Important Lessons from a 1970s Documentary (Marjoe)
Important Lessons from a 1970s Documentary (Marjoe)
Marjoe is a documentary released in 1972 about a man named Marjoe Gortner who was a preacher in Pentecostal circles (i.e. circles related to the Azusa Street so-called Revival of 1906). Marjoe had been a preacher since he was a child. His parents trained him as one in order to make money off of him from naive people who thought that a child preacher was an amazing and cute thing. Marjoe stopped preaching in his teens after his parents had gotten rich off of him, yet he claims they had not improved his own life by the money he made them. Marjoe returned to preaching in his twenties. He did not believe what he was saying, yet he went back to preaching to make an income for himself. Nevertheless, he eventually decided to discontinue the act. He agreed to let a film crew follow him throughout a final tour of “revival meetings” in 1971. On this tour he gave behind the scenes interviews explaining his methods of deception. The documentary also contains a lot of money counting backstage. Its release after this tour was essentially Marjoe’s confession to the world that he had been a fraud as a preacher and a declaration that his preaching career was over for good.
This documentary actually contains many lessons about how money-driven preachers deceive their audiences as they abuse Christianity for their own greedy ends. I especially see important lessons therein related to how man can create his own strange fire, which to the undiscerning can seem like the work of the Holy Spirit. This strange fire and its acceptance as being of God is often used to justify the false doctrines of Pentecostalism (i.e. the Azusa Street Movement and other movements which are rooted in this Pentecostalism like the Charismatic movement, the Word of Faith churches, and the New Apostolic Reformation Churches). Whatever it was intended then to be by the filmmakers, the documentary Marjoe does expose the falsehood of the Pentecostal movement and the movements which have sprung out of that. And that is what we are going to focus on here.
Marjoe is a rather short film, lasting not even a full one and a half hours. You can find it online easily and watch it for free. If you watch the film, you’ll notice the emotionalism in the meetings which Marjoe preached at. The congregations get excited and ecstatic immediately through music, dancing, and grooving. You can see the pre-planned emotional movement of the congregation and how emotion is king in these meetings. A previous message I’ve done called “The Curse of Emotionalism” (in part 2 of this series) exposes and explains emotionalism’s infiltration into Christianity in more detail.
In putting rationality aside and leading with the emotions, people go into a highly suggestible trance-like state. This makes them a lot more susceptible to the other manipulations which will follow. Singing the same chorus over and over and over again is also a frequent characteristic of meetings where emotionalism reigns. Such an environment of emotionalism and lack of rational exercise of the mind generally makes people exceedingly more accepting of whatever they hear therein. You can see in the film how the people who hear Marjoe are drawn to his natural charisma, his smooth talking, and his overall rock star like personality (and remember, they think he is genuine as they are hearing him; they won’t find even have a chance to find out he is a fake from his own mouth until the film is released many months down the road). The people’s lack of critical analysis in these environments of emotionalism becomes especially obvious at one point in the film as Marjoe, during one of his sermons, mentions that there are a lot of “professional shouters” out there- despite being such a charlatan himself! Yet no one says anything and no one even seems suspicious. It is like people think he could not be a fake simply because he warns them about how there are fakes out there. Yet the showmanship in giving his sermon should have been a strong hint that he was indeed one of these professional shouters. Even church people generally lack Biblical discernment badly though. That poor discernment is only made worse in an environment where emotionalism prevails.
The Bible actually warns that preachers should specifically seek to not sound more entertaining and impressive than they need to sound in their preaching. The Apostle Paul testified to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Demonstration of the Spirit and power here is a reference to plainly letting the Word of God (which the Holy Spirit inspired) speak and to work as the powerful tool that it is without unnecessary oratory impressiveness and hype to persuade people concerning Jesus Christ.
