The blog GetReligion, which critiques media coverage of religion, points out that most obituaries of Oral Roberts are missing the point. First, as Mollie Hemingway points out, he was NOT the patriarch of the prosperity gospel. Journalists are confusing him with fellow-Tulsan Kenneth Hagin. In fact, Roberts was associated with critics of that movement. Also, Roberts, despite his roots in backwoods Pentecostalism, was a member of the mainline United Methodist Church. His main significance, argues Terry Mattingly, is that he represents the way Pentecostalism found its way into mainline denominations and morphed into the charismatic movement.
I myself prefer him in his old days as a TV faith healer, which, whatever its validity, was spellbinding television. Later, after he founded Oral Roberts University and broadcast from his prayer tower, his show became slick and insufferable, but those black and white broadcasts of the sweaty, shouting preacher was great TV. And if you read Flannery O’Connor–say, “The Violent Bear It Away”–you would appreciate it, even if you didn’t believe it.