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Why the Oral Roberts Obituaries Are Wrong

The "faith-healer" (who hated the term) may have done much to mainstream Pentecostalism, but he was no architect of the Prosperity Gospel.

What was Oral Roberts's main legacy? How important a figure was he? Oral Roberts University president Mark Rutland told CT that he and Billy Graham "were the two preeminent luminaries of the 20th century."

Preeminent historian of Pentecostalism Grant Wacker, author of Heaven Below, largely agrees.

"Other than Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr., and maybe Jerry Falwell, it would be hard to name a different religious leader of more importance," he told USA Today. "In the middle of the 20th century, he took faith healing and Pentecostalism away from a frowzy backwoods image and gave it an upbeat face."

Wacker is (justifiably) ubiquitous in the obituaries today. He told The Washington Post, "If we set aside Billy Graham and Martin Luther King and [Jerry] Falwell in the sense that their influence was religious but also political and social, outside them Roberts was the most important religious figure in the second half of the 20th Century. Just as a religious figure. And in lots of ways. ...

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