Even Marjoe in his fakery could make people excited about Jesus through his preaching. Yet it was a carnal excitement that would not, and could not, lead anyone to respond rightly to Jesus. To respond rightly to Jesus one must embrace godly values which are opposed to the values of the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. And such worldly values were what was communicated through Marjoe’s demeanor, even when his words were correct. And such worldly values are going to be exalted whenever emotionalism is promoted in a meeting, resulting in a spirit counterproductive to the Spirit of Christ, even though (especially) in Pentecostal/Charismatic-type meetings such a spirit will ironically be labeled as the Spirit of Christ. Marjoe even says at one point during one of these raucous meetings containing sensuality and religious show business “If you can’t feel God here tonight, you’re dead and you don’t know it. The Holy Spirit is here tonight.” This also reminds me of a 1997 20/20 episode about the Brownsville, Florida alleged Pentecostal revival which was going on at the time. In this episode the evangelist who was leading these meetings was termed “part showman, part salesman.” I don’t expect anything labeled as Christian to be given impartial treatment on a secular television program, but you sure can’t say that isn’t an accurate description of Pentecostal/Charismatic type preachers.
And by the way: Marjoe even says off stage during the film that he wants nothing to do with anything labeled as Christianity, yet if he had to pick a denomination, it would be the Pentecostals. He also spoke of how being a Pentecostal preacher allowed him to exercise his desire to imitate rockstars. That is what will happen when you have environments where chaos and sensuality are commonly disguised as the work of the Holy Spirit and labeled as being such. People are invoking God’s name and using false concepts about Him in these environments to get entertained and have sensual experience. Talk about turning the grace of God into lasciviousness (like the Book of Jude warns about). And you don’t have to do anything other than open your eyes and ears to see that much preaching and much music in churches today is born from such carnality. I also think especially of the Hillsong churches, and mega-churches in general, along these lines.
At one point in the film Marjoe was urging people to come and get one of the prayer cloths which he had with him. The entire context was an urge for people to come up front, make a generous donation, and get a prayer cloth. He gave testimonies about how he has known of people who had loved ones delivered from drugs after they had got one of his prayer cloths. What does that hint about all of the people on TBN and other religious showbiz outlets who are selling such things? They say similar things about the supposed holy oil (i.e. snake oil), prayer shawls, and other such things that they sell.
Marjoe even gave a testimony in the film of a woman he prayed for who (he says) discovered the next day that she was healed of cancer. No one in the crowd disputed with him or asked to see solid evidence of this. It is so easy to tell stories like this. Marjoe also laid hands on people for healing at his meetings. He explains at one point how he gets people’s adrenaline up before he lays hands on them by things like surprise shouts. This adrenaline rush makes them feel better. And as the person proclaims that they feel better, others around them start to feel better too. “It is 90 percent psychosomatic,” he says. And you can see at the meetings that people think they are getting healed as Marjoe, the admitted shyster, prays for them. And Marjoe wasn’t even screening those he prayed for like Benny Hinn and many other alleged healing evangelists are known to do. I’m not saying God never supernaturally heals anyone anymore, but certainly don’t listen to these claims from the television preachers, the “revival tent” showmen, and anyone else connecting their alleged healings to a financial offering. These people are devils.
Marjoe also talked about the radio trick that many use, where preachers on the radio talk about things like how they believe the Lord has shown them of someone with ten dollars stashed away that they know ought to give in for “the Lord’s work.” They’ll say that person should send that money in immediately and God will bless them. There might be 200-300 people in the radio audience who think this applies to them. The preacher will thus make an easy $2,000-$3,000 like that. Marjoe says “This is a business. You don’t get meetings or you don’t get booked unless you have a gimmick… and the guys that have the gimmicks get the big meetings.” What does that say about the people who get uber-rich from their preaching like the Benny Hinns, the Kenneth Copelands, the Paula Whites, the Joel Osteens, the Rodney Howard-Brownes, the Creflo Dollars, and the big money, den of vipers, allegedly Christian networks like TBN who preach the humanistic health and wealth gospel? Consider also here the big-money megachurches who treat Christianity as a business and get rich off of their big meetings. And the Pope and the Vatican are evidently fit to be included in this category as well. Look at the wealth which their religious business has generated and the luxury that they live in as a result.
