Oklahoma evangelist Oral Roberts claimed in 1980 to have seen a 900 foot Jesus standing over the partially constructed "City of Faith" hospital he was building next to Oral Roberts University. The gigantic savior did not speak to him, but Roberts guessed that Jesus had come to signal that the hospital was a good thing, and that people should give him more money to finish it. He asked, they gave, and the hospital was finished in 1981. Though Roberts claims that Jesus has visited him a number of times since, all these more recent visions have been of a standard sized Jesus, not the jumbo version of 1980.
For example, in 1983 Roberts announced that Jesus had paid him a visit to say that he (Jesus) had personally appointed him (Roberts) to find a cure for cancer.
No cure for cancer has followed from City of Faith nor any other Roberts-connected enterprise.
The famous claim that "God [would] call [Roberts] home" unless people gave him (Roberts) a lot of money didn't come until 1986. Kids, if you think religiosity in America is crazy now, with parishes embracing whackjobs for murdering doctors, and priests raping their parishioners, you should have seen the mid-1980s. Roberts said God had told him,
I want you to use the ORU medical school to put My medical presence in the earth. I want you to get this going in one year or I will call you home. It will cost $8 million and I want you to believe you can raise it.
Compared to Jimmy Swaggart
and Jim Bakker
, this actually seemed reasonable and in good taste. Roberts repeated the claim several times in 1986 and early 1987. God had given Roberts a deadline of March 1 but, being an understanding sort of supreme being, extended it when Roberts had trouble raising the bucks.
In April 1987, Roberts announced that he had raised $9.1 million. $1.3 million of this was given at the last moment by a dog track owner named Jerry Collins.
I have no idea where the money went. The City of Faith medical clinic was closed later that year. In early 1988, all scholarships to the medical school were cancelled and students were required to repay large sums if they transferred to other schools. In 1989, the medical school was closed altogether.
For what it's worth, visions of Jesus are popular among Catholics and evangelical Protestants, though some religious academicians express scepticism about all of them. After all, people often see what they want to see and, even if a vision is 'real', how do you know it comes from Jesus and not the Devil?
The problem of hucksters making up visions for their own gain has been observed for some time, and is directly addressed by the most relevant authority there is:
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
This should be remembered by fans of eschatological preachers like Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, Grant Jefferies, and Jack Van Impe.
Time, July 4, 1983
O Timothy magazine, Volume 7, Issue 3, 1990
Los Angeles Times, Oct. 8, 1992