Gary Justis

Gary Justis
Location
Bloomington, Illinois, US
Birthday
April 04
Bio
Gary Justis has worked primarily in the area of kinetic sculpture for the last 34 years. He lived and worked in Chicago from 1977 to 1999. He currently resides in Bloomington Illinois, where he teaches and writes stories about his actual experiences. (please take a look at his "Sculpture" link for more info)

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JANUARY 7, 2010 2:14PM

The Faith Healer

Rate: 52 Flag

Oral Roberts 11a

      Photo: Francis Miller/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Jul 01, 1962 

  

I was searching for a way to write about the early deeds of this fascinating, enigmatic character. The impression he left on the consciousness of a wide swath of people across the South and the lower Midwest remains fresh, as the very nature of his original energy and faith.

 

He was born in Oklahoma, rising out of poverty with a young man’s resolve to make things right. God spoke to him. He believed, and in the course of his ministries, people found the strength to heal themselves as they glowed in his charismatic presence, knowing this man had a direct line to the Big Guy.

 

As I was growing up, Oral Roberts was the closest link to God that desperate folks had. He convinced us all, of the supreme miracle of faith, and there was no doubt in the spectacle of his revivals, that he believed…deeply. When the people approached him, he removed his jacket and I remember the whiteness of his shirt. He was an impressive man to a small kid, a man who could have easily qualified to be Superman’s pal, or at least part of the sacred league of partners, who’s goal was to rid the Earth of Evil, and to restore health to the infirm. 

 

I found a powerful image in the Life archives that shows him raising himself up from a crouching position. He holds the wrist of a young woman, who appears to be very ill. There are three older women, who are either the mother of the sick figure, with two aunts, or older sisters of the sick woman. They show differing degrees of emotion, from weeping, to anxious anticipation, to sudden elation. The image astonishes me. It is an image that records the brief time line of transformation, from desperation, to cautious hope…making right the faulty occasion of the young woman’s suffering.

 

In his humble beginnings, there was a righteous goodness at work. The broadcasts were intricately detailed, passing the good word that there were forces on earth that could be skillfully channeled to all believers. Crowds of desperate folks, whose numbers could have easily populated all of the small towns that dotted the Middle West made pilgrimages to Oral Robert’s Tent Revivals.

 

Were those unfortunate people healed? There were so many, and I still do not know the answer. There is the weak explanation of denial, psychological and physiological expectations raised in the presence of a charismatic figure. I do know from experience that natural adrenaline in the body can subdue pain and suppress symptoms of some infirmities, and I know of the alleged power of faith… but these are all practical considerations, which I must pay close attention to in retrospect. At the time Oral Roberts was laying his hands on the sick, I was a child, a believer…a fan of his extraordinary goodness.

 

Back then, in the 50’s and 60’s, I would watch the live revival broadcasts with my mother. In some ways we were living the effects of suffering from the waiting crowd. They numbered in the hundreds with each event. There were people who could not walk, men with respiratory ailments, women wheeling their children who were gripped by palsy, passive children with defects who were denied the experience of discovering joy in growing up, men and women with a parent who was supposedly possessed by demons…the people stretched in an endless line of misery, the length of which the Faith Healer had no awareness, but rather succumbed to a powerful faith in his ability to bring them, all of them, back to the edge of wholeness.

 

We went about our fortunate lives, with Mom reminding us of how we were spared the terrible sufferings of some families. I could not imagine being a kid and not having the ability to walk…to run and jump.

 


 

In those days my big brother developed severe near-sightedness. Mom and Dad were worried his limited sight might have been the result of disease, or injury.

The discovery of this common affliction was a relief to my parents, and devastating to my brother.

 

In our part of the Midwest, peers and various bullies in school ridiculed a young boy who wore glasses. Its strange how this stigma had carried over from earlier times, along with the belief that boys who wore glasses were weak, solitary, asexual, and cared only about books above all the things young boys were expected to crave.

 

We had been to the optometrist; Greg had been fitted for his first pair of glasses. He stood still, tears streaming down his face as the doctor adjusted the frames to his head. I was not understanding how he could not be ecstatic in having the novelty of these glasses placed on his nose, a sure way have better vision, but more importantly, a promise of attention from everyone.

 

 At home, my brother was more demonstrative with his feelings:

 “OK shit-ball. You have no idea the trouble I’m in over these crappy glasses! Nerds have glasses, but no friends. Goodie-goodies have glasses, but no girlfriends, and they get teased and cut out of party invitations, movie dates………no swimming!”

 I was incredulous. “No swimming?”

 “No butt-face, the lifeguards make all the guys who have glasses go in the kiddie pool!”

 This did not make sense to me. “Why do they make guys with glasses go in the kiddie pool?”

 My brother was holding his face in his hands.

“I don’t know shit-wad…Maybe they don’t want to dive to the bottom to get guy’s glasses when they fall in the pool, or maybe they want to show us a cruddy time because they think we’re nerds.”

