Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Me and Oral Roberts

Heal!! He laid on hands, this intense, florid man, sweating and teary eyed.  The man, woman, or child kneeling at his feet--if they weren't on a stretcher or in a wheel chair--frequently were crying too.  Their stories had been told, their need for healing proclaimed to the heavens and the congregation--along with us out in television land.
Oral Roberts seemed to wrest miracles from Jesus; the physical effort was evident .  Nothing gentle about this.

And nothing quiet about the healings either.  Rejoicing swept the congregation, the newly healed and Oral Roberts praised Jesus--and cried.  Faith healings take place in in an ocean surge of waves, and spray, and salt.
I was eight and this was the 50's in North Carolina.  We weren't always regular churchgoers but my mother was raised Baptist, Jesus was always watching us, and she read a chapter from the Bible to me every night.
I also lived in a world where grownups never lied and people were to be trusted.
My mother's health was fragile.  She had bronchiectisis (a lung condition somewhat like cystic fibrosis) which regularly put her in the hospital about once a year.She nearly died having me and "was never the same."  When my dad was gone--he was a Marine--I would slip into her room at night to check to be sure she was breathing.
So I wrote to Oral Roberts to ask him to pray for my mother to be healed.  As far as I could tell, he never failed on TV and his prayers had to be just as effective at a distance.  As I mailed the letter, I imagined my family's surprise and joy.  I didn't want thanks--I just wanted my mom to live and figured that the Reverend Robert's prayers seemed to have a power my night time Our father who art's and God blesses didn't.
My theology was weak and so was my critical thinking--but I was eight. Not stupid, just ignorant and a bit naive.
I did get a letter back.  There was a generic  paragraph promising prayers for me and my loved one.  They would lift us up to the Lord or something like that.
The rest of the letter was a two paragraph plea for money.  I don't think it was explicitly said but my eight year old self found it pretty implicit that this money would make the prayers much, much, much more effective.
I was disappointed but not devastated.  More like the dawning of Santa is your mom and dad, that growing awareness of the limitations of sleighs and realities of life.
I wish I'd written to thank him.
Some facts, like chicken pox, are best taught/caught young.

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