Randy Potts’ memoir, The Bible Went Down With The Birdie Jean, is every bit as interesting and complex as his family’s legacy, but perhaps less scandalous. Potts is the grandson of Oral Roberts, often dubbed the first televangelist and of course the namesake of the rather infamous university. Robert’s preachings and promotional faith healings reached millions of Americans, establishing for him a rather grand reputation in both the minds of his critics and supporters. It’s safe to count Potts among his critics.
Randy Potts is gay. For this and a number of other reasons he lived in terror of his grandfather. Nevermind the reaction that might have garnered from any other family at the time, Oral Roberts fervently preached against the ‘sin’ of homosexuality. Potts has spent much of the time since his own coming out and his grandfather’s death reflecting on their relationship.
The memoir itself, however, features Oral Roberts as only one in a number of reflective points from Randy’s life. The memoir is far from traditional, to be released via Instagram in ‘books’ consisting of 33 pictures accompanied by lengthy text. Releasing every other Sunday, the installments are meant to allow, in Pott’s own words, him to “say goodbye to someone.” Legally disinherited by his family, Potts “wanted to make a formal goodbye,” adding that he’s trying “not to do it in anger.”
In the first installment, The Book of Mother, this sentiment rings true enough. Pott’s descriptions of people (the first book addresses many more than his mother) are affectionate and sentimental. Even in his worst memories of others, his grandfather included, there is often more compassion than bitterness in his tone.
In one such memory, he recalls a squabble between his mother and grandfather regarding his middle name. The televangelist wanted Pott’s middle name to be Roberts, an elder grandson having already been ‘saddled’ with the name of Oral. When Randy’s mother refused, the preacher promised her $1000, and so the matter was settled. From this instance, Potts writes of being “exhausted already of those large televangelist hands reaching into the womb and putting their mark on me, their touch promising healing but delivering something else instead.”
His next book, The Book of Oral, is already highly anticipated by publications and Oral Roberts critics alike. However, The Book Of Uncle Ronnie might be the most integral to understanding Pott’s life. Ronnie, like Potts, was gay and yet entrenched in a family that so embraced old-time religion he was terrified to admit it at a young age. When he did, in his maturity, come out to his loved ones, they estranged him. Ronnie took his own life with a bullet to the heart. Pott’s memoir, besides mourning the man’s loss and drawing parallels between their struggles, is also said to question the investigation that ruled his death as a suicide.
Pott’s memoirs won’t be covering the last six years of his life, as this would contain details about himself, including his current marriage, that he doesn’t want to reveal to the public. Instead he’s made them a reflection on his struggles as a child in an oppressively strict and faithful household, his growing up in the shadow of a nearly divine icon, and finally his coming to terms with and embracing his sexuality at a time when he was already married with children. It’s a unique life and he’s found a fittingly unique format to document it in.