Anthea Butler has a nice appreciation over on Religion Dispatches, but I would pick a small bone with the subhead and the conclusion. The subhead reads:
Before there was Falwell, Robertson, Bakker, or the Crouches, there was Oral Roberts, the iconoclastic pioneer of televangelism.
The conclusion is:
My friend said, “What other Pentecostal leader had a vision, and built it?”
And she was right. Whatever can be said about Oral Roberts, he embraced the veni vidi vici
of Pentecostalism full stop. I’m only wishing there was a television
camera on the other side, to watch him make a grand entrance.
The unmentioned precursor of Oral Roberts was Aimee Semple McPherson. She was the prior Pentecostal superstar who had the vision and built it. She did the healing, built the building, and (before TV existed) created her own radio station that made hers the most famous voice in the West. She may not have had the global reach of Roberts, but she was, in her day, as big a national celebrity as he ever became, and she had a big hand in taking Pentecostalism out the storefronts and brush arbors and putting it on Main Street. And unlike Roberts, she created her own denomination, which exists to this day.
So in all the obituary acclamation of Roberts, let’s not forget that Sister Aimee was there ahead of him.