Have we idolized the sickness? Has it become all-powerful to us? Has it become the center of our lives? Is it the controller of all we say and do? It is the center of every message we give? Do our words glorify Jesus as the healer of all, including this sickness, or do they insinuate this sickness is more powerful than Jesus? I know these are hard questions to ask ourselves, but in order to dethrone this sickness we need to know what we are glorifying.
Have we become a walking billboard for advertising the disease? Are we its new poster child? Are we walking down the catwalk modeling the disease for the world to see? Have we turned the spotlight onto the sickness? Are we highlighting the strength of this disease with every breath that we breathe?
I don’t think we set out to idolize the sickness. I think it sneaks into position, and before we know it, we bow down to it and comply to its every demand. Instead, we should take our stand and by a faith-filled command, curse it and bind it back to the land from where it came: the pit of hell. Take hold of our spiritual claim, the redemptive power of the blood to deliver and heal us from these filthy chains that try to bind us. It’s time to set ourselves free from this golden calf of sickness and disease.
We need to stop promulgating a false doctrine that says God gave this disease to us. This message goes against the Word of God, and devalues the blood that Jesus shed for us at the whipping post so that we could be healed from sickness and disease. With every fiber of His precious being He shed His blood for our healing.
Again we have a choice to make. Are we willing to admit and repent of all our doubt and unbelief to our Healer, Jesus? Or will we hold onto our right to a false doctrine and glorify this sickness? Are we ready to dethrone this disease in our lives? And are we going to lift up Jesus higher and place Him, our healer on the throne of our hearts, and cleanse our temples from the filth of this disease?
This is the one hundred and seventy-sixth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism features clips of a new Charismatic practiced called Tunnel of Fire. Charismatic churches are always on the look out for new methods and gimmicks to arouse the passions of congregants. The Tunnel of Fire is one such practice.
Fire Tunnel With Todd White at The Sound The Alarm Youth Conference, Orlando Florida 2016
The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.
Fake Dr. Todd Coontz, pastor of Dominion Family Worship Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (church’s website is a parked domain) and CEO of Rockwealth Ministries stands accused of “failing to pay taxes and filing false tax returns, as well as hiding assets that were paid for by donations.”
A televangelist and so-called “prosperity preacher” with ties to Charlotte has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
Pastor Todd Coontz is accused of failing to pay taxes and filing false tax returns, as well as hiding assets that were paid for by donations. The U.S. attorney said, “This is a classic example of, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’”
As a cable TV evangelist, Coontz promised financial miracles for people who sent money to his ministry.
“You need to plant the $273 recovery seed. I’m only going to give you two to three minutes to respond,” Coontz once told his viewers.
Coontz posted videos on Twitter as recently as Wednesday, promising financial blessings to the faithful.
“Suddenly miracles are happening. I want to work with your faith for quick things, swift things,” Coontz said in the video.
In February 2013, a Channel 9 investigation revealed some of Coontz’s own “blessings,” which included a $1.38 million condo at a building on the corner of Providence and Sharon Amity roads. In the garage of that building was his Ferrari and his Maserati.
A federal criminal indictment on Thursday pointed to those exact same assests in Channel 9’s investigation.
The condo was purchased by Coontz’s Rockwealth Ministries as “parsonage” for him, according to the indictment. The court documents said the cars were also titled in the name of the ministry.
The U.S. Secret Service started looking into Coontz and Rockwealth Ministries as a result of the Channel 9 investigation.
The indictment revealed delinquent tax returns from as far back as 2000. From 2010-2013, Coontz owed more than $326,000 in taxes.
Investigators said he also hid his income from the Internal Revenue Service by cashing checks he received from churches and ministries for travel and speaking engagements and then claiming that same travel as business expenses.
The indictment also revealed he used business funds to pay for personal expenses, such as more than $227,000 for clothes, $140,000 at restaurants and more than 400 charges at movie theaters.
Coontz’s defense attorney, Mark Foster, said the indictment makes allegations but isn’t proof.
“He’s otherwise is a good man,” Foster said. “He’s tried to do the right thing all his life and he has no criminal record. We’re going to fight this out.”
Statement from Coontz’s attorney:
“William Todd Coontz has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Charlotte on several criminal tax charges. Coontz unequivocally asserts his innocence of these charges.
A grand jury is tasked only with determining whether there is probable cause to believe that a defendant has committed a federal crime. The government presents its evidence to the grand jury in secret and the defense cannot be present. Thus, the grand jury’s indictment of Coontz is not a determination of guilt — it is merely a preliminary finding that is necessary before the federal government can prosecute someone.
