The passing of Oral Roberts yesterday yielded some...complex...obituaries and remembrances. In all accounts I've read, he is remembered as a relentlessly positive man, the embodiment of the American can-do spirit. He thought big, dreamed big, and lived big. He kneeled in his big church as he prayed to his big God. He was not, generally speaking, someone that you'd encounter face to face and think: Dang, I hate that guy. He had charisma. He was entertaining.
Then again, he was also one of the most vigorous proponents of the Totally Misrepresents Jesus Prosperity Gospel. He and his family lived the life of the very, very wealthy, because that's what pastors do when they've convinced their flock that blessings will come to those who...um...give generously. He helped lay the foundation for Health and Wealth Tee Vee Jebus Worship.
And he was quite the character. His rather notorious fundraising stunts included declaring at one point that God had told him that unless people gave more to support his ministry, God was going to pop a cap into him. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
I was always a little disappointed that his "Pay up or the preacher man dies" thing worked. It would have been interesting to see what the Creator of the Universe had in store for
him. Would the Good Lord just have done the easy smiting him with lightning thing? Or maybe something more creative, like had him eaten alive by a ravenous mob of zombie chipmunks?
Perhaps the Lord would have just killed him really, really slowly, letting a Priest of Prospering watch his life and and family and ministry unravel as his relevance as a leader within the community of Jesus people withered to nothing.
Whichever way, his legacy is...complicated. Requiem aeternam, Oral.