When I was a student at Oral Roberts University, I spent 2 1/2 blissful years in charge of the campus movies. For the most part, things went well — but when we did have problems, it was usually from a fellow student taking umbrage at something rather than from the administration cracking down. I still remember showing the animated movie “Yellow Submarine,” and a student wrote a letter to the editor of the campus paper excoriating the Student Association for bringing this particular piece of filth to campus. He accused the Beatles of various real and imagined sins, and mentioned real and imagined drug references in some lyrics. My response was that we had to judge the movie on its own merits, not necessarily on the private lives of its creators. And “Yellow Submarine” can certainly be enjoyed as a harmless, whimsical, G-rated fantasy tale.
Anyway, I got my ORU alumni e-newsletter today, and was amused to read this item:
The “Lennon Bus” Is Coming to ORU!
The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus will be on the ORU campus from April 8-9. The bus is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) mobile audio and HD video recording and production facility. Since 1998, the Bus has provided free hands-on programs to hundreds of high schools, colleges, Boys and Girls Clubs, music festivals, concerts, conventions and community organizations. ORU students will get their chance to take part in the bus. Tours of the bus are open to the public.
I don’t know if Ron C. is also on the alumni mailing list, but I would love to have seen his reaction.
A bit of trivia I should have mentioned earlier: if Pat Robertson does work some sort of deal to affiliate ORU with Regent University, it would not be the first such transaction.
When I attended ORU, in the early 1980s, it was at its peak in the number of graduate schools offered. It had, in fact, overreached, and pared down some of those graduate programs after I left. One of those was the law school, which was, in all but name, sold to Robertson’s Regent University (nee CBN University). Regent U bought the law library and the assets and hired many of the professors, in effect transferring the program from Tulsa to Virginia Beach and getting an instant, turn-key law school.
I’ve never been a fan of Richard Roberts, and while I shouldn’t take joy in the recent scandals, I have had a little bit of satisfaction in his resignation, knowing that ORU would no longer be run by Richard Roberts.
You know the old saying, “Be careful what you ask for?”
Well, there are, it turns out, a few people who I would like to see running ORU even less than I wanted to see Richard Roberts running ORU. Here, friends and neighbors, is one of them:
Statement from George Pearsons – Chairman, ORU Board of Regents
We are pleased to report that Dr. Pat Robertson, president and chancellor of Regent University and long-time friend of Oral Roberts University, has contacted members of the board of regents and has expressed interest in exploring options for the future of ORU with Regent University. Dr. Robertson is sending a team on Monday to Tulsa to meet with ORU Regents and administrative representatives.
My old college friend Peter Smith, at his Louisville Courier-Journal blog, pooh-poohs the notion that the recent Richard Roberts scandal has devalued our ORU degrees:
Initial reaction: Yikes! A devalued ORU degree? Gulp. I have one of those myself.
Second reaction: The Roberts family did something to raise questions about the value of an ORU degree? Who’d have predicted it?
Third reaction: Don’t worry, kids. That stock’s been falling for a long time.
I had to laugh at this:
If nothing else, in this era of resume inflation, this is proof that my resume is accurate, because who would put that on a resume if it wasn’t true?
Meanwhile, 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera ties in the scandal to “the corrupt leaders at the top of America’s Religious Right,” which I find pretty funny. For all the disdain that I have always had for Richard, and have for televangelism in general, the Robertses were always pretty apolitical. I was shocked, in fact, when part of the Richard Roberts scandal had to do with Richard’s support for a local candidate there in Tulsa. This is a broad and irresponsible over-generalization, but it’s my impression that the charismatic or pentecostal televangelists (with the obvious exception of Pat Robertson) are less concerned with politics than televangelists from an evangelical background (like the late Jerry Falwell).
The blogger at 10,000 Monkeys also quotes Carlton Pearson, noting that he is “a former ORU board member,” as if he were an insider, calling his remarks “candid”; actually, Pearson has been a pariah in those circles ever since he renounced belief in Hell and started preaching universal salvation — the idea that God will ultimately save and forgive everyone, whether or not each person has made any sort of decision in his earthly life. MSNBC recently did a fascinating documentary about Carlton Pearson and his whole story, from being one of ORU’s favorite sons to losing everything.
