawed man, the type that Christ purportedly hung around.

                  I always admire folks who believe in Higher Power or something greater than themselves. John just chooses to call his Jesus Christ.

            3. Either you are being uncharacteristically wry, John, or you totally don’t get atheism.

              If you don’t believe in any afterlife, killing yourself is a big fucking deal / totally insane.

              1. Famous atheists such as Lovecraft and Camus would seem to disagree. There is an atheist school that views existence as pointless drudgery that may be better to get over with sooner rather than later, afterlife or no.

                1. Schopenhaur would say the same thing. You have to admire the Lovecrafts of the world. They actually took their beliefs to their logical conclusions and faced it as opposed to your typical atheist reading his horoscope thinking how superior they are.

              2. I was being uncharachteristicly wry. I do not ensdorse suicide.

            4. You, however are an athest so it won’t be a big deal.

              Guess again, you pathetic little superstitious twat. For an Atheist, killing oneself is a far bigger deal because we understand that this is the only life we’ve got.

              -jcr

              1. “For an Atheist, killing oneself is a far bigger deal because we understand that this is the only life we’ve got.”

                And it is a good thing that you are going through it with such a positive attitude, you humorless fuck. If atheists weren’t such noxious assholes, they might not be in such a minority.

                1. Yes, John, all atheists are the same. I can only assume you believe everything that Oral Roberts did, because all Christians are the same too, right?

                  1. your typical atheist

                    As if there is such a thing.

                    Y’know, like your typical Christian, holier-than-thou, smug “I’m right because I’ve accepted Jeebus in my heart and you’re a doomed sinner because you’re wrong” fuck.

                2. Oh, you think it’s funny to tell someone to kill himself? What a charmer you are.

                  Since you believe in it, why don’t you go to hell?

                  -jcr

            5. Of course it’s mortal. You’ll be dead.

              The sin part. There lies the debate.

  2. And Jesse, that Time picture is the biggest whitebread hippie Jesus image ever. I didn’t know Jesus was the President of the Omega Chi house in 1972

    1. Apparently you missed the “Jesus Christ Superstar” portrayal of the Messiah (not the faux Mess-iah currently occupying the WH.)

      1. I am not sure a first century Jew would look like today’s Palistinian. YOu have to remember that the Arabs hadn’t come out of the desert yet. The arabs would have darkened the gene pool a bit. Also, the Greeks and the Romans had been there for a long time. They had to have intermingled a bit with the Jews. The Jews originally came out of Iraq, so maybe they looked a bit Persian, who are more fair than Arabs. I don’t they looked like Jesus Christ Superstar, but I bet they looked a little more fair than the Palistinians do today.

        1. But Arabs (by which I mean peninsular Arabs and not the broad ethnolinguisitc term used today) are from very similar stock to Jews – their languages are related.

          The Jews coming out of Iraq does not mean that they are related to Persians. Iraq was a part of most Persian Empires, yes, but was peopled by Semites and not speakers of Indo-European languages like the Persians.

        2. Palestinians did not come from the desert. They are, ironically, mostly direct descendants of the Jews and Samaritans who lived in Palestine in Jesus’ day. Jews and Palestinians have a closer genetic relationship to each other than any other group. Jesus probably looked a lot like today’s Palestinians. “Arab” has become a linguistic/cultural concept, not a racial one. The only true Arabs are the ones in the Peninsula – Egyptians, Palestinians, Iraqis and Syrians are not genetic Arabs.

    2. Jesus was a Jew 2,000 years ago, before the diaspora, when the average Jew probably looked like an average modern day Palestinian. He could, conceivably, have looked part-African, given the close proximity of Israel to Africa.

      1. Indeed, from a anthropological POV you are probably correct.

  3. I think his brother Anal is still going strong.

    1. +1. That is an oldy but a goodie

  4. He was a visionary, a charlatan, and a showman, and for better or worse he helped create the world we live in now.

    A lotta that going on.

  5. Roberts claimed to raise the dead.
    His son mirrored the claim.
    And the funds raised by the “call me home” stunt went to a hospital that closed due to lack of funds.

    The dude also dissed Isaac Asimov on his broadcast once.

    1. Yeah, well…I’m not aware of the incident to which you’re referring, but for all of his brilliance, Asimov was pretty much a pompous prick for most of his adult life, so that might not have been entirely uncalled for.

