Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Televangelist Oral Roberts dies

The news today is that Oral Roberts has died at the age of 91. Being a former Pentecostal, I'm well aware of the late televangelist. In fact, one of my high school friends went to ORU.

Oral was a pioneer in many ways, bringing Pentecostalism into the mainstream. Few evangelists were as well known as he was -- only Billy Graham had more recognition. Not even Pat Robertson was his equal when he was at the top of his game. Like Aimee Semple McPherson, who had pioneered the use of radio, he was able to make good use of television to spread his message. He also expanded his reach by starting a university that gained national recognition.

One of the ways in which he gained broader legitimacy was to leave his Pentecostal Holiness church in the 1960s and gain recognition as a minister in the United Methodist Church. That made him Mainline and Mainstream (though at just the time that the Mainline was beginning its decline. At the same time he was a popularizer and developer of the prosperity doctrine -- influencing and giving support to a number of other prosperity preachers (they all seem to have emerged out of Oklahoma).

Although he didn't get into any sexual scandals, he did find his share of embarrassments -- including a "vision" that promised that he would die if he didn't pull in 8 million in contributions for medical school scholarships. He got the money, but not before the embarrassments began to hit.

The ministry has been in decline for years -- he tried to pass it on to his son Richard, who recently left the Presidency of the University in failure. His name no longer rings out with the same importance as it did earlier.

Despite the scandals and embarrassments, he was an important figure. Like Aimee Semple McPherson in the first half of the 20th century, he brought Pentecostalism into the center of the discussion.

The article in the LA Times, with link below, is well worth reading.

Televangelist Oral Roberts dies; pioneering preacher of the 'prosperity gospel' was 91 -- latimes.com


The one thing you can say for folks like Oral - - they make for interesting religion!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Although he didn't get into any sexual scandals, he did find his share of embarrassments -- "

Well, there are some vee ryfunny, er, I mean very disrespectful jokes going around- God's speed Oral.