I just got this e-mail from Oral Roberts University’s alumni office:
Today, a letter was sent from Richard Roberts to the Board of Regents of Oral Roberts University tendering his resignation as President of Oral Roberts University effective today, November 23, 2007.
The Board of Regents will meet Monday and Tuesday, November 26 and 27, 2007 to determine action in the search process for a new president.
Executive Regent Billy Joe Daugherty will continue to assume administrative responsibilities of the Office of the President, working together with Chancellor Oral Roberts, until the Regents meeting.
In his letter of resignation to the Board, Richard Roberts said, “I love ORU with all my heart. I love the students, faculty, staff and administration and I want to see God’s best for all of them.”
We needed a local opinion column for today’s paper, and I updated and tweaked my blog post about televangelism for use as a column. I got a great e-mail this afternoon from a much more recent ORU grad who had found the column online. He agreed with it, and — sadly enough — offered his own confirmation of at least some minor aspects of the allegations against the Roberts family from things he’d seen or heard about as a student.
This was a reconnection of sorts — even though we were 20 years apart at ORU, he’d worked on the campus newspaper during his tenure, and during that time he had run across some of my old “Speed Bumps” humor columns, as well as the 1984 April Fool’s issue which I supervised. The campus paper sometimes does profiles of successful alumni, and he took it upon himself to interview me. I found out from his e-mail today that when he tried to reprint some of my old material to accompany the interview, standards had changed — a few jokes I had gotten away with in 1983 and 1984 were no longer allowed in 2003 and 2004.
Meanwhile, I also swapped e-mail this week with Bill Meenk, the old campus chaplain with whom I reconnected back in May. That led to Bill reading the column as well. He praised it, although he also offered his positive experience as the second surgery patient at the City of Faith, and his belief in the holistic, prayer-plus-medicine approach which it was supposed to have represented.
My friend and fellow ORU alumnus Peter Smith has a terrific blog post pointing out that some of the university’s regents who will be investigating allegations against Richard Roberts are, themselves, sometimes accused of the same materialistic behavior.
Peter notes how many of the figures involved are not members of the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability. One of my proudest moments as a Mountain T.O.P. board member was being a part of the board during the time when Mountain T.O.P. joined ECFA. ECFA’s rules are tough, and sometimes difficult to comply with, but at the end of the day you can look your donors in the eye and tell them what you are doing is above board and show them audits and documentation to prove it.
The Wittenburg Door’s regular newsletter has links to a PDF of a document filed in court about the Richard and Lindsay Roberts scandal. Supposedly, it’s based on an internal analysis of potentially scandalous situations prepared by someone within the ministry. If even 10 percent of these accusations are true, the ministry is guilty of some serious mismanagement.
My friend and ORU classmate Peter Smith, now a religion reporter in Louisville, has posted on the Richard Roberts controversy. Go read his remarks.
As for me, I watched Richard and Lindsay Tuesday night on “Larry King Live.” Right now, it’s really a case of one person’s word against another, and Larry King’s non-confrontational interviewing style didn’t really shed a lot of new light on the matter, other than Richard and Lindsay denying everything. Oral Roberts called in to support his son and daughter-in-law. At one point, you could hear a muffled voice in the background who was either prompting Oral with some talking point or perhaps just repeating the question for him.
I think I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating.
During the time that I was a student at ORU, the Oral Roberts TV ministry offered a particular leather-bound Bible as a premium for people who donated a particular amount to the ministry. The Bible included a section with photos of the Oral Roberts ministry. I guess it takes a peculiar kind of hubris to think that your own activities are worthy of being bound into, and distributed with, the words of holy scripture, but let’s put that aside for a second.
I did not own this Bible — being a college student, I couldn’t have afforded to give quite that much to the ministry — but I recall looking through someone else’s copy one day. One of the photos in the ministry section of the Bible was of the groundbreaking for the City of Faith hospital. The City of Faith, which never turned out as planned, was supposed to be a sort of evangelical Mayo Clinic — a research hospital combining top-flight medicine and science with a holistic, prayerful outlook.
Anyway, the groundbreaking took place on a beautiful, sunny day, and there was bright blue sky at the top of the picture. Through that bright blue sky, I detected a faint vertical line. I followed the line down through the photo and realized it ended up right next to Richard Roberts.