by Lorette C. Luzajic
Part 7 of the Pillars of Faith series.
Empire of Miracles
He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, and said, Behold, I am coming quickly!
Not this time. The Lord’s good buddy Oral Roberts, of course.
The Oklahoma-born Charismatic faith-healer Roberts had queues of thousands of sick waiting for his healing touch. He also raised people from the dead. Hundreds of them.
He received his commission from the Lord directly — Jesus appeared to him countless times in person. Oral dropped out of Bible College to travel America in the ‘40s, setting up folding chairs under giant circus tents for revival.
And a circus it was. There was weeping and shouting and a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on, as demons and diseases departed from the masses. “I personally laid hands on more than 1.5 million individuals who had all manner of sickness and disease,” wrote Roberts in When You See the Invisible, You Can Do the Impossible.
“I also engaged the demon spirits in tens of thousands, calling to them, ‘come out you foul tormenting spirits of Satan’…. people saw healing for the first time since the days when Jesus and his disciples publicly healed the sick…”
“All of us in the ministry could talk … of certain dead ones being raised,” the big O told 5,000 at a conference in 1987. His son Richard said that same year, “dozens and dozens of documented instances of people who have been raised from the dead.”
Baby, We Can Talk All Night
Pullquote: Oral said God would kill him if the sum fell short of $8 million.
Add to those marvels his gift of prophecy — but perhaps the greatest blessing of the Holy Spirit was giving Oral his name. Tremendous oratory skills granted him a different kind of power than other brilliant speakers like Hitler.
That power included bilking the public for country clubs, Beverly Hills properties, vacations via private jet, fancy cars, horses… his school has faced dire financial problems, but the Roberts families have not — his daughter-in-law once spent $39,000 in one clothing store! (Allegedly, Oral now maintains a humble salary in his old age.)
Once, Oral told his public that God asked him for $8 million. Oral said God would kill him if the sum fell short. The prophecy came true, of course — Roberts made over 9 million and did not die.
Not long after Roberts learned that God wanted him to be rich, he also had a vision of a 900-foot-tall Christ telling him to build a City of Faith, a medical center/prayer/faith healing school, to add to the university he’d previously prophesied and built. His own personal Jesus may have loomed large, promising a cure for cancer, but the medical center shut down quickly. No cure in sight so far.
The university with the giant praying hands towering into the sky goes on, though it’s riddled with the usual money-funneling scandals. There were bizarre allegations against Roberts’ son’s wife for wee-hour conversations with teenage boys — and cell phone bills of $800 per month.
Tragedy, not Triumph
Pullquote: “I’m coming back … and I’m going to get my rightful place. I’m going to rule and I’m going to reign … when I get back from the other side.”
Further woes included the death of son Ronald in 1982, found shot in his van. It was rather uncertainly ruled a suicide and swept under the rug. Ron was an openly gay antiques dealer, says the LGBT community, including MCC, the “gay” church. The Roberts’ deny this. His suicide was blamed on army trauma from Vietnam.
Sadly, Oral’s daughter Rebecca died in a plane crash with her husband. A grandchild also died just after birth.
As of this writing, none of these have been raised from the dead.
The “documented proofs” of Roberts’ healing touch vanish under scrutiny. Many who appeared on his shows with testimony of cures died hours or days later, but these unimportant details were never aired. It has been said that a little hope never hurt anyone, but I beg to differ. I also vote we start charging these con men with murder, because thousands of hopeful believers turn from treatments that could help them.
If there are any doubts of Oral’s intentions, one need only listen to his own prophecies of returning with Christ in the clouds. “I’m coming back … and I’m going to get my rightful place. I’m going to rule and I’m going to reign … when I get back from the other side.”
All that said, Oral is distinguishable from most other televangelists. He was, as far as I can tell, never caught with his pants down.
Lorette C. Luzajic writes about all kinds of interesting people at Fascinating People.