Oral Roberts and his place in American religious history

Was Oral Roberts, the influential and controversial TV evangelist who died Tuesday at age 91, the most important American religious … Continued

Was Oral Roberts, the influential and controversial TV evangelist who died Tuesday at age 91, the most important American religious figure of the 20th century?

Grant Wacker, professor of Christian history at Duke University, thinks so. He tells Post reporter Michelle Boorstein:

“I’d say if we set aside Billy Graham and Martin Luther King and 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.

“The most obvious way was he brought Pentecostalism out of the backwoods and made it respectable. One cannot imagine the modern day Pentecostalism without him. He transformed its image, but also its practice.”

Do you agree?

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  • greenmansf

    Hillarious! Oral brought Pentecostalism out of the backwoods and showed all of the world what a complete sham he was running at the same time. Remember that whole prayer tower “give me millions of dollars or the “lawd” will call me home fiasco of his? Also, why would you set aside Fallwell? He showed himself to be a huge scam artist as well, right up there with Oral and his son in ripping people off under the pretense of religion. And Billy Graham had the ear of certain Presidents, but he is hardly someone who made any public policy waves like Dr. King, and neither should be put aside so you can mock seriously religious folks by attempting to proclaim this charlatan as anything other than a simple con man. You are absolutely hilarious.

  • jrw1

    Well, one bites the dust, but another dozen slither out from beneath the rocks to take his place. What do you suppose the Lord really does with these creeps: surely he doesn’t want to see them on any heavenly streets? Or run across them in the bars.

  • orthodoxheathen

    No, I don’t agree that Roberts or anyone else ever made Pentecostalism respectable.

  • TexasRed972

    The world will remember Oral Roberts as a televangelist, a pioneer of the media. But he was also a humble man, a country boy who liked blackberry preserves with seeds in it, who never forgot that God could just as easily use the “jawbone of an ass” if He chose. He touched the lives of millions. He was a great man, and he will be missed.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Sorry, but not all of us are Evangelical Cs. (As in who gives a you know what.) Kindly therefore ditch this blather, allot one or to threads to Roberts, and restore the essays on a Just War.And is this a Christian country or is it not? All stops for televangelists. The Fundies and Vaticanista Congressmen control health care legislation.Can the rest of us at least make a pretense that the US accepts diversity of belief, nonbelief?

  • arminius3142

    My memory of this strange person is this:Some years ago, Mr Roberts went public with a dream – he claimed that a 900 foot Jesus commanded him to create a medical college, and, of course, asked for donations. The sheep, of course, complied.But a few days later, a local DJ came on the radio station and said that he had dreamed of a 700 foot Lassie, and he was commanded to build a veterinarian college! The laughter was immediate! Alas, he was fired instantly, since old Oral owned the whole town. But I bet with that on his resume, he did well.

  • drjmoore

    I attended dental school at Oral Roberts University. The basic tenants of the mission of the University were and are sound. Most of the graduate programs were only in place a few years before the financial crises that hit tele evangalism let to their closure.To the outside world Oral could be seen as a charlatin, and we as students did have trouble with some of the ways money was spent. But the seeds planted in the lives of those few of us who graduated have led to amazing efforts around the world. We have gone and continue to go where Gods light is dim His voice is heard small and His power is not known, even to the utter most bounds of the earth…Do we do this for the financial reward or because we were brainwashed?…We do it because that is what God called all Christians to do. Oral served as a lens to focus the evangelical energy of a country and a world. He was and is one of the most influencial men of God of the twentieth century…warts and all…but then aren’t most of the great bible heroes men who also had tremendous weak spots as well?…It helps to show who is really in charge…It helps to put the focus on the purpose of God in our lives: to allow Him to bless others through us. I learned that at Oral Roberts University. 21 plus mission trips later I feel so blessed to have had the experience.Oral was a man of God…a simple yet complex man, a man of great vision, a man who had great power, a man who wrestled with the temptations great power brings…yet the world is a better place for him being here. The Christian message and experience is better for him having been here.God bless Oral Roberts…

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    I am really happy for all those folks for whom Roberts did some good. Sorry about their loss.Can we move on, please? I mean struggle forward? Return th blog to its originally scheduled program?

  • revbookburn

    Roberts helped popularize extremism. His “ministry” became a big business and some of his followers were prototypes for the zealots that we see and hear today.

  • caroleliston

    Why so impatient to change the subject? Oral Roberts was a great man who deserves his day of eulogy and appreciation. His life inspired others to see the miracles occuring all around them and dared them to believe that these miracles might not be just for the privileged few or people of the past, but also for the common man of today who simply believed. A full blooded Native American, he was born with a speech impediment, but rose up from the dusty poverty of Oklahoma and, against the odds, became a powerful orator/preacher whose healing ministry touched the lives of thousands. Later,he trail blazed a fully accredited private Christian university dedicated to sending students into “every man’s world” to bring God’s Light, Love, and Word of Hope. He leaves behind a living legacy that continues beyond his lifetime to change the world for the better.So what will be said of your life and mine when all is said and done? I say, pay due respects to this remarkable man. He took what little he was given, dedicated it to God, sowed it into the lives of others, and multiplied it 100 fold – to the benefit, most significantly, of future generations.

  • ccnl1

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs”, Russel et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of “pretty wingie thingie” visits and “prophecies” for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immaculate conceptions).Current crises: Adulterous preachers, “propheteering/ profiteering” evangelicals like Oral Roberts, atonement theology, all male hierarchies and strange banking and funding.

  • vinceporter

    On the two or three occasions when I spent a few minutes viewing his TV show – it was a show, wasn’t it? – Oral sure looked like a nut to me, and, the people in the audience looked even crazier.