December 15, 2009

Praise the Lord, but give your money to me

Pentecostal evangelist Oral Roberts died Tuesday in Newport Beach, Calif., at 91, from complications from pneumonia.

He's most famous for claiming on television in 1987 that God "would call him home" if viewers did not send him millions of dollars.

The obituary in the New York Times said:
He was the patriarch of the “prosperity gospel,” a theology that promotes the idea that Christians who pray and donate with sufficient fervency will be rewarded with health, wealth and happiness. Mr. Roberts trained and mentored several generations of younger prosperity gospel preachers who now have television and multimedia empires of their own.
The hucksters who implore you on TV to max out your credit card so that God can reward your devotion with wealth, those are the ones whom he trained.
As for his purported ability to heal, according to the obituary in New York Times: "Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and other religious denominations questioned the authenticity of the healing. In the mid-1950s, in a step that would become familiar, a group of Arizona ministers offered to pay $1,000 to anyone who had been healed by Mr. Roberts and could provide medical proof. They received no response."
Some of the comments to the NYT obituary:
  • He invested early in the American religion bubble and cashed out a rich man.
  • I remember him as one of the white evangelical leaders who fought tooth-and-nails against MLK and Civil Rights movement in the 1960s (along with Jerry Falwell).
  • One of the great American confidence artists. The mullahs of Iran have nothing on him.How many people did he brainwash out of their hard earned money?
  • One of the greatest flim-flam artists of all time!
Seems like Roberts was in the habit of talking to God or receiving visions from God. He founded Oral Roberts University in 1963, obeying a command from God. (Apparently God had no objection to his self-aggrandizingly naming it after himself. Why didn't God demand that it be named after, say, Jesus?) In 1977, according to Wikipedia, he had a vision from a 900-ft. Jesus to build City of Faith Medical and Research Center and the hospital would be a success. It operated for only eight years before folding.

Also from the wikipedia entry:
Harry McNevin said that in 1988 the ORU Board of Regents "rubber-stamped" the "use of millions in endowment money to buy a Beverly Hills property so that Oral Roberts could have a West Coast office and house." In addition he said a country club membership was purchased for the Robertses' home. The lavish expenses led to McNevin's resignation from the Board.
There's a sucker born every minute, and in the USA there are more charlatans to take advantage of them than in any other country in the planet.

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