 

This was a serious dilemma…to a kid. I felt terrible for him, and I wanted to help him, even though he was my avowed tormentor. I still wanted him to be happy, and it always hurt terribly to see him upset.

 “Can the doctors fix your eyes?”

 “No. I have to wear these thick lenses like forever…only a miracle can fix my eyes.”

 I found a solution. “Let’s go to Oral Roberts and have him fix your eyes!”

 The idea seemed sound to me. Rev. Roberts had healed thousands of people…on Television! Mom always said she wanted to go to a revival, and most of them were in Oklahoma, where she was born.

 

I saw my brother’s eyes brighten a little. To a smaller brother, affecting hope on the face of a big brother could hold back all uncertainty and sorrow. It could make rivalry dissipate and affection grow…in kid time, or through an exquisite poise, in longer minutes that seemed to melt into ages. Part of me lived to see my brother smile. It was a joy that I could not recognize back then, and I could only feel it to the magnificent limits of my juvenile understanding.

 


 

 

The heat of the full summer was almost too much for people to take interest in anything outside of their own comfort. We were at a revival meeting hosted by the Reverend Oral Roberts. There was a tent the size of a football field, into which several thousand people poured to hear the Healer. We found places at the back to stand, leaning against tent-posts, me, Mom and Greg. We fanned ourselves with hand-fans decorated with illustrations of Jesus and the Apostles. With the multitude, and the difficulties of managing a crowd of this size safely, Reverend Robert’s people did a very good job. We were constantly asked if we needed anything. Mom commented on the gentle way in which the staff treated the bed-ridden folks, who had needs that far exceeded ours.

 

The sight of so many suffering people awed my brother. A part of the tent was sectioned off for the people who could not walk. There were some sick people who seemed to be at the point of unconsciousness. Some were emaciated to a degree that made me think of living skeletons. They would be reclining in yard loungers, surrounded by loved ones. There was weeping, and skyward pleading by the suffering relatives. People held their arms over their heads facing upward, towards the cloudless sky, where we all assumed God resided.

 

I kept peering around the tent flaps, looking up into the hot, cerulean sky. I didn’t know if God was looking down at these desperate folks, but I was certain the Healer would be coming around, reading the information cards for each afflicted person, putting them at ease through a mysterious, divine allure that grabbed God’s attention. The Healer could pull God’s grace down as he pulled the faithful up…

  

Waiting 1

 
 
Healing
 

  the spirit takes hold

 

“Mom. Let’s leave. These people have worse stuff wrong than I do.”

My brother reluctantly stood in the healing group with Mom and me. It seemed to span a quarter mile square, with one half of the people unable to stand. At a point within the group we could see the Healer taking time with one after another of the afflicted. The loudspeaker bellowed his shouts…invoking the spirit, to work through him, and take away pain.

 The shrieks of the newly healed were frightening, but the fear was softened by the swelling visions of wholeness, as people threw down their crutches, moved limbs for the first time, or looked back as their amazed relatives followed them in the majestic first footsteps of their corporeal revelation.

 

 

  Glory 1

 

building fullness

 

 

“Mom! Let’s go. I have a small thing wrong, not like some of these people.”

My brother made a distinction, rare for someone his age, between his inconvenience, and the genuinely profound afflictions of people he had not met. It was as if he understood the Healer’s powers were a limited resource.

 

Mom smiled. She turned us, and gently laying her arms around our shoulders, led us to the car. We rode back to Kansas. As we left the red hills behind us, crossing the arid plain towards home, I marveled at the contented look on my brother’s face as he sat reading, dignified, the glasses perched on his nose, making him look so serene, so wise.

 

 

Greg glasses 1b

 Greg Justis  1962

 

  Greg glasses 2a

 1962

 

 


  

Photos of Oral Roberts: Francis Miller/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images  Jul 01, 1962

 Note: My family's experience did not take place at the revival depicted by Francis Miller's photographic series. The series does however quite strikingly resemble the singular dramatic events of my family's experience.

 

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Your point here...if I may be so bold...of your brother's transformation is so gorgeous...and so subtlely executed...I can hardly believe it.

As a child, I got to see Katherine Kuhlman in California. Long story how that came to be...but when I saw Leap of Faith, starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger...it became one of my favorite films...xox
Profound. Eloquent. As I read toward the conclusion, my cynical mind was thinking your brother was simply rationalizing his fear of the spotlight. But looking at his photo tells me that the spirit did touch him - much deeper than his corneas.

Beautifully written, Gary...or did I say that already?
Utterly fascinating, insightful, and poignant. It is also appropriately respectful, both to Roberts, and to his followers. This is one of the best things I have read in a long time.
Thank you, Gary, for your wonderful post. The gift of healing can be so subtle. It radiates, like the smile on your brother's little face.

This also brought to mind (in addition to Leap of Faith) the film "Resurrection," starring Ellen Burstyn as a woman given the healing touch following a near-death experience -- and Sam Shepard as her boyfriend who can't accept it. A great story.
Belief is no doubt a powerful motivator -- but then so is cash. I was living in Orlando when a "connected" dog track owner ponied up several million dollars to keep the Lord from taking Oral Roberts prematurely -- he died last December at 91, relatively untouched by all the scandal surrounding financial shenanigans by his son Richard
Robin said it so eloquently, I can only say, "Ditto!"

