Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Oral Roberts

God works in mysterious ways: through small, quiet miracles, sometimes so subtle you only realize they've happened as an afterthought; and then there are the kinds that were Oral Roberts' forte. These were the loud, indisputable works of healing that he said medicine was incapable of delivering, spectacular outpourings of divine favor that were the products of unalloyed faith. Well, perhaps not completely unalloyed. Roberts, a pioneer of the televangelist empires that had their heyday in the 1980s, preached an easily understandable virtue: give and you shall receive. An audience hungry for miracles gave him millions to help direct God's benediction their way. The Oklahoman built big with the funds, including a university that still bears his name. But as his kingdom grew so did its need for money. And so he magnified his claims to include things that perhaps only God is allowed to do, at one point appearing to say he could raise the dead. Roberts' glory would pass. But he taught America to expect miracles; and that abides.