A good laugh -with too much woeful truth beneath it.
January 2, 2010 Economist Magazine
Oral Roberts, preacher and televangelist, died on December 15th, aged 91
THE first time Oral Roberts heard Jesus’s call on his life, he was 17 and had been bedfast with TB for five months. He was a stuttering, faltering, disbelieving young man, much like the young Moses in his pride. But as his impoverished family
knelt round his bed in their cabin in the dust of Oklahoma, praying a desperate prayer to the Lord, he saw his father’s face fade into the countenance of Jesus. It broke him up.
These encounters stoked high the fire of the spirit in Mr Roberts, enabling him to travel and broadcast coast to coast and as far as Australia with a heavy anointing. But they were not strictly necessary. God spoke to Mr Roberts all the time. He told him to preach from the age of 18 in sweltering 3,000-seater tents across the south-west, and in 1954 to let the television cameras in, so that the Pentecostal spirit rolled all across the land. He told him he could heal with his right hand, know the number and names of demons, and cast them out, so that thousands saw him in sweat-soaked shirt and tie gripping and wrenching the believers and yelping, weeping his praise (“Oh God, loosen that little foot up! Glory to God! Glory to God!”). Mr Roberts was empowered to heal via TV screens and through prayed-over handkerchiefs sent by the mail. The Lord told him to build a major university: the result was Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, with 5,400 students who, by a miracle, neither drank nor fornicated. There in the Prayer Tower, under the eternal gas flame, Mr Roberts prayed for all who asked him to.
Most insistently, God told Mr Roberts that He wanted him to be rich. One day in 1947, when he had pranged his car, Mr Roberts opened the Bible to 3 John 2: “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” Almost instantly, he found he could afford a Buick, rather than one of those smaller economy cars. He began to preach that word. God would return a miracle harvest from the seed sown (1 Cor. 3: 7; Gal. 6: 7-9). Every dollar given to the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association—“or $30, Amex, Visa, whatever the Lord leads you to do”—would eventually return to the giver multiplied as much as a hundredfold. Those who doubted could survey the ORU campus at 7777 South Lewis, and see what God had wrought through the man who was now a director of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and the Bank of Oklahoma. Weeping and fasting
To help the process along, his followers were sent sachets of healing water to anoint their wallets, as well as any part of their body where they had need. Mass mail-outs and computerised lists were mobilised, for the first time, to do the Lord’s work. The Precious Seed sent in return ended up with Mr Roberts, but “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple?” (1 Cor. 9: 13).
Yet God also worked in mysterious ways, for His thoughts were higher than men’s thoughts (Isaiah 55: 9). In 1986 He ordered Mr Roberts to send out medical missionaries in His Name, and to raise $8m in scholarships for them, or He would call him home. Mr Roberts prayed, fasted, wept on prime time and raised the money, but the City of Faith closed down within two years, despite what Jesus had assured him. God said: “I did not want this merging of My healing streams of medicine and prayer localised in Tulsa.” God also decreed that Mr Roberts should be persecuted for this effort, as well as for saying that he once had to interrupt a sermon to raise a child from the dead.
Over the years therefore the harvest appeared to dwindle in dollar terms, and his debts grew. But Mr Roberts was still elegant, with a fine head of hair filled with the Holy Spirit. A multitude of preachers and healers had been raised up in his image, with their own TV shows and motivational books, to carry on the work. And God spoke to him one last time, telling him that although his heavenly home was prepared, he was not about to be taken from Oklahoma. He would rule and reign over the ORU campus until the end of time, when hoodlums and sodomites and disbelievers together would be repaid for laughing at him with everlasting fire.
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