Tuesday, 21 July 2009


I had another post in mind for today, but after watching the excellent documentary called Marjoe last night, I had a new topic for today.

I first found out about this documentary by a passing reference to it in Daniel Dennett's book Breaking the Spell. It's rather old, having come out in 1972, so I'm disappointed that I haven't watched it sooner.

Marjoe Gortner was born to two evangelical parents who were both fire and brimstone types and tent revivalists. He is the fourth generation of preachers in his family, and by the age of 4 he was an ordained minister himself. By the age of 5 he was performing marriages.

The film picks up with him as an adult, as he tours around the country holding tent revivals. He preaches, he sings, he struts, he lays on hands, he speaks in tongues, he heals people, but there's only one problem. He's a sham, and he admits it. He's playing these people for their money. He has no special powers, yet the people are still sent into paroxisms of supposed joy with the feeling of Jesus. They are supposedly healed, and they are convinced they are healed, even though Marjoe is a fraud. He even talks about how once one person does it, everyone else wants to follow suit. They want so much to not be shown up, they want so much to be the most pious one there. I feel sort of bad for some of them, but I'm also reminded of the old adage about a fool and his money.

In summary, I highly recommend this film, especially for anyone who's familiar with these tent revivals. (Confidential to Robert Madewell: I really think you'll appreciate it very much.)


Anonymous said...

"by the age of 4 he was an ordained minister himself. By the age of 5 he was performing marriages."

His parents were already a sham then. No wonder he turned out to be one.

GCT said...

They're all shams.

Robert Madewell said...

I'll have to look that one up, GCT. Thanks for the shout out.

Dave Wyman said...

Definitely one of my favorite documentaries - I believe I saw it when it came out (damn, I'm old).