God and earthquakes

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What’s the connection between earthquakes and god? I bet your answer is nowhere near what I have in mind.

The movie Earthquake form the 70’s, was the first to use huge speakers to vibrate our theatres and put us in the middle of the earthquake. It had some big names in it, but it also had some notable smaller names, one of which was Marjoe Gortner. Doesn’t ring a bell? If you recall the movie at all, there was a grocer who was a member of the national guard and who sprang into action once the disaster hit. He subsequently played a significant part as the gung-ho, slightly psychotic, keeper of the peace.

As it turns out, Marjoe has quite an interesting history, and a documentary he made in the 70’s won an academy award. The doco was called ‘Marjoe’, and is a retrospective on his own life as an evangelist/preacher in the pentecostal movement.

Marjoe became a real-life preacher at the age of 4. Yes 4! And there’s plenty of interesting footage of this in the doco. He was of course home-schooled by his parents, and with three generations of preacher on his father’s side, his vocation would have been no surprise. Marjoe’s apparently prodigious memory enabled his parents to pump him full of the right words, and they encouraged him to learn via the very christian incentive of repeated dunkings while he was being bathed.

The documentary chronicles how the preaching show reaped millions of dollars, none of which Marjoe saw. The most interesting aspect was that at no time did Marjoe ever get any religion. It was just a performance. He doesn’t quite acknowledge that he is a con-artist though. It’s more like, ‘this is the business I was raised to be in’. Basically he was an entertainer, who liked the feeling of controlling a crowd. At one point in the movie, as he ponders a life without preaching, he talks about acting as another outlet for his talents. He continued this into adult-hood, until of course this documentary signalled his intention to retire.

The documentary exposes the many tricks of the evangelism movement, and reinforces the impact charismatic individuals can have on ordinary people (don’t get me started on THAT again).

To be honest, this is not a great documentary, and is somewhat self-indulgent. Maybe the academy award was simply for honesty. But for those who want in insight into the god ‘industry’ at its worst, as they take the ‘suckers’ for all they’re worth, this makes interesting viewing.


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