Something else which Marjoe did in his charade at his meetings was lay hands on people so that they’d get ecstatic, fall down on the floor, and/or speak in nonsensical tongues. Marjoe was obviously not doing this by the power of the Holy Spirit. What he did was no different than the Pentecostal/Charismatic type preachers on television, at the big healing crusades, and at local Pentecostal/Charismatic-type churches. He was rather, like them, a fairly skilled hypnotist who knew how to work a crowd. Multitudes actually think that a preacher must be of God because they are laying hands on people and getting them to fall down and/or jabber in nonsensical tongues. And yet in Marjoe we have an admitted shyster doing this on film to unsuspecting people. Yet still, other shysters continue to make money by such methods and won’t admit that they are shysters.
And by the way: Another demonstration of how this laying hands on people to get them to faint and do other things they can’t control which can be seen online is a United Kingdom television special called “Miracles for Sale” by Derren Brown. In this TV special an ordinary man off the street is trained in hypnosis and other techniques so he can do the classic faith healer tricks, eventually putting them to practice in a real life setting. Almost immediately after this happens he indirectly admits it was an act and rebukes people who bilk people out of money this way. It is very educational overall. I don’t endorse every last thing done by those involved in the production of this TV special, but nevertheless it sure proves the points that it seeks to make beyond any doubt.
It is quite blasphemous to equate Christ entering an individual through the Holy Spirit with this blabbering nonsense that is Pentecostal/Charismatic/Azusa Street tongues. You see in Marjoe how these tongues are commonly marketed as “The baptism of the Holy Spirit” for people who are saved. Yet there are multiple potentially damning errors in this false label.
- Nonsense tongues are not from the Holy Spirit. God is not the author of confusion. Pagans have been known to speak in nonsense tongues from ancient times. It is blasphemous to attribute to God’s Spirit something which is sensual and is commonly induced through hypnosis and/or demon-possession. Sometimes though it is produced though simply through learning. People who want to do it, or who think they ought to do it, can simply learn it from others. That is why children and parrots can be taught to speak in these nonsense tongues.
- The inducement of these tongues in an individual under a Christian label gives them the impression that they have been truly born-again by a living faith in Jesus Christ when that is simply not necessarily the case.
- Even if the one who acquires this had already been born again through exercising a living faith in Christ, these nonsensical tongues are a subversive experience, causing the Christian to trust that they are abiding in Christ and continuing on the right track because they are doing this. This also causes the Christian to become experience oriented and it thus hinders them from actually seeking the Lord and becoming anchored in Christ through real, conscious prayer and the application of the guidance of the Word of God in their practical decisions.
- The emphasis of this experience in relation to Christianity can be strong enough to practically preach a false gospel. And false gospels damn those who preach them as well as those who believe them, whether they had been authentically born again before or not (see Matthew 24:9-13, Galatians 1:6-9, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, etc).
1 Corinthians 13:8 says “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.”
If Biblical tongues were a heavenly, angelic language, then they would not cease- even in eternity. This proves further that Biblical tongues are the languages of men on earth. When God gave this gift to people in the Bible, it was for the purposes of practical communication.
In relation to this, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is when one receives the Holy Spirit through a real, living faith in Christ. When someone truly repents and believes in Christ, they will receive the Holy Spirit as a witness from God that He has accepted that person’s response to the Gospel and made them His child.