  6. Why would anyone name their son “Oral”?

    1. because In the Mouth is too long for a first name

      1. Technically, first names don’t have spaces. So, despite the obvious … aesthetic … problems this raises for readers here, it would be spelled CumInTheMouth.

    2. What’s wrong with that?

    3. Because that was all Daddy wanted, but Mommy said “no”.

  7. Missing from the obit was any mention of Roberts as a serious advocate for any liberty-limiting laws.If that is the case RIP Rev.

  8. Jesse,”Part of me dismisses Roberts as a scamster living off gullible people’s donations” Don’t you mean living off gullible,old and sick people.

    1. Don’t you mean living off gullible,old and sick people.

      I’m not about to criticize any voluntary exchanges.People who bought houses because they “didn’t want to get priced out of the market” and “real estate always goes up” got exactly what they were paying for too.

      1. No one is saying these exchanges should be outlawed, just criticizing them (for good reason, I think). Which last I checked was an allowable libertarian activity.

        You don’t have to support a ban on manipulative selling to think that those who practice it are amoral schmucks. A category I’d have to place Mr. Roberts in, along with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Paul Samuelson, and Hitler’s dog.

        1. why the hate for Blondie?

  9. MC 900 Foot Jesus hardest hit.

    1. I was wondering how long it would take to get to him.

  10. let the dick jokes commence!

  11. If God does exist, I hope he is just rather than merciful in this case.

    When I worked in a bank, I saw too many people who couldn’t afford it sending money to Roberts and his ilk: $500, $1000, even $5000 donations from people who were having trouble with their own finances sending money to Roberts & similar “Men of God.”

    1. How is that any different from the hoome shopping channels and low-stakes casino gambling? I’m all for people choosing how they spend their own money.

      1. The only difference is that the people who run the Home Shopping Channel and the low-stakes casinos don’t get invited to White House/Congressional ‘prayer breakfasts’ and treated deferentially by the media.

        1. Technically, it is high-stakes gambling, when one puts a lot of money down on a bet that appears to be mighty long odds against, but with a HUGE fucking payoff if you’re right.

      2. So if your mom was eating cat food and sending 3/4 of her low fixed income to some huckster with a Rev. in front of his name, you’d have no problem with it because it’s “voluntary”? I’m not saying you should steal her checkbook or chain her to the toilet until she came to her senses, but if you didn’t say something to her or at the very least opine in your innermost heart that this was a bad idea, I’d wonder what kind of son you are.

      3. It’s not really a voluntary exchange when someone is convinced by a conartist that God commands they send the money, now is it?

        1. It would be involuntary if there is a demonstrable Hell, full of people who didn’t send the money.Kind of like a minimum security Federal prison full of tax scofflaws like the IRS uses to force compliance.So no,it is a purely voluntary transaction.

          1. It is involuntary because these people truly believe there is a hell, and the hucksters rely and count on that belief. And these poor gullible rubes think they’re doing a good thing sending money to the Oral Roberts and Jerry Fallwells and Pat Roberstons of the world, because those guys tell them they’re doing good things with it. And these people believe them, because, after all, they are “Men of God.”

            I wonder if guys like this actually do genuinely believe in “God” themselves, or just profess to have a belief so that they can create these “churches” and take advantage not only of the superstitious rubes, but also of the ridiculous tax code advantages.

      4. I would say it comes pretty damn close to fraud.

        1. Horseshoes and hand grenades.

  12. It was a guy who wrote in Skeptical Inquirer when is was ‘journal-sized’ (I could drag out old issues, but I won’t):
    ‘The “praying” statue in front of ORU fell over. Everyone involved looked to find a way to get it upright again; too tall for the cranes locally available.
    A kid walks by, tosses a quarter high in the air; *presto*, that thing stood upright, clapping its ‘praying’ hands on that quarter.’

  13. Living in OK for the last 20+ years, I have heard all Oral Roberts and ORU jokes, and they never seem to get old. His son Richard was recently ousted as President of ORU for using school funds to fund a personal lavish lifestyle.
    Richard Roberts still maintains control of the ministry, but has no professional affiliation with the university, AFAIK.

    The hospital that operated there at the City of Faith closed and then Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Tulsa) held up shop there for a while. Currently, a large orthopedic practice operates there.

