Mixed Legacies

So Oral Roberts died this week.

Was he a charlatan or a prophet? An agent of healing or a master scam artist?

Or somewhere in between?

It seems so many high profile Christian leaders have, at best, mixed legacies.

I’m currently reading Kevin Roose’s memoir, The Unlikely Disciple, an irreverent yet insightful account of what happens when an English major from Brown University (the most liberal of the Ivies) spends a semster incognito at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia.

Most interesting? Despite his best efforts, Roose finds himself liking parts of Jerry Falwell the man and Falwell the pastor.

So what is Falwell’s legacy? Blowhard or braveheart? Manipulator of the masses or pastor to his flock?

Or somewhere in between?

Back in the fall of 1986, I read a breezy biography of Robert Schuller and was moved to consider seminary as a result. Robert Schuller? Really? His theology has always been somewhat thin, and over the last few years he’s done some nutty things like getting in a fistfight on an airplane and firing his own son.

What is his legacy? Innovative pastor or pseudo-Christian talk show host? Positive thinker or positively looney?

Or somewhere in between?

Mixed legacies are all around us. The boldest leaders seem to have the deepest flaws.

Perhaps in considering the imprint of the high profile, we do well to think about our own mixed legacies.

Pastors who don’t appear on TV still leave legacies that are a mixture of courage and selfishness, of faith and fear.

Because it’s not just the famous and infamous whose flaws lie just below the surface.

It’s the never famous as well. Like you and me.