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Oral Roberts saw a 900-ft Jesus (he stepped it off himself) and received a new medical wing for his school. Which is odd, considering he could heal with the touch of his hand. (Okay, maybe a dental center given his name was Oral.) But he is now dead, which is odd, considering he and his minions raised people from the dead. The Daily Beast steps off the faith-healer’s dubious achievements:

As one of the first televangelists, Roberts brought Pentecostalism, a demonstrative, magic-filled kind of Christianity that often involves speaking in tongues, faith healing, and prophesy, into the mainstream. He deserves a good part of the credit for the fact that today, Pentecostalism is the world’s fastest-growing denomination. (According to the scholar Philip Jenkins, by 2050 there will likely be more than a billion believers worldwide.) As Roberts’ biographer David Edwin Harrell, Jr. wrote in 1985, “In his nearly four decades of healing evangelism, Oral Roberts has personally touched over a million human beings; several million more have answered his call to ‘accept Christ;’ tens of millions more have heard him preach and pray on radio, television, and in films; hundreds of millions of pieces of literature have been mailed to every corner of the globe from his headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma… a generation of students has been trained at Oral Roberts University.”

Roberts tied Pentecostalism to fundraising in a way that continues to echo worldwide. In the 1950s, in a gambit that’s become common for prosperity preachers, he promised radio listeners that God would repay every dollar they sent to him seven times over. His genius was to market faith like an investment, one that would pay predictable dividends to true believers. Thus wealth became a sign of piety, and poverty a spiritual, rather than a material, condition. This theology has done as much to bolster conservative ideology as the naked politicking of Falwell and Robertson. It’s also ruined a lot of lives.


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