    The City of Faith had all sorts of business tenants following it’s demise, including CFS, a debt collection corp. that, ironically enough, ceased operations due to financial mismanagement from the CEO down.

    The one that REALLY gets me is the pub I used to frequent had a patron who was a cheerleading coach at the university, and the university became aware of his frequenting the pub (not sure how, it was rumoured that another patron snitched). He was subsequently fired for violation of their no alcohol policy, which includes the avoidance of bars, pubs, etc. Granted, it is a private university and has the right to impose codes of conduct on it’s employees, even in their personal life since they agreed to the code upon their acceptance of employment.

    I always LOVE to point out to evangelicals that many of their biblical heroes were not tee-totalers, and none were sinless. Even Jesus turned water to wine, not iced tea or Dr. Pepper. The Old Testament even prescribed small amounts of wine “for when the stomach ails.” Scripture just warned about drunkeness and emphasized moderation of intake.

    1. Jesus was great to have at a party if you liked Chardonnay.

      But if you preferred a Reisling you had to go to the competition.

      1. Chardonnay??? Blech. Cab Sauv or Port for me. Something with body and bite.

      2. The “wine” he made was probably closer to Manischewitz than anything a civilized person would consider drinkable today. Just another reason not to worship him.

    2. “I always LOVE to point out to evangelicals that many of their biblical heroes were not tee-totalers”

      ummm…duh?

      Admittedly, my Southern Baptist Homebrewers Association meetings are sparsely attended.

      1. Heh, reminds me of wedding I attended where the bride was Roman Catholic and the groom Baptist. You guess with a high degree of confidence which guests were Catholic and which were Baptist by their choice of beverage, which by the end of the reception was an absolute hoot.

        1. Add articles and “could guess”. Grammar fail.

        2. Baptists drink now. In some places they are even allowed to say hello to each other in the liquer store.

          1. In some places they are even allowed to say hello to each other in the liquer store.

            Thats a god damn lie.

            My liquor fairy* is a fellow baptist.

            *you know, the person that makes sure you have a full bottle of Woodford in your liquor cabinet at all times. Often without you even knowing. Doesnt everyone have one?

            1. I want a liquor fairy.

              As long as his name isn’t Thurston.

    3. Just because Lot knocked up both his daughters while he was drunk, and Noah did a strip tease in front of his kids that resulted in a passage supposed to justify African slavery, doesn’t mean being drunk is a bad thing.

      1. I don’t think the message of those stories is that you’re not allowed to get drunk. I think it’s more of a “drunk or not, you’re still responsible for your actions” thing.

        Also the whole thing with Noah being drunk was, I think, more about the way his sons handled it than Noah’s drunkenness. Remember how the one son laughed and went to find his brothers and show them that Dad was passed out naked?

        Come to think of it, that story’s pretty fucking weird.

        1. I read that both stories are just supposed to make fun of Israel’s neighbors: Ham (the peeping tom son) was the ancestor of Egypt, and Lot’s, er, indiscretion resulted in the conception of the ancestors of the Moabites and Ammonites.

    4. I love the story of the wedding to. First, it is a really great very human story. It is just odd that it would be included in a religous text. You don’t see other religious figures (the Budha, Mohammed, Confusious) bothering to help out at a wedding. It is just won’t of those really strange stories in the New Testiment that distinquishes it from other religious text.

      The evangelical teetotaler’s response to it is generally hysterical. It usually consists of “when it says wine it really means grape juice”. Yeah because a civilization before refrigeration always kept its fuit juice fresh. It never turned it into wine or cyder to preserve. That makes sense. And of course, he made the wine after they ran out of what they had. That tells me that people were not just drinking, they were drunk.

      1. I dont know the size of the average 1st century jewish wedding, but check out the volume of wine too. That was some heavy drinking.

        BTW, havent heard anyone try to seriously make the grape juice argument in 20+ years, get with the times. Not that my church doesnt still serve grape juice for communion.

        The president of Southern Seminary admits that his anti-alcohol position isnt biblically based.

        1. The anabaptist teetotal is based on the dangers of alcoholism. Since the water is usually safe to drink, there is no longer a need to use alcohol-based drinks.

    5. The Old Testament even prescribed small amounts of wine “for when the stomach ails.

      New Testament. Paul’s letter to Timothy.

