Hemant Mehta points out something I didn’t know either, that Oral Roberts has a grandson who is gay and an atheist. And one of Roberts’ sons was gay too. He links to a letter from Randy Potts, the grandson, to his late uncle Ronnie, Oral’s oldest son.
My uncle, Ronald David Roberts, was born in 1945, the oldest son of the late televangelist, Oral Roberts, my grandfather. My Uncle Ronnie, like me, was gay. He wrote in letters, published after his death, that he “came out” in high school, but only to close friends and family, including his father. His father, Oral Roberts, was the first televangelist, and likely the most famous faith-healer since Jesus Christ, with a worldwide audience in the hundreds of millions. He did not want a gay son. Oral’s anti-homosexual rants were so vehement that they can still be found on YouTube, forty years later. In his thirties, six months after getting divorced and coming out, my Uncle Ronnie died, on June 10th, 1982, by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the heart.
I’m gay too. And my mother, like her father, does not want a gay son. My mother made a point to tell me, only a year ago, at my grandfather’s funeral, in front of 4,000 people, that Hell does exist and I’m going there. My uncle and I were raised in a world dominated by Evangelicals who taught, and still teach, that the fires of Hell await all gay men and women. This is the Evangelical “Christian” legacy for gays like my uncle and me: Threats. Bullying. Damnation. Death.
But for me, and many others, the story doesn’t end here. Five years ago, when I was divorced and came out, I found myself, like my Uncle Ronnie, in Oklahoma, in my thirties, and terrified of losing my children because I was gay. I was regularly called a faggot, both by strangers and by my ex-wife, and, like my uncle before me, reached a point of despair. Suicide among gay men and women in Evangelical communities is still prevalent. Evangelicals may not be killing gays outright—the police report suggests my uncle killed himself. However, while the Evangelical community might not pull the trigger when one of their gay members commits suicide, they provide the ammunition.
Potts has a new book coming out. I suspect it will be a very interesting read.