I'm not sure why your talent is so incredible, G, I only know one thing:
It Just Is.

Rated.
What a thought-provoking post! I am touched by your brother and find myself mulling over some of the questions you bring up about faith, belief and healing. Thank you.
Brilliant, funny, sensitive and kind.
This is a poignant story, Gary, and a very original one. I think your idea to visit the Healer was brilliant, and your mom was extraordinary to take you to see him. But your brother, ah, he is the hero of this story: he could see, he could really see. What a great post, I am in awe.
kisses,
Marcela
I can commend many aspects of this post . . . the poignancy of your perspective as younger brother watching older brother gain a new point of view . . . the hushed, respectful tone of the story paired with the black and white images of the revival maintain the mystery as it was experienced through the eyes of the young Gary . . .

And for what it's worth, there was a faith healer who visited our church when I was a kid. When he prayed for one of our congregants whose one leg had been a full 2" shorter than the other, the leg lengthened - and she's never had to wear the blocky lifts again. Who knows?
I wholly understand the stigma of having to wear glasses as a child.
I wonder if your mother suspected what the outcome of that day would be.
Great story, great message.
:-)
My dad used to enjoy telling the story of a time in the late fities, or maybe it was the early sixties, when he was suffering from a horrible bout with what me might described today as sciatica.

He was in constant pain and could barely move, had to be propped up with pillows in bed or on the sofa in order to sleep or get any rest. His orthopedist offered no relief other than pain medication he had no interest in taking.

Oral Roberts had a TV show on at the time, which aired in Memphis, where my family lived, on Sunday mornings and one Sunday Oral implored anyone in the TV audience who needed any healing to come over to the TV and put their hands on it and say they believed and through the magic of TV Oral Roberts would transmit the healing love of Jesus Christ to them and they would be healed. And so my dad said, "wtf?" and he got my mom to help him up off the sofa and he hobbled over to the TV and he bent down and put his hands on it and he yelled, "Oh, I BELIEVE you, Oral Roberts!" And after Oral finished his incantations my dad stood up and his pain was gone and he never had the same kind of pain again.

Imagine that.
I think it's akin to the "massage therapy" of the Victoria age, when people were so stiff and had such rigid social rules to maintain that women began to suffer hysterics. Letting go and allowing oneself to become part of the energy of a truly charismatic speaker must have been an amazing feeling -- I vaguely recall this feeling from revivals when I was a kid. Mostly I just cried back then because nobody could explain any of it to me -- it was the LORD! hallelujah.

And Gary, your insight into this episode of your youth is remarkable. (Has your brother had laser surgery?)
There is a healing that comes--where it comes from is anyone's speculation. I love the story of your brother, your desires for him, your belief that a man could do something for him. There's great power in all of that, even if the great and powerful Wizard of Oz isn't always what he seems.
Wow G, I just noticed in the second photo of your brother how much he and I resembled each other around that age!!!! I didn't wear glasses and my hair was a bit different, but geez Louise, it was downright creepy! I'll HAVE to find a photo of me around his age to send to you.

With that said, wonderfully objective piece on Oral Roberts. I always sort of considered him the father of televangelism, but then who am I to judge him? The unknown in the unknown and none of us can claim to know what is, was or ever will be, can we?

GREAT piece. Your brother looked very distinguished in his glasses. Today they are a mark of distinction in my opinion.

Rated
We all looked like that, those of us who were stricken with glasses, and invariably they were the Buddy Holly thick black frames which, for a blond kid like me, were like wearing a barbed wire fence in front of my social skills, athletic ability, intellect, or anything else of merit that might otherwise allow my little form to escape the gravity of myopia. My parents were no help, and had no sense of my suffering. My father had 20-15 vision. In my senior picture, the one in the HS yearbook when I graduated I was still wearing those black glasses, not switching to Lennon wire rims until I graduated to university, where I finally began the tortuous journey into the realm of learning how to have some self esteem.
ah, jeez... Sorry about the double post.
Thank you eveyone for coming around to this piece. We have a snow crisis here and I am doing tasks after having posted this, so I will catch up w all of you wonderful folks this evening....Peace
this was the best thing I read all day---your artists eye and absence of judgement combined for a fascinating picture I really don't believe I could have gotten from anyone but you. Brilliant!
What a young man wise beyond his years. It does make you wonder how many were real and how many were to fool the masses. I enjoyed reading this piece of you and your brothers life. I have worn glasses since 5Th grade and yes I so understand what he felt.
Robin, you hit it so well. He was heartbroken when he thought about it later, but seeing the level of need under that tent was transformative, and in his situation, wonderful.

Clark, thank you..I think all of us were affected, even my brother who would later move away from the faith…he never forgot this experience.

Steve, I found tremendous respect for those people who would have done anything to help the ones they loved. In retrospect, I am convinced of the legitimacy of the whole thing, whether there were in fact those who could throw off the dependency of crutches and braces, or not. Roberts always said that Faith was the healer, ad he was a channel. He never claimed anything else when it came to healing.

Carole, Thank you…I will look up that film. Two great actors, ad it sounds like a wonderful story.

Tom, I am mixed about the scandals of his ministry in later years. It was strange when he sent public and told his donors he was being called home if he did not raise 8 million dollars by a certain time. In his early years, he was struck with visions he claimed were guiding him to eventually build a university. He stayed true to the commitment, in spite of the failure of the Med School, and the subsequent scandals Richard was involved in.

In this piece, I am hoping to preserve, in my simple way, the thing that I felt was the most important part of his ministry, the healing aspect. I do feel he truly believed he was a channel for a higher power, and the testimony of thousands support this.

Bill, You are the incredible one my good friend! Thanks for reading!

Mypsyche, I hope the questions are garnished with some wonder for this man’s works as well.

Daniel, Thanks you very much for coming by…

Marcela, He is still my hero(my brother). But at the time, Roberts was our closest thing to a super hero.

Owl, it is impossible to prove the veracity of these acts. I still want to believe they were all helped by a mysterious source of great power.

Spotted, Mom was good at watching us discover things through our own experiences. Not too protective, and totally committed to our happiness.
Lonnie,
What a blast from the past! I watched Roberts place his hand on what appeared to be our TV screen many times, asking people to place their hand against his. We used to laugh about this with our Dad. Mom believed for a long time, and I heard testimony from people we knew who had experienced healing in this manner.
As Roberts always said, it was the sick person’s faith that allowed the spirit to enter and cure them.

Skeletnwmn, he had laser surgery a few years before he passed away. Prior to that he had contacts in his adult years. His eyes got progressively worse before the surgery. Thank you for your kind comment!

Kathy, I am very happy you came over…yes, there were forces greater than most things we could imagine.

Greg, he was distinguished in more ways than one. I would love to see the photos of you! Thanks so much for your comment!

Dyno, yes we did look like that..several years later I got glasses as well, and I loved the attention I got….but things were so clear! When I went to wires in my senior year, my coach almost took me off the team, calling me a “Beatnik”

Roger, thanks you for the comment….means a lot. You did a great post as well. A home run!

Lunchlady, I think many folks really believed they were made whole, going on with their lives. I would occasionally se return people being healed on TV. Roberts would make a note of that, then channel the spirit with even more verve, hoping to make the healing stick…
Walkaway, I am glad you came over...thanks!
This is a terrific piece. I remember you and Greg talking about the
trip to see Oral Roberts. Greg was always so ironic about things like that. But he was also so sweet in a truly deep way.
Gary, what a wonderful post. We had an Oral Roberts level healer in Montreal, which is weird because Quebec is incredibly secular now.

So many believers claimed to be healed by Brother André, a doorman at a private Catholic boys school, that he was eventually able to finance a basilica across the street that is second only in size to St. Paul's in Rome. Here it is. There are four separate chapels in there, and one of them has a wall entirely covered in the crutches that people left behind. It's beautiful, but more a little creepy. Finally last month, after years of lobbying, Pope Benedict has had him declared a saint. So we're expecting an influx of pilgrims this year. If you look at the photo I linked to, you'll see two flights of wooden stares that pilgrim usually climb on their knees.
Meanwhile even midnight Christmas mass can barely fill half a church in Montreal. Believers in this city are very few and far between. But when they believed, they really took it seriously.
oops, did I write St. Paul's basilica in Rome? I meant St. Peter's.
I love this story for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it is wonderfully written. In a way, your brother was cured, even if his vision remained the same. There's nothing like an Oklahoma story. The timing of this article is, of course, perfect. Incidentally, one of my best friends went to Oral Roberts Medical School. (The school lost its accreditation and the students had to go elsewhere.) The subject of faith healing is endlessly fascinating. The photos you included are fantastic! I know you're tired of me saying this, but ... you're the consummate story-teller. What better way to approach the subject than through the eyes of a child, and no one sees through the eyes of a child better than you. Great post, Gary!
Loved this Gary, and glad to see it on our fair cover.
Faith healing? Yeah, why not.. There is more out there
than most of us understand.
I, like your brother, developed terrible eyesight at a young age.
Thing is, I didn't know I was damn near blind. I received
my first pair of glasses in the fourth grade, and I will never
forget my first look through them. I stared for minutes in amazement at the bright and shiny new K-Mart that was across 78th St in KCK from the eye docs. I could see!
to me, your brother's the hero of this story, his faith, his compassion, his courage, his self-transformation

