An Architecture for the Electronic Church: Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Abstract

More than a university, Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was also the headquarters for evangelist Oral Roberts’s electronic church. The electronic church in America, dominated by Christian evangelicals, used technology to spread the Gospel over radio airways and television signals to a dispersed audience. Yet evangelicals like Roberts also constructed ambitious campuses in real space and time. The architecture of Oral Roberts University visualized a modern and “populuxe” image for the electronic church in the 1960s and 1970s. The university’s Prayer Tower purposely alluded to the Seattle Space Needle, aligning religion and the Space Age, and the campus’s white, gold, and black color palette on late modern buildings created an image of aspirational luxury, conveying Roberts’s health and wealth gospel. Oral Roberts University served as a sound stage for Roberts’s radio and television shows, a pilgrimage point for his audience, and a university dedicated to training evangelicals in the electronic church.


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