Acts 2:38-39: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Acts 5:31-32: “Him (i.e. Jesus Christ) hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
In Acts chapter 8 God chose to have the Apostles lay hands on the new Samaritan Christians so that they’d receive the Holy Spirit, but this was not the norm. That must have had to do with how the Samaritans historically had a religion that competed with Biblical Judaism which was centered at Mount Gerizim in Samaria. God established the authority of the Apostles at Jerusalem by requiring the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the Apostles’ hands. That would be a strong rebuke and preventative measure to keep the Samaritans from establishing their own brand of “Samaritan Christianity.” (You never know, maybe if that had happened it would have looked a lot like modern Pentecostalism and its variants)
The only other time in the Bible where men received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands is in Acts chapter 19. The Apostle Paul found men at Ephesus who had repented and submitted to the baptism of John the Baptist, but had not yet been informed about Jesus being the Messiah whom John preached. After Paul preached Jesus to them and they had taken Christian baptism they received the Holy Spirit after Paul laid his hands on them and prayed. This may have been another matter of establishing Apostolic authority so these men would not think they could go be Christians without following the Apostles. This occurrence was also a matter of faithfully transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, so it’s not a situation which anyone could even be in today. And there are no Apostles today like there were in the 1st century. We are to still follow Christ’s Apostles from the 1st century- by hearing and obeying God’s Word in the Bible! The Apostles of Christ were involved in the writing of the entire New Testament, including the four Gospel accounts.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is related to pouring out; and thus involves the identification of the one receiving the pouring with the element poured out upon them. Note the connection in the verses below.
Acts 11:15-16: “And as I (i.e. the Apostle Peter) began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.”
So in receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, that is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which makes an individual a part of the body of Christ. Those who say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is tongues are greatly in error (and they almost certainly don’t even define tongues right- they rather believe in the nonsensical tongues).
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 says: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
The very chapter that these verses are found in emphasizes that not every member of the body speaks with tongues.
When people talk about a born-again Christian needing to get a separate experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, they are misleading people. Inform them better and if they still won’t listen, rebuke them. Don’t heed them and warn others not to heed them. Christ’s Spirit is given to them that repent and obey Him, as we saw from Acts 2:38-39 and Acts 5:31-32. We need to abide in Christ continually, and thus continually be renewed in Him by being filled with His Spirit, growing in grace and in the knowledge of Him. But we do not need a separate “baptism in the Holy Spirit experience” after being born again by faith in Christ; and we sure do not need the counterfeit tongues!
These counterfeit tongues were popularized under the label of Christian through the Azusa Street meetings in Los Angeles in 1906. These meetings took emotionalism to an insane level. The Azusa Street people took the doctrines of a man named Charles Parham and ran with them (the leader of the Azusa Street meetings, William Seymour, had previously been one of Parham’s students). Parham was a wacko deceiver teaching things like the concept that Christians are promised healing through Christ’s atonement and the concept that babbling in unintelligible tongues is the evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Ironically, Parham himself did not endorse the Azusa Street meetings, seeing them as disorderly and overly emotional despite these meetings being based on his very own doctrines. Parham though had his own mad events which involved followers of his actually killing some people in their attempts to supposedly drive demons out of them. Like many who preach the promised healing in the atonement doctrine, Parham died of an illness when he was not that old (not that I believe Parham had any saving interest in Christ at all- but those who teach healing in the atonement doctrine are condemned by their own words when they get sick and don’t get better since they preached that such a thing should never happen to someone with faith in Christ).
There is a warning given in 2 Timothy chapter 2 about a certain prevalent vain and profane babbling going around in the first century about the resurrection being past already which applies very well to the healing in the atonement teachers who say that faithful Christians should never be sick or physically damaged in any way. This profane and vain babbling also applies very well to the Once Saved Always Saved teachers who teach that eternal life in its fullness is a Christian’s possession from the moment they are born-again and that they can never lose it between now and the resurrection. And by the way: The Azusa/Pentecostal tongues are profane and vain babbling in the most literal sense.
2 Timothy 2:16-18 says: “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”
Fake faith healers have bilked the naive out of unspeakable amounts of money and misled multitudes, this healing in the atonement doctrine being foundational to their scam. Sick and injured people are tormented by these thieves who preach a misguided, counterfeit faith in Jesus. Their methods of getting mildly and moderately ill people, as well as mildly and moderately disabled people, to briefly think they have been healed through hypnosis, other psychological techniques, and subtle tricks have been well documented (with the documentary Marjoe being another thing to add to the mountain of evidence). Many others are hassled, given false hope, and brought further despair by the Bible twisting and naive prayers of the followers of these fake faith healers who lay hands on them and pray to claim their healing. And then the sick or injured person usually gets blamed when they turn out to not actually be healed!
All of this stems from lies implying that Christians ought to have the benefits of a blessed resurrection- before the resurrection.
And these evil doctrines from Pentecostalism, and the prototype of a false revival which is the Azusa Street meetings, have carried over into the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) which has also incorporated a fake hierarchy of fake apostles and fake prophets and other errors on top of these things. There are NAR fingerprints on the alleged revival meetings which have recently happened at Asbury University and are spreading around the country. One example is that the fake, nonsense tongues are well known to have been prevalent at these meetings. And another example is that an event with obvious NAR links, the National Collegiate Day of Prayer Simulcast, was broadcast from… yes, Asbury University… and this event happened to be the last meeting of the alleged revival which broke out at Asbury University in February 2023. Beware then of the road that these meetings, and whatever meetings should end up stemming from them, heads to! It could very well be a scam and a deception that makes Marjoe’s scam and deception as a preacher seem extremely tame.
How do we avoid the way of the hypocrite? It is not best done by fleeing from Christianity and fleeing from organized Christian meetings. Hypocrites have done their work for Satan successfully when they turn people away from genuine Christianity. You can do like Marjoe did at the end of the film and just admit you’re not a Christian and go forward wanting nothing to do with Christianity. That is better than when he was a fake Christian minister. Yet people like that are still going to hell. And hell will still be utterly unbearable, unending torment for these- even if it won’t be as bad for them as it would have been had they stumbled others, or continued to stumble others, by claiming to follow Jesus while living in sin. Hell will be much worse yet for those who profited as false ministers of Christ’s Gospel and all who deliberately opposed others from following Christ in truth.
The only right and logical thing to do then is wholeheartedly follow Jesus Christ according to the truth of His Word.
John 18:33-37: “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”
Jesus’ kingdom is anchored in truth. To have an interest in His saving reign we must be anchored in the truth of His Word. And yet many, not only in the 1st century, but in every generation, want to believe in Jesus in a way that is instead compatible with their own desires and want to believe that they are indeed anchored in the truth of His Word when that is simply not so, having instead a dead faith in Him (and sometimes that might even look a lot more genuine than it did in Marjoe’s case- Marjoe was not so hard to spot for anyone who was not already lulled to sleep by the Pentecostal/Charismatic-type environment).
We prove that we know Christianity is inherently good and true when we are so rightfully disgusted when people are obviously hypocritically practicing it and altering it for their own carnal ends. We know that being a faithful Christian minister would have to be rooted in personal sacrifice, not personal gain. We know true Christianity demands that we not only earn our own living, but that we also work and spend ourselves for God and for others. We know faithful Christians don’t manipulate others and use them for their own ends. We know that following Christ faithfully means rebuking others who do evil and standing against groups doing evil rather than going along with the flow and following the crowd. We know that being a faithful Christian also means not sitting under a Marjoe-like preacher and remaining in an entertainment-driven church environment. We know that faithfully following Jesus means being the same person in a moral sense in private as you are in public. We know that following Jesus means not being led by emotions, that being led by emotion is carnal, and it obviously then means not worshiping God in a way that is rooted in, and driven by, emotion. We know that it rather means praising and worshiping God soberly and rationally, letting emotion be secondary, valuing God’s satisfaction above our own. We know that following Jesus in truth means diligently, honestly reading the Bible to understand who God is, what He requires of us, and following what we know in a good faith effort having the principal aim of our lives to please Him and know Him as the Almighty God that He is.
He is the Eternal God who created us, sustains our life in his hand, and whom we all must bow before and give an account to on the Day of Judgment- with eternal consequences to face as a result of our choices before Him in this life. He sees all and none can escape out of His hand. Don’t despise His salvation in Jesus Christ. Take refuge then in Him with no sin in your hand and no confidence in anything or anyone else. Since others have, and do, and will treat Him contemptuously, foolishly, and disregard the instructions of His Word (which are exceedingly more precious than gold) then let those who treat Him like this be examples to inspire you to do the thing which you know you ought to do- the very opposite!
Revelation 1:7-8: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 15:1-4: “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”
Reach brother Aaron at: [email protected]