The government has chosen to make a statement to the press about Mr. Coontz’s indictment. It must be remembered that Todd Coontz is presumed innocent. Todd Coontz has retained veteran federal criminal defense attorney Mark Foster to represent him in this case and will vigorously defend himself against these charges. Todd Coontz has always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father and minister. He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS.
We expect that after hearing all the evidence, a jury will fully vindicate Mr. Coontz by finding him not guilty of all charges.
Mark Foster, Attorney at Law”
Fundraising pop-up from Rockwealth Ministries website
The Rockwealth Ministries BIO (bullshit) page for Coontz states:
Pastor, Evangelist, Television Host, Author,Humanitarian, Philanthropist, Businessman are some words others use to describe Dr. Todd Coontz.
Dr. Todd Coontz’s life of service to God began at age 10 when he dedicated his life to the Lord at the altar in a small country church. “I’ll go where You want me to go, God … I’ll say what You tell me to say… I’ll do whatever You want! I am yours!” The following night he preached his first sermon on Moses and the Ten Commandments, having just watched the classic movie by the same title. The prayer he prayed in that little chapel changed the course of his life and launched him into more than four decades of ministry and preaching the gospel around the world!
As the Founder/Pastor of Dominion Family Worship Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he proclaims the message of the gospel and The Great Commission to the body of Christ. He loves God’s people and is committed to building a church where everyone is welcome. His ministry extends beyond the local church through his daily television broadcast, FAITH NOW, which reaches 90 million homes in the US and airs globally in over 200 countries. Millions have been touched, inspired, educated, and motivated to become everything God desires for them through his multi-faceted ministry.
A published author with more than 10 books and several best-selling titles, Dr. Coontz ministers effectively on the topics of faith, finances, and building people. As a noted faith teacher and captivating communicator, Dr. Coontz is passionate about the principles of Biblical Economics outlined in the Covenant found in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. His objective is to teach God’s people how to qualify, receive and manage wealth based upon Scriptural principles, including those from Deuteronomy 8:18.
In addition to his many endeavors, he finds time to travel internationally with some of the most renown “Generals of Faith” and can be seen on the largest television networks, including TBN, Daystar, INSP, Word Network, and more. He is also the Founder of RockWealth International Ministries, the Owner of Legacy Media, Inc., a media and publishing company, and holds an Honorary Doctor of Ministry Degree from Kingsway University.
Dr. Todd Coontz is a minister of the gospel with a heart for God’s people … a humanitarian committed to feeding underprivileged children … and a man of God who lives what he preaches!
The trial is underway for a former Charlotte minister who was indicted for reportedly failing to pay his taxes.
According to prosecutors,Todd Coontz skirted the IRS for years. Federal prosecutors say Coontz allegedly failed to pay taxes and filed false tax returns.
He was the minister of Rock Wealth International Ministries from 2010 to 2014, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Coontz’s website states he is a pastor, evangelist, television host, author, humanitarian, philanthropist and a businessman.
From 2000 to 2014, Coontz consistently failed to make timely payments on his taxes and sometimes owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, investigators said. According to the Observer, Coontez under-reported his income on his tax returns “by not including as income payments made by his corporations and ministry for his personal expenses.”
Coontz also would allegedly get people to make checks out to him personally for speaking engagements, the Observer reported.
The Observer reported that Coontz “enjoyed a life of luxury” and claimed his $1.5 million condo and his luxury vehicles as business expenses. In addition, he allegedly also claimed a boat, clothing purchases, entertainment purchases and $140,000 in meals as business expenses, the Observer reported.
When announcing the charges in 2017, U.S. Attorney Jill Rose said this case was “a classic example of ‘Do as I say, not as I do.'”
“As a minister, Coontz preached about receiving and managing wealth, yet he failed to keep his own finances in order. Coontz will now receive a first-hand lesson in ‘rendering unto Caesar’ that which is due,” Rose said.
The Observer reported that Coontz wrote several books about finances.
Coontz’s lawyer, Mark Foster, said he “always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father, and minister. He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS,” the Observer reported.
“We expect that after hearing all the evidence, a jury will fully vindicate Mr. Coontz by finding him not guilty of all charges,” Foster told the Observer in 2017.
Rowland Foster is the pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Believing that God alone heals the sick, Foster teaches congregants to pray and seek God’s divine intervention in their medical maladies. This belief has led to several deaths, including the pastor’s two-year-old granddaughter. Foster was charged in the death of his granddaughter, but last month the charges against him were dismissed. (Please see previous post on Rowland Foster.) Last Friday, prosecutors refiled charges against Foster.
Less than two weeks after a district judge dismissed the counts, Berks County prosecutors have refiled the charges against a pastor accused of failing to report neglect of his 2-year-old granddaughter who died of a treatable bacterial pneumonia.
