Retired televangelist Oral Roberts died on December 15th. He was 91 years old.
When I was a child, I knew Oral Roberts as simply the old guy who came on after the cartoons. Later, in 1987, Roberts contributed to one of the defining moments of my cynical adolescence when he announced that if he didn't raise 8 million dollars by a set date, God would kill him (or "call him home.")
Roberts ended up raising 9.1 million dollars but, in the end, his statement did far more harm than good to the American evangelical community. His claim that God was blackmailing him managed to discredit every other televangelist in the country, regardless of whether they practiced Roberts' style of ministry or not. Certainly, it added fuel to a fire that would, later that year, turn into an inferno as both Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker saw their ministries collapse.
It's not for me to say whether or not Roberts sincerely believed he would be killed for failing to raise enough money to please God. All I can say for sure is that the death threat doesn't sound like something that the God I was raised to worship would have anything to do with.
Roberts was semi-retired when he died. To be honest, I was initially surprised to discover that he hadn't died years earlier. Oddly enough, his death was not greeted with any jokes about being called home. Then again, Americans always have been a forgetful group of people.
Oral Roberts, R.I.P.