At the base of the sculpture is a plaque commemorating Oral Robert’s vision from God to build the university. God said: “Build me a University. Build it on my authority and the Holy Spirit.” (Of course, this isn’t the only thing God allegedly commanded Roberts to do. But more on that later.)
The hands were originally called “The Healing Hands,” and stood in front of “The City of Faith," a faith healing medical center. But the City of Faith declared bankruptcy in 1989 and so the hands were moved to the entrance of Oral Roberts University.
I’ll admit this now – I am terrified of Oral Roberts University. Part of this has to do with the founder, Oral Roberts. Some may remember Roberts as the televangelist who extorted $9 million from his viewers when he claimed that if he did not receive $8 million in donations, then God would “call him home.” Essential Roberts made a ransom demand with the Almighty as his greedy captor. The school has been plagued by similarly sketchy financial practices – from exorbitant debt to claims that the school’s administrators use school funds to finance lavish lifestyles.
Another fear has to do with the teachings of the school. Oral Roberts University takes Pentecostal religious fundamentalism to the extreme and enforces strict religious codes on the students. Students must sign an honor code, promising not to lie, curse, smoke, drink, gamble or engage in sexual activities outside of marriage. This last restriction also includes homosexuality – that’s right, Oral Roberts University does not allow openly gay students.
When not restricting the students’ behaviors, the school is restricting how they are allowed to look. Up until 2006, women were required to wear skirts on campus while the men wore button down shirts and ties. The students are also known for engaging in some controversial religious practices. In 1997, some students disrupted services at a Tulsa mosque by praying loudly for the conversion of the worshipping Muslims inside. I have also heard stories from ORU students about trips to Mexico to perform exorcisms and speaking in tongues.
I want to emphasize I’m not trying to disparage ORU. I’m just saying the extreme practices of the school administrators and the students really, really creeps me out. In this context, the hands have developed an ominous, almost malevolent feeling for me. When I see them, I don’t see a beautiful sculpture. I see a man using God as a justification for his practices, for good or for bad.
Total Distance Traveled: 5 miles
Total Time Traveled: 11 minutes
Soundtrack: "Carnival Ride" Carrie Underwood