The refiling was done Friday in District Judge Andrea Book’s office in Jefferson Township, but District Attorney John T. Adams said Monday that Book won’t hear the case against Rowland Foster. Adams said Book has agreed to step aside so another judge can hear the prosecution’s case.
Foster, 72, remains free pending his hearing, which has not yet been scheduled, Adams said.
Foster is charged with failure to refer child abuse to authorities in his role as pastor, which makes him a mandatory reporter under the child protective services law.
Foster is pastor for the Faith Tabernacle Harrisburg District, Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County. The nondenominational church eschews the use of medicine.
On Nov. 8 about 1 p.m., troopers, tipped off by a funeral director, said they responded to the Tulpehocken Township home and found Ella Grace Foster dead on the sofa, with her family in the same room.
At the April 19 hearing, which was packed with supporters of the pastor, Dr. Neil A. Hoffman, a forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, testified the child died of bacteria pneumonia and tracheitis, infections that almost certainly would have been cured with penicillin or a similar antibiotic. He said the need for medical intervention would have been obvious to any reasonable person at least a day or two before her death, and medicine administered even within hours of her death may have saved her.
Rowland’s attorney, Christopher A. Ferro of York, said investigators made that argument in hindsight with the benefit of the autopsy report, not on actual observations.
Furthermore, he said, there was no evidence to show “willful” failure to report neglect on Rowland Foster’s part.
Jonathan H. Kurland, chief deputy district attorney, argued that despite Rowland Foster’s religious beliefs, he is obligated under the state’s child abuse reporting law to report neglect or any other form of child abuse to ChildLine.
Jonathan and Grace Foster, parents of child who died
Rowland Foster is the pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Believing that God alone heals the sick, Foster teaches congregants to pray and seek God’s divine intervention in their medical maladies. This belief has led to several deaths, including the pastor’s two-year-old granddaughter. NBC 10 reports:
A pastor in a fundamentalist Christian sect that rejects doctors and drugs has been charged in the death of a child — his own granddaughter — from medical neglect. The novel prosecution is raising hopes among some advocates that it might spur change in a church that has resisted it.
Faith Tabernacle Congregation has long told adherents to place their trust in God alone for healing. As a result, dozens of children, mostly in Pennsylvania, have died of preventable and treatable illnesses. Church members reject modern medicine as a bedrock tenet of their faith, even as some have faced manslaughter charges in child deaths dating back 35 years.
Until now, though, no leader in the sect has ever faced charges.
“It could be a new tool to save the lives of these children,” said Rita Swan, one of the nation’s top experts on faith-based medical neglect. She leads the group Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty, which works to eliminate religious exemptions in state laws requiring parents to provide appropriate medical care.
With a routine course of antibiotics, 2-year-old Ella Foster would have almost certainly beaten the pneumonia that took her life in November. But her parents refused medical care, and she succumbed shortly after they asked the Rev. Rowland Foster to anoint her.
Foster, 72, pastor of a Faith Tabernacle Congregation church district in eastern Pennsylvania, was charged with a felony this month under a state law requiring clergy members, teachers and other “mandated reporters” to turn the names of suspected child abusers over to authorities for investigation. The law makes no exception for clergy who happen to be related to the abused child, as Foster was to Ella.
“He was well aware of the fact that this child was in need of medical treatment and he never reported it, nor do I believe that he ever had the intention to report it,” Berks County District Attorney John Adams, whose office is prosecuting Foster, said in an interview.
Nationally, some two dozen religious sects oppose all or most forms of medical care, according to Swan’s group, CHILD. The group has documented more than 300 deaths but says the number is almost certainly far higher because most are not investigated.
In Pennsylvania, more than 25 Faith Tabernacle children have died over the years.
The church operates three schools in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia, Altoona and Mechanicsburg — that together enroll several hundred students. Teachers at the schools are required by law to report suspected abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine system for investigation, but it’s unclear whether ChildLine has ever fielded a report from the schools.
One hindrance for prosecutors seeking accountability from Faith Tabernacle pastors and teachers is a lack of clarity in Pennsylvania’s child protective services law, which was revamped after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State.
Withholding medical care due to religious belief isn’t considered child abuse under the law, which makes a charge of failure to report in that situation legally problematic, said Adams’ chief deputy, Jonathan Kurland. The DA’s office was able to pursue a charge against Foster because the religious exemption does not apply if medical neglect causes a child’s death, Kurland said.
“If our Legislature is interested in protecting children, that needs to be changed,” Adams said. “Because, to me, it is outrageous that a church teaches that medical care is not to be sought for children.”