my impression of Oral Roberts has been of a charlatan, systematically extorting money from the credulous, but then I never had your experience of witnessing him in the role of healer, perhaps he had a gift but lost his soul over the years, perhaps he was a sincere believer and never noticed as his god morphed into Mammon, or perhaps I'm just a cynic
gary, wow, incredible story. how's your brother currently? still wearing glasses? good writing thank you
Great pictures. I grew up in Missouri, and watching Oral on TV was better than Howdy Doody.
This is a beautiful, beautiful story and I loved reading it, and I loved your brother's realization and the result. Fantastic in all ways. thanks.
This is pure heart and wonderfully written. I had many associations while reading. My grandmother was an aging midwife when I was small, and I grew up hearing the stories of faith healers. And of Mag, the midwife, who often fed them when they passed through the "hollar." Thank you for posting your remembrance, the 60's pix, and the telling of your brother's insight. Rated, as always!
What a stunningly written post Gary. I think it is my favorite of yours so far.
Oh Gary, I just love it when you write about your childhood. You capture every detail, every nuance, so perfectly. Thanks for this lovely story with a much larger message. Your mom was very wise.
Bring back the bolo tie!
Just what I needed today, like a piping bowl of oatmeal on a single digit Minnesota morning. We were a little far north to see him in person but I do remember watching (did he call it a 'crusade?) on tv after delivering the Sunday morning papers. You transmit so effectively the feeling of that time-the naive confidence, innocent optimism, genuine belief in our good intentions, when all really was well, or at least seemed to be, before the assassination and our awakening to Dangerous Toys at the Edge ...There is something of the essence of those days which can serve us well in these present troubled times and I find it very therapeutic to receive these occasional reminders from you.
Well done, ol' boy and thanks much.
Aw, Gary. Ya got me all teary... Nice piece.
Great storytelling, as expected. Very enjoyable piece about time, place, Oral Roberts and a fascinating brother. We got to watch him grow up a little here.
This was so well-crafted. I loved the conversation about how he wouldn't be able to swim. Shit-wad, is a great word. Perfect conclusion you capture the past, my past by the way, so well.
Hi Gary. Thanks to reading your post I burnt my pizza. It was still edible (eating it now), though. Of course, when you're hungry, almost anything can be edible.
I enjoyed your post. It reminded me of Sundays at grandma's house where I would watch Oral Roberts before going to the Presbyterian church of my childhood. I was more intrigued by the liveliness of Mr. Roberts and the musical productions of his service than what I would be subjected to in my own church. Usually I was able to get a nap in before coming home to Sunday dinner.
You know that I have always been a believer and faithful follower of your work, Gary. This post was pure artistry. I love that the EP Gods smiled down on you, too. ;) xoxo
My aunt and uncle took their daughter (my cousin) to a faith healer.

Neither of them were particularly religious.

Anyway, they were on vacation many years ago when my cousin was a still a child. She spiked a raging temperature and became very ill. They were in a small town in rural Oregon and staying at a roadside motel. The owner of the motel suggested they take my cousin to a faith healer they knew in town. For reasons known only to them, they agreed. The faith healer was a woman in her 60's and immediately went to work laying her hands all over my cousin's face, chest, arms and legs. Within a matter of minutes, the fever broke and my cousin recovered.

Coincidence? Luck? Fate? Faith? Who knows but, it happened and the faith healer refused to accept any money or donation of any kind from my aunt and uncle.
The actual "healing" of this story is your brother's coming to accept his own self as he is.
That was good.

I have one question, whatever happened to the million dollars?
Okay, Gary...You've brought me to tears. Beautifull written with such compassion, honesty, and openness. I understand your brother. I was a little girl who used to pray that God would heal me so I wouldn't have to wear glasses. (Nerds unite!)

I can't really express how wonderful this post is. I am so glad the editor's took notice. This story is so lovely and you are such a brilliant writer, perhaps you could try to get this published somewhere? It really is that good.

Thank you so much for sharing. I'm going to go "tweet" about your post now.
I am more than a little bit skeptical regarding faith healers. But it is clear from this post and taking into account others you have written which included a tormenting older brother (something I understand so well) that the kind of healing I think Christ envisioned happened, at least for the time of your ride home. Your brother was peaceful and at peace with his acceptance of a minor disability (as you and I are the same age, I remember well what your brother would have expected to suffer for wearing glasses).
As always, beautifully told work Gary. I learn more about art and soul from these short pieces than I have in many a year.
it's incredible what the power of belief can do. without it we can't get up in the morning let alone think we can overcome illness. i suspect even when Roberts did absolutely nothing for the person in the physical sense he gave them hope and in giving hope he gave them a life worth living regardless of their infirmities.

as usual Gary, a fine job of making your point.
80% of the earth's population believe in the supernatural: gods, angels, heavens, hells. It's been going on forever. Life's a bitch and unfair and faith must be invoked to redress the balance. Or so it is believed. But there's zero evidence for these supposed forces. Peter Popoff was one of the more notorious charlatans exposed by James Randi, who still has a million dollars for anyone who can prove this nonsense. Jesus has yet to return "soon" and no one moves mountains as he explicitly promised. The only fascination here is the gushing and gullible comment writers.
John, calling the comment writers gushing and gullable is mean-spirited...

As writers, we all have our levels of belief in whatever forces we have found to be extant in the world. There are things that we feel compelled to describe through lenses of fantasy, or pure speculation. That's a writer's perogative. For this piece, the veracity of Robert's work is not the whold point. I'm sure you can see that.
Thank you Sweetheart…He grew deeply from the experience, and later we all grew from his wisdom…we miss him don’t we…

Juliet, I looked at the picture you sent and I will do some research on this. Thank you for the information and comment!

Hello Steve! I love stories about Oklahoma too Kansas and Oklahoma are maligned in popular culture so much, yet there are wonders in those regions, both in the landscape, and in the people who live there. Thanks so much.

Hi Trig, It is strange to see the world with clarity for the first time. Thanks for you comment!

Roy, I think his later years were plagued by scandal and the constant need for money…were it not for his vision of building the University, would he have remained in his humbler ministry?....Perhaps. I’m convinced he truly believed he was a channel for some higher power.

Thanks for coming around Michael. My brother passed away in 2006. He had laser correction in his 50’s.

Con, It was a close second w me….I felt the healing power of Capt. Bob and Howdy!

Grif, thanks so much for the comment.

Scupper, thanks for your comment. There are so many unexplainable testimony about faith healing….substantive medical proof is still illusive.

Mamoore, Thank you M. It felt right to do this, regardless of how history will remember Roberts, but for my brother, it was a common realization.

Hello Lisa, thanks Mom was and still is very wise..at 90, she is amazing.

Old Gold, I agree about the Bolo! Thanks for coming by and reading, and I appreciate your knowledge of the Dangerous Toys post! It feels good to remember those times, prior to 1963.

Hey Kent, Did I really…….no…….really Thanks man!

Jimmy, thanks for coming over and understanding the point of the event. I appreciate your feedback.

Dr Spudman, the word “shit-wad” is a great catch-all for “Li’l Brother” I’m glad I captured some of your past. Thank you!

Tim, did you save any for me!...I kind of like burnt pizza. We need to talk about the revivals on TV next time I see you at School. Great piece BTW at Matt’s Exhibition!
Also….glad to see you on OS!

Patricia, I am so happy for you….for both of us. I loved your last piece….really fine!
Thanks for coming over.
Chris, Thanks for your comment! These occurrences are hard to explain. I really like the story you post here. There are many like it….It would be great to compile these stories, but I am sure it has been done in many forms.

XJS, Yes that was the healing…thanks…million dollars? Not sure what you mean.

Gwen, thanks for the sweet comment. Nerds do Unite, in many parts of the country…forming an army….thanks also for the support.

Tim, some of the miracles of the bible can be explained…the loaves and fishes for example. The apostles divided up meager portions for the multitude. Passing out the portions, people saw this and brought out food they had been hoarding (a common practice for pilgrims) and there was plenty. For the healing, there is only testimony, no substantive medical evidence. I think most of us want to believe in a benevolent force at work.

Ben, yes belief and faith seems to be powerful when applied in certain situations. I think the situations have to be such that several outcomes are possible at any given time, as when we are sort of feeling lousy, but not that bad. The concreteness of the issue lies on the cusp of various possibilities. Thanks for your comments!
Stellaa...thanks so much for taking the time to come by. I appreciate your comment very much.
A wonderful story, which eschews easy, sneering contemporary attitudes and recognizes the complexity and mystery of faith and healing. I once interviewed an Italian faith healer in the Philippines, who granted me an opportunity to photographer her the next day during a healing session. Returning to see hundreds lined up around the block from her home, I was ushered into the healing sanctuary. At one point, during a particularly fervent moment in the proceedings, when a young woman was being healed and devotees were crying and praying in loud voices, my camera went haywire and the flash began popping over and over and over again - a blazing light adding to the spiritual madness. I was mortified. It took me five minutes to get it to stop, the camera broken.
I must say, for a Christian, that was very, very much worthy of a Zen Parable - or one of the more poigniant Sutras; but then I hear only one thing coming from most Christians now-a-days - usually something about "My God" (Boooo! Visitors!) and "Their God" (Gooooooo TEAM!), and about how I'm going to go to HELL because there's only ONE God and, besides, I DON'T HAVE JESUS! - so I guess, maybe, there's Hope for some of you yet.
Sorry if that sounds bitter! People messing with my SSD Claims, driving a Jewish Lesbian to suicide (or others to murder her), ignoring my ADA Rights (For my own good, causing me Pain is, they assure me! If I just Accpet Jesus, he'll Faith Heal Me, they say! My Pain will be Gone! I swear they think that and have acted against my 'Buddhist Version' best interests because I won't go along with it!) - that'd piss the Buddha himself off!
The pisser is - I've had something impossible happen to me more than once; and I have more Faith in some kind of a 'God' than most of the freaking posers who've messed with me! God's a DEIST - NOT a Theist, however; so don't expect ME to pray an ask God to get me out of a Karmic Burden (ie to have a 'sin forgiven') - with or without Jesus Help!
Well done Gary for sharing a sensitive story in this beautiful way. I can see that Spirit really did touch your brother. There is a serenity in his face not often seen in young people. Your story also encapsulates, for me, the bravery of such healers in simply being there for their healees, and also depth and breadth of their healing powers. He simply knew what your brother needed, and that was to see what suffering really is. It is a hard lesson to learn that sometimes our own suffering is simply mental analysis rather than pain.
Justis says: John, calling the comment writers gushing and gullable [sic] is mean-spirited...

JN replies: For "mean-spirited" I just can't help quoting Jesus: "They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matt 13:42 (NIV)
I have dozens more.

When I see cheering and uncritical acceptance of an obvious scam artist, who engaged in the sordid fleecing of vulnerable believers of millions of dollars with "healings" of no proven benefit, it is a duty for me to respond with some corrective information. The Wikipedia, a middle of the road compendium of facts and opinion, has used these descriptions of the Oral Roberts enterprise:

--Listed his salary as $161,872.

--a faith healer without a college degree.

--after reading John's 3rd epistle he concluded it was all right to be rich...he bought a fancy car and God appeared telling him to heal....

--embroiled in controversies and criticism...especially around the personal wealth that he accumulated from donations.
--In 1977, Roberts claimed to have had a vision from a 900-foot-tall Jesus who told him to build a medical center.
--there followed controversial fundraising practices. He pleaded, teary eyed, on TV, for 8 million dollars. He claimed God raised the dead through his ministry. He solicited money with letters ghostwritten by those hired by notorious televangelists.
--he never passed up the material things in life; even in tough times was reported to continue with his Italian silk suits, and diamond and gold jewelry.
--his son reported his raising a child from the dead (the evidence for this?? --JN).
--In 1989, facing financial difficulties, he had to sell his [2] holiday homes and [3] luxury cars.
--His son resigned in 2007 after being named...in a lawsuit alleging improper use of university funds and resources.
--WIKI reports, "...scandals ... through the 1980s as fraudulent healing practices were exposed." (I would like to see a non-fraudulent healing practice. --Medugorje? Fatima??)
I will also point out a 1987 book, "The Faith Healers" by James Randi who treats a large group of faith healers, including Roberts, as frauds. A review of this book says, "a strong indictment of charlatans who prey upon the gullible....many of the exploited sick continue to believe despite evidence that they have been defrauded."

GJ: As writers, we all have our levels of belief in whatever forces we have found to be extant in the world.

JN: As a scientist and observer I have a level of skepticism that requires critical challenges to phony healings.

GJ: There are things that we feel compelled to describe through lenses of fantasy, or pure speculation.

JN: And I point out that fantasy and speculation in the fleecing of victims is a sordid practice.

GJ That's a writer's perogative. For this piece, the veracity of Robert's work is not the whold point. I'm sure you can see that.

JN: No I don't. It is puffery in service of, at best, a dubious enterprise; and I am being kind here.
John, You are not seeing the point of the story. And your label of puffery could be applied to most things written, since they come from a singular point of view. I'm not separating victims from victors here.

The experience takes place through the eyes of an 8 year old kid. Should I not write about it because of one of the character's later indiscretions and troubles?
Also, John, in the interest of being kind, I think you should do a piece on Randi when you get the time....It would be of interest to many folks I'm sure.
@ John Nernoff. I guess I am one of the gushing and gullible commenters that you are refering too. I rarely respond to commenters on someone else's blog; however, your "scientific evidence" perspective is great for science. There is way more to life than a scientific perspective. It is rather narrow minded to suggest that if something cannot be proven, then it somehow isn't true or doesn't exist.

Do I think Oral Roberts was a sham and a fraud? Yes I do. Are there lots of fakes and frauds and charlatans in this world? Yep.

If I comment positively on this post for the fine writing, story telling, and personal insight of a young boy who thought himself inferior, does that somehow make me gushing and gullible? Nope.

Ease up on others a bit my friend. It makes the world a lot more fun place to be. Peace to you.
Well done as usual, Gary. I am glad that your brother found that in the whole scheme of things wearing glasses is likely not the worst thing that can happen to us. That maturation was worth the trip from Kansas to Oklahoma.

There seems to be some gnashing of teeth that you could write about Oral Roberts without pillorying him. That is sad. As a Christian who would attribute whatever healing, from actual physical healing to the healing of psychogenic afflictions, to God and not to the conveying vessel: the faith healer, I find it amusing.

I always thought Oral Roberts was mostly a sham. As I do about all faith healers who cannot disconnect what they do from the almighty dollar. But to argue that people cannot be healed by God is to argue that God is hopelessly weak. I can see how non believers think that God is not only weak but does not exist at all.

To argue, therefore, that others are stupid to believe does not compute for me. I believe and if you don't that is fine. But leave me to my beliefs. I don't beat on one who does not believe nor do I tell them that they are doomed. They will either have to explain their lack of belief to God, or if they are right, go to eternal oblivion. Either way, it is their call to make. And that is none of my business.

Perhaps I am simply making a call for tolerance, good will, and allowing each other to believe as we will. The anger that faith generates in those without faith continues to amaze me.