      1. Bible fail. Thank you for the correction.

  14. Fark headline: Jesus prepares to receive oral.

  15. One less con artist in the world. First Jerry Falwell, now Oral. Would it be too much ask to see Pat Robertson and Joel Osment go too? You see the paradox don’t you? If there is a god, then Jerry and Oral are in heaven with a bunch of other televangelists. This means when you die, heaven is actually hell. My idea of heaven involves no money-grubbing scumbags in overpriced suits telling me how to live my life while they profit off of guilt and gullibility.

    1. There will always be a new one to take their place and thousands of dumbfuck followers lookin’ for an easy guarantee of eternal salvation

  16. That guy was such a fucking putz. I’m amazed that so many christians let him get away with that “god’s got a gun to my head” bullshit.

    -jcr

  17. 900′ Jesus!

    1. Here’s another song by his MC.

  18. If I tell you that sending me 500 clams will win you the lottery, and you don’t win, that’s fraud. If I tell you that doing X, Y, and Z and sending me 500 clams will win you the lottery, and you don’t win, I can claim you didn’t do X, Y, and Z right, that’s not fraud; it’s just bullshit. Big difference.

  19. Whoa, I didnt even know he was still around. I heard he died a long time ago??? Weird.

    Jess
    http://www.total-privacy.es.tc

  20. Keep sending money to my Evangelistic Association or I’ll raise myself from the dead.

  21. This is a test

  22. “Whoa, I didnt even know he was still around. I heard he died a long time ago??? Weird.”

    Talking about Oral R. or Jesus?

    “He was a visionary, a charlatan, and a showman, and for better or worse he helped create the world we live in now.”

    There may be a Godwin in there struggling to get out.

    Or are the atheists talking about Jesus again?

  23. “Like the late Jerry Falwell, Roberts was an accidental modernist: an alleged reactionary who in retrospect looks more like a radical, a man who did far more to bring such secular forces as television and a love of worldly success into conservative Christian communities than he did to preserve those communities’ old character.”

    That’s exactly right. Oral was one of the leading proponents of the Americanist heresy. On the other hand, you can argue that one of Christianity’s strengths has been its ability to change with the times and bend but not break. Islam doesn’t seem to have the same flexibility.

    1. Spoken like someone who knows little of Islamic history. Most Muslims are NOT Wahabbists (luckily).

      Oh and Christianity doesn’t break? Is that why there are 40,000 different denominations?

    2. Islam today is FAR more tolerant than Christianity was after 1400 years of existence.

    3. You seen confused, I am not sure what you are saying. Please clarify.

    4. Wow, you actually think that christianity bends???? What world do you live in??? Not earth!!

  24. All of me dismisses Roberts as a scamster living off gullible people’s donations.

    I don’t understand how reasonable seeming people like John can believe in Jesus/God.

    1. Are you being ironic?

    2. Isn’t that kind of like saying, “Sometimes I’m a real jerk. I don’t understand how reasonable seeming people could like or respect my parents.”?

  25. What killed Oral Roberts?

    See:

    http://notionscapital.wordpres…..rops-dead/

  26. There will be no atheists in hell–only believers.

    Dennis Fischer
    Lincoln, Nebraska USA

  27. swaggart, bakker, roberts, osteen, falwell, what’s-his-fuck in OC, 700-club prick: money redistribution and a little skim for the benign one overseeing the redistributing.

    kinda mirrors congress.

  28. difference? one is willing. the other sometimes not.

  29. Roberts started all these rip off con artists who go on the tv every hour, every minute of every day begging for your cash, promising all kind of miracles. Thanks, Oral, for spawning some of the most putrid, greedy, disgusting individuals on the planet whose only goal is to get you to give them your cash (supposedly to spread the gospel, feed the hungry, help the community, etc? NOT!) in order to live their opulant, money grubbing lifestyles.

  30. Fuck oral roberts. I guess the earth is only 5000 years old. By the way, the next time you question science,please dont start your car or turn the lights on, because the method that resuls in these things also results in the things you depend on. Science is real, get over it.

  31. Also, please understand that the scientific method is directly linked to the advances in medical technology that we enjoy. This has been extpapolated mathemtically. The same methods have been applied to the question of human orogins. . . . . .

  32. will someone please respond??

  33. douglas avann:
    you are talking down to me. I don’t want to respond in the manner you want.

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