The leader of a Pennsylvania church that rejects modern medicine won’t stand trial in his granddaughter’s pneumonia death, because a judge on Wednesday dismissed a novel case that sought to hold the pastor responsible for failing to report suspected abuse.
A district judge found insufficient evidence to support the felony charge against the Rev. Rowland Foster in the November death of 2-year-old Ella Foster.
Foster serves as pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation, part of a fundamentalist Christian sect that instructs members to eschew treatment by physicians and the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Prosecutors had argued he should have reported the girl’s condition to authorities because state law requires ministers to report suspected abuse.
The church’s stance against modern medicine has resulted in the deaths of dozens of children from preventable or treatable illnesses, most in Pennsylvania, according to an advocacy group that tracks faith-based medical neglect. Their members hoped the pastor’s prosecution might spur change in a church that has resisted it.
“I think there’s just a lack of evidence all the way around,” defense lawyer Chris Ferro said after the two-hour hearing. “This is a grieving grandfather, not a criminal.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Kurland said the Berks County district attorney’s office may re-file the charges.
“The Fosters failed to provide adequate medical care for Ella Foster when it would have been apparent to a reasonable person that she needed that medical care,” Kurland argued to District Judge Andrea Book. “And she died as a result.”
Ella Foster likely suffered from severely labored breathing and a temperature of about 104 on the day she died, police said in charging documents.
The forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on the girl, Dr. Neil Hoffman, called her condition “quite easily or eminently treatable” and said she almost certainly would have survived had she been given antibiotics. He said she would have had severely labored breathing and a bad cough for at least a day before she died.
“The treatment could have been started within an hour or so of death and still had a high likelihood of being effective and saving the child,” Hoffman testified.
This is the one hundred and thirty-ninth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Pentecostal R.W. Schambach healing the sick and disabled.
This is the one hundred and thirty-eighth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Pentecostal A.A. Allen healing a man of cancer.
After I had my daughter Camila everything changed. I was overjoyed, overwhelmed and very scared. I was almost certain I would screw something up so I welcomed the Mommy Fear with open arms. My careless, free spirit soon became a very irritable, worrisome one. What changed?
Yes, I had a kid but there was something more. I started to remember all the negative things people would say. “Get ready for NO sleep”, “This will be the hardest thing you’ll do, but it’ll be worth it”, “You’re traveling with a baby?! Good Luck!”
I began to dwell on the terrible “hardships” I was about to endure and the thought of having to be responsible for a child 24/7 almost paralyzed me with fear. I put up with the fear and things began to materialize. One night, Camila had an allergic reaction to some bananas and was hardly breathing. Jonathan quickly whisked her up from the bed and began to pray. It wasn’t more than five minutes after he had prayed that Camila began to breathe normally. It was as though nothing had happened.
Did I stay by Jonathan [Evangelist Jonathan Shuttlesworth] believing in faith for our daughter? HECK NO. I was outside calling 911. It was then that I realized my faith in God needed a major tune up. Instead of resting in the peace of God knowing His promises belong to me and my children, I totally freaked out. I allowed that Mommy Fear to fester because I thought it was normal. I read articles about the so-called “healthy fears” in parenting. The truth is, the devil will creep in wherever he’s allowed. I opened the door to fear for my child and soon, it began to trickle into everything I did. My mind began to think about worst case scenarios. I could hardly sleep. I thought to be responsible meant being in fear. I was seriously wrong.
You can blame it on hormonal imbalances but deep down, the root is fear. The Bible has commanded us several times not to fear. We are not exempted as mothers. In fact, we should have stronger faith! Fear is a trait that can be easily picked up by your kids. The way you walk, talk, and act, are all affected by fear. Stop that cycle today!
Matthew 6 is one my favorite scriptures because God instructs us to not worry about a single thing. It also says in verse 33 “ Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Seek God for guidance. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in the way you should go. Don’t allow for that fear to take control of you a minute longer. You can be a parent and not fear. Don’t open the door to the devil. If you open that door a tiny little bit the devil will kick that thing open on your face. You’ll have a broken nose and a ton of problems. Keep it shut by staying in God’s Word. Anoint your children daily, not out of fear but in faith knowing God’s Word will prevail.
— Adalis Shuttlesworth, Revival Today, The Mommy Fear, November 3, 2016
This is the one hundred and fourteenth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip of a young boy receiving the Power of God at a Benny Hinn meeting.
This is the twenty-eighth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip from a sermon preached by Suzanne Hinn, wife of fake healer Benny Hinn.
One of the thorniest verses in the Bible for Evangelicals is John 14:12:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
Evangelicals believe that the fourteenth chapter of John is the very words of Jesus. This chapter tells Evangelicