Oral’s Magical Touch

By: Derek Dyson

In 1958, Mary Vonderscher was coming to her wits end. She had been diagnosed with spinal cancer years before and had been continuously undergoing medical treatment in attempt to cure her ailment. Although she had been seeing signs of improvement through her therapy and medication, it was not happening as quickly as she had wanted. After hearing of the miraculous faith healings performed by the traveling televangelist Oral Roberts, Mary decided to seek out a higher power to cure her cancer. Meeting the Roberts congregation late in the year, Mary made her donation to the cause and was then afforded the anointed touch of Oral himself. Mary used the customary Pentecostal screeching and uncontrollable body movements to bring on the healing as Oral tapped her on the forehead yelling “Through the Power of Christ!” as she fell into the expecting arms of the “catchers”. Mary went home that day feeling alive with the Holy Spirit and thought she had been completely healed of her ailment. She continually wrote to the Roberts organization sending money and telling them how thankful she was. When they returned to her home town nearly one month later they invited her to come and give a testimonial. In the tape Mary appears happy and energetic explaining how god had touched her through Oral and how magnificent it was. Less than 12 hours after leaving the taping, Mary lay dead in her home in Burbank, her body no longer able to fight the cancer alone. One can only wonder how much longer she could have lived if she had continued to take her medication and visit her doctor.

Much like this story, there are at least 4 other cases where Oral “healed” diabetic patients who then stopped taking insulin and subsequently died within days of their supposed healing. There are multiple incidents where terminally ill patients were brought in by ambulance for dramatic effect, who would then die on the set because their bodies were not able to cope with the traumatic situations that would arise. With Orals many supposed “resurrections” one must wonder why he never raised these people from the dead on national television. It’s not too difficult to see the dangers of such superstition. What could possibly drive someone to believe that they can heal the sick with a single touch, or speak medically of a condition that they have absolutely no classical training in? Lets first look at Oral Roberts as a person and then you can come to your own conclusions as to why he would do such a thing.

In the early 1940’s Granville Oral Roberts started preaching the good word to all that would listen in a sort of traveling tent revival that would move up and down the Mid-West performing miraculous faith “healings” and bringing people to Christ. By the 1970’s Oral had amassed a $500 million empire that had been centered around the newest and most productive means of marketing, the television. Oral used this means of communication to reach the pocketbooks of millions of viewers across the globe. This furthered his empire, eventually leading to the construction the “city of faith” right here in Tulsa, OK. This multi-million dollar piece of real-estate was comprised of an Evangelical College, and a now defunct 30 story hospital and 20 story medical research center. With the failure of Orals hospital in the near future, he saw the need for additional funding. It would appear that with all of the miraculous faith healing being done, he must have diminished the market of paying sick patients that would need real medical attention, causing his hospital to go under. Another humorous explaination could be that he recieved some bad financial advice from God in one of his many one on one conversations. We may never know which it was, but what we do know is that Oral had yet to diffuse his greatest asset, leading to an appeal for money that could not be ignored.

On January 4th, 1987 Oral appeared to his vast TV audience, eyes already shrink wrapped in tears, proclaiming that if he were unable to raise the sum of $8 million by the 1st of March, god himself was going to take Oral from this earth prematurely. Oral then started a mass mailing campaign and televangical tyrant that eventually caught the eyes of the National Press. In a 1987 issue of Time magazine, an article on Roberts is headlined “Your money or his life”, with the author pointing out the various absurdities in Orals antics. Oral eventually got the money he had asked for and was not murdered by god.

What is it about these men that drive them to the faith healing business? Well considering that Oral needed merely $8 million in 1987 to be spared gods wrath, one should wonder why he didn’t simply sell of some of his personal real-estate to meet the financial needs of the empire. Oral surely could have raised most of the funds by selling some of his various homes in Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and Tulsa, or possibly putting some of his prize cattle up for sale. The two winter homes in California alone could have raised a whopping $1.2 million if the city of faith really needed the money. All in all, Oral didn’t need to spend his own money (although every cent he had ever made was coming from his faith-healing marketing campaign) because he had millions of god-fearing believers out there willing to empty their pockets to ensure their seat next to the almighty.

It should be said that of all the supposed “healings” performed by Oral over the last 50 years, not a single one of these instances have ever been verified by medical science. Oral continuously drew attention to himself by proclaiming such absurdities as “raising the dead” or witnessing a 900 foot tall Jesus lift “the city of faith” into the Tulsa skyline proclaiming “see how easy it is for me to lift it Oral?”. This drew many skeptics to the great state of Oklahoma, many of which followed him across the nation to witness his trickery. They would then follow up on the patients that he had “healed” to track their progress. Allen Spraggett, a journalist that followed Orals crusade of healing throughout the eighties reported that although the Roberts officials had publicly claimed hundreds of healings to their television audience while he was with them, there had not been one cure administered in that time. Journalists and scientists spent countless hours on the subject and still could not come up with a single verifiable case of a miraculous healing. Who needs evidence when you have faith?

It is absurd to believe that a man such as Oral Roberts is anything more than a charlatan. He used the same gimmicks and tricks that any supposed psychic would use to appeal to his audience and then packaged his “miracles” in a neatly marketed bundle that could be shipped all across the nation. This man amassed millions of dollars pretending to heal the sick, which in many cases would lead to their death when they decided to forfiet medical attention in light of their supposed healing. This is but one example of what a “man of god” can truly accomplish when given the right resources and the ability to devoid his own conscience.

The history of faith healing is a very interesting subject and if you wish to delve into it at a much deeper level, you can find the book The Faith Healers, By James Randi. This book cites many of the historical aspects of faith healing and tricks used by its proponents