Finally, if people cannot understand that this story is not about defending Oral Roberts but about your brother and his maturation and how you learned from that, then nothing you or I say can penetrate that perception.
Monte, Grif, Thanks for your kind and thoughtful words on this thread. I appreciate your response to the writing and the point of the story. My folks always took a great deal of time explaining to us kids the importance of being tolerant of the beliefs and ideas of others. They made it clear that we did not have to agree w someone to have civility and even friendship. Their friends were diverse in their beliefs. I try to understand the causes of a closed mind, and sometimes it goes to an experiential couse in an individual, usually painful on some level. In the Art world, there are many myopic points of veiw attached to various movements. One movement seems to trump the other as culture moves forward. Adherants to one movement want to exclude other points of view, and this shuts out great numbers of ideas from the discourse. I believe in the importance of a diversity of beliefs and ideas...reamaining open is a discipline that's difficult, but it has fed me creatively without fail.
You introduce me to what has always seemed an exotic, off-putting world, yet after the journey, it feels familiar and understandable. But whoa! What a wise mother.
Hawley, She remains that wise in her 90th year. I was fortunate growing up...
Wonderful story and evocative photos. I hope your brother eventually made it into the big kid's pool in spite of the glasses. . ..
This was a wonderful story. r
Well, this has to be one of my favorite pieces. It has a lovely, soft arc to it. with your brother wisely deciding to "not" be healed and in a sense, being healed by doing that. What a concept that we all inherently know.

Your brother's photos are just too beautiful.

You know, Gary - sometimes I think your average, every day life is just pretty and saturated with images. Like you live in a dream. I want to take you to my old apartment in Brooklyn for a reality check. Ha...(Trust me, I know - I'm sure you get those yourself.)

Healers are magical people. Guess what? Even the fakers are! That's right. We all have power in our hands. We have stopped using them. We all know we can heal our own illnesses sometimes. We all know how much it helps others when you simply place your hands on them.

Those Getty images are effin' amazing. My god. They're perfect tableaus.

And yes, I remember glasses being much more "loaded" than they are now. Big stigma. In our school, "floods" could cause an uproar. Those are pants that are too short, but perhaps you know.

Great piece, Gary. God, you should submit this to The Sun - its perfect for them, I think. It needs a smidge of cutting first, perhaps. Get to the story a little quicker, maybe. But other than that, its a gem.
Witness, He got to a point where they would not dare make his go there…Thanks

Joan thank you for coming over…

Hi Beth, Yes, Brooklyn and Manhattan both have given me reality checks throught the years. With the stories, I remember them to the best of my ability, have Mom and Sis confirm some things and fill in blanks, look at letters and journals sometimes….then I construct the narrative, remembering the various voices.
I have always kept journals in some form or another, and I am very fortunate for having done so. Letters are kept by Mom in a cedar chest, along with photos.

I had my share of “Floods” to wear…remember, I was a little brother.
I have to disagree about the cutting. I went over it many times and just could not shorten it. Its always that way with my pieces…..I guess I am thinking about all the details I do leave out, for the reader to fill in.

Thank you for reading Beth, I’m always very pleased to see your great avatar and original insights.
this is beautiful, gary.

I wish now I had never used the words beautiful or moving or well-written about any other piece on OS, so I could us them for this piece, for you, for the first time.

You have achieved a reae thing with this. And managed to make a grouchy skeptic like me set aside my parsing of his fraudulence and see the whole phenomena with your eyes, thru the filter of the time. pitch-perfect photo selection.

Your brother's epiphany is unforgettable, the way you tell it. And with subtle indirectness, without resorting to the more convenient ways we writers evoke a particular time and place, you take me back to my childhood in the 50s in Kansas, with the truth-telling, the channeling of the boy you were, the sincerity of his perceptions and feelings, the invoking of the insular sweet belief we had back then.

Stellar. Magnificent. You bankrupt my adjective bank.
Thank you for coming by Harvey!

Greg,
A wonderful comment from a writer I admire a great deal.
Thank you...I'm fortunate to have colleagues like you and others on this forum. I think you'll agree that the efforts we put into this, with the resulting responses that nurture our creative impulses have changed some of the tenuous equations in our lives.

I look forward to more of your wonderful works....

G
The best story of how a little boy loved his brother that I have ever read besides the opening chapter of It by Stephen King (I still thing of the unfortunate little Georgie Denbrough as a real person). The sense of place you give this is very special to me - the tall midwestern sky and the folks that peopled those tents are my place, my people - you captured them so well, and you were so generous with them in your sights.

Thaat string tie of your brother's broke my heart.

Really marvelous piece. I am very close to my sister, and was constantly reminded of her as I read. Thank you for that. I think I'll go call her right now.
Sandra, thanks for the kindness of your comment. I hope you are calling your sister.....tell her how you feel, and never let her go....
wow. one of the best things i've read in a long while. thanks for sharing this (and crafting it so well).
Jeff, You are very welcome..sorry it took so long to answer you.