Why the Oral Roberts Obituaries Are Wrong
But still, Roberts always seemed to be dismissed as a "faith healer" by both evangelical gatekeepers and the mainstream media. And that, says Harrell, is one of the reasons why Roberts turned back to associating with Word-Faith preachers later in life.
"Oral was more culturally at home [at the Hagin camp meetings] in a way he would never be in a Methodist church," he wrote. "To some extent, Hagin had reintroduced Roberts to the burgeoning charismatic movement he had done so much to create. In a time when his ties to the Methodist church were shaky, the independent charismatic revivalists showed Oral a whole new constituency that loved and honored him."
It was to that constituency and other Pentecostals that Roberts appealed for the remainder of his life, as he was (somewhat inaccurately) tied to the televangelism scandals of the 1980s and the rise of the "religious right," and as he faced economic troubles regarding the City of Faith Medical and Research Center (it closed in 1989).
So when Roberts's 1987 fundraising warning made headlines and late-night talk-show monologues, it tended to cement views of Roberts that were already in place, and ultimately is a footnote to Roberts's story.
As Wacker told the Associated Press, "For true believers it made sense. For the rest of us, it was like, 'Well, all right. This is an embarrassment. Let's move on.' I don't think there's any question it was an embarrassment for millions of Pentecostals. But overall it is so minor, measured against the magnitude of his accomplishment."
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Earlier articles on Oral Roberts and Oral Roberts University include:
Q+A: Mark Rutland on Oral Roberts's Legacy | The Oral Roberts University president reflects on a man who had a big vision. (Dec. 16, 2009)
God's Man in Tulsa: The Life and Ministry of the Original Televangelist | Oral Roberts was a larger-than-life figure in American Christianity. By Roger Olson (Dec. 16,2009)
Healing ORU | $70 million and Mart Green's business acumen are repairing a scandal-scarred school. (September 3, 2009)
Fund Raising: Did Oral Roberts Go Too Far? | The television evangelist links receiving $8 million to the extension of his early life. (February 20, 1987)