Thursday, July 24, 2008

Marjoe Gortner Rocks

The other night I watched part of a news broadcast describing a phenomenon currently going on across the country, a movement of young, "hip" evangelists touring the U.S. holding services for the masses. This particular show discussed one of the more popular of these preachers, Todd Bentley. Watching the show, I couldn't help but think of the similarities between what this guy is doing and the work of Marjoe Gortner in the 50's and later again in the 70's.


I have an amazing amount of affection for Marjoe, having seen the 1972 documentary he did with Sarah Kernochan and Howard Smith about fifteen years ago. He seems like such a good soul, caught up in a nasty business but sensitive to the intricacies of his religious power. Watching Marjoe for the first time I remember being surprised at his humor, his hip(pie)-ness, and the clarity and gentleness with which he was able to view his really screwed up childhood. To be honest, I always has a little crush on him after watching the movie.


Todd Bentley is a bit different, however. Like Marjoe, he is a young man of his era. His website gives a snappy view of his ministry, complete with photos, video clips, teachings and other resources, schools, and prayer requests. He even has a podcast. His website tells his story, of how having started out as a 'bad kid,' he was able to turn his life around, and now has his own ministry and works to save others.

In his late teens, Todd had a dramatic encounter with the saving and delivering power of God. This experience brought Todd out of a lifestyle of drug and alcohol addiction without cravings or withdrawal symptoms. He was also delivered from a lifestyle involving criminal activity, youth prisons, drugs, sex, satanic music and bondage. Todd's miraculous conversion to Jesus was much like the Apostle Paul's on the Damascus road. Todd was instantly transformed into a radical disciple and soul winning evangelist for Jesus.

This modern-day Marjoe is completely aware of his power but unlike his predecessor, he embraces it, intends it, holding tent revivals (or what passes as a tent revival in 2008) where the spirit of the Lord touches, heals and saves the participants. I've got nothing against this guy, honestly. He's doing his thing. But there's something too easy about his story...the redeemed bad guy preaching to the masses...it just doesn't move me the way Marjoe does. Something about him is just too glossy, too 21st century. Marjoe was so insane, such a victim (yet at the same time, not) of his parents' crazy religion and their early abuses towards him. He survived, he didn't make a big deal out of it, he thrived, he told his story, exposing the falseness of the revival preachers via the documentary, then moved on. I don't know, in the long run I just prefer the more 'real' story of Marjoe than the predictable one of Todd.

Thinking about these two men, I realize that they are in fact, complete opposites of one another. While Todd began his life a troubled youth, caught up in all the evils of the modern-day world, Marjoe was raised on the evangelist circuit, trained from his earliest years to preach the word, hold revivals, perform, save souls, bring in money. Marjoe rejected this life, exposing it as the sham he knew it to be, while Todd embraced it as his lifetime career. Both men were doing the same thing – evangelical revivals on a mass scale – at relatively the same time in their lives, yet one was on the way in, while the other was on his way out, moving to Hollywood and pursuing an acting career.

I don't know, I guess it's just me. You know I always love the bad boy. And in this story, the bad boy is definitely Marjoe.

9 comments:

Chevstriss said...

I had a crush on Marjoe too, except mine was on the blond hippie TV star incarnation. I never knew about the wierd childhood til a few yrs ago. Then seeing that documentary he seems very profound, and sort of sweet. Meeting him these days you would certainly never think of him as "sweet". But he is still shockingly tall - and certainly, still majestic.

Julie said...

Chevstriss, you're right...he IS profound in the documentary. I noticed that today as I was browsing through YouTube clips from the movie.

But PLEASE don't tell me he's lost the sweetness! That makes me sad. Where have you seen him? What is he doing? He's another of my Rimbaudian figures who've kind of disappeared into the crowd...

Chevstriss said...

this thread will get you started:

http://streethawk.proboards27.com/index.cgi?board=other&action=display&thread=504&page=1

it's like a treasure hunt locating this stuff.

contact me and I can point you towards loads of hard to find clips.

Julie said...

Thanks, but unlike you I don't care about the t.v. stuff. I just want to know where/how he is now...any idea?

Chevstriss said...

current pic on page 2 of that thread. I have a few more.

Chevstriss said...

also check out the IMDB bulletin board for the documentary. Be aware that the director of the movie posts there under a pseudonym.

Julie said...

Thanks, but where is he? Marjoe, that is...Hollywood? New York? Las Vegas? Atlanta? ;-)

Chevstriss said...

all over the western hemisphere. you mean, like, tonight? I have no idea. I'm gonna guess NOT Atlanta. And If I knew, I wouldn't post it on the internet.

Lucy Cuseo said...

I have a crush on Marjoe. Poor man with a horrible name. When I lived in Hawaii the town was famous for names like "Fredna" Sometimes combo efforts should be left to fast food joints