Give Me That Prime-Time Religion

By Frank Jarnerson

A book by the above title was written in 1979 by Jerry Sholes, who had been an associate of Oral Roberts for three and a half years. The sub-title is “an insider’s report on the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association.”

Mr. Sholes worked with Oral Roberts from 1975 until 1979 and said that Oral’s mail room is equipped to handle over 20,000 letters per day, and ninety percent of those envelopes have money in them. “The average gift is $5.00. Now, an average gift of $5.00 isn’t very much . . . unless you’re getting 18,000 gifts like that per day” (8).

It is no wonder that Mr. Roberts says, “I love your letters, I love to get them . . . I love to pray over them.” Actually, Mr. Sholes points out that Oral cannot read that many letters per day, and he only sees a computer printout of names and requests.

In addition to the millions of dollars sent to Mr. Roberts, the writer of this book reveals that he also makes millions from his seminars each year. He conducts six to nine of these, composed of about 2,500 people in each, and the “take” from each of these “would be in the neighborhood of $1.5 to $3 million” (33).

Mr. Sholes said, “Usually, during a seminar, there were participants who were in wheelchairs. I never saw anyone healed of anything and that bothered me. I saw people who had come expecting a healing and I saw the raw hope and desire in their eyes. If faith could have brought them up out of those wheelchairs, they would have come out and been ready to run a 50yard dash, on the spot! It never happened” (p.34). The thing that really shook his faith was when a faculty member at Oral Robets University had a baby who became ill. The man decided to really put the power of prayer to the test and began praying for the child rather than taking it to the hospital. Their baby died, and “the couple decided to begin praying and fasting to bring the infant back to life.” They requested that Oral come to their house and pray for the child, but his reaction was that he “wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole.” Mr. Sholes said: “If God ever had spoken to me and had told me to take his healing power to my generation, I’d have gone into that home and prayed for that baby, dead or not” (39).

Mr. Sholes discussed the “City of Faith,” and showed that Oral deliberately lied about God speaking to him. On September 7, 1977, Oral announced that “he had experienced a vision in the desert in August, 1977, and that God had spoken to him and had given him all the details for a three building complex which comprised the City of Faith.” Sholes said, “However, in January, 1977, Oral Roberts and Ron Smith, Oral’s Executive Vice President, met in MY OFFICE and discussed WITH ME a three building complex which would include a clinic, a research center and a hotel . . . which would eventually be converted into a hospital. That discussion took place BEFORE Oral’s announcement and 7 months BEFORE he had his ‘vision’ in the desert” (192).

Oral also said that in his August, 1977 vision, “Suddenly God gave me a new name for the Health Care and Research Center I am to build in His name. You shall call it the City of Faith.” Mr. Sholes then documents the fact that in 1955, Coronet magazine published an article about Oral Roberts purchasing 175 acres in Tulsa for the purpose of erecting “The City of Faith.” In May, 1956 an article in American magazine revealed the same fact. “If God didn’t reveal the name ‘City of Faith’ until August, ’77, why was he using it in 1956?” (194)

One of the stories that Oral often tells is about his healing from tuberculosis. “His past stories and autobiographies have always indicated that he was instantly healed,” says Mr. Sholes, but after Oral announced plans to build the City of Faith, in 1978, his story began to vary a bit. “He stated on several TV programs (after the City of Faith announcement) that it took him over a year to recuperate from his illness. His message on those programs implied that it took prayer and medicine to heal him of tuberculosis . . . a variation of the story that fits in rather well with the role which the City of Faith is supposed to play in the delivery of holistic health care! In other words, as late as 1961, Oral was stating that tests taken within two months after his healing indicated that his lungs were absolutely clear of TB. In 1978, however, he stated on television that it took a year for his total healing to occur” (96).

Mr. Sholes said, “Because of personal involvement on my part in the promotion of the City of Faith, and because of my participation in various planning and strategy sessions relating to the City of Faith, I know and am witness to the fact that Oral Roberts has personally lied about the City of Faith. Those lies and the nature of them . . . Oral telling millions of people that God told him to do something are what made me decide to write this book” (191).

Oral Roberts has “milked” the American public for millions of dollars, and though his City of Faith has folded (evidently God did not foresee the cost of running a hospital!) he continues to thrive on contributions from poor people vainly hoping for healing or material prosperity.

The only power Oral, or any other faith-healer has, is the power of suggestion (“mind over matter”), and the only ones getting prosperous are those receiving the contributions!

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 6, p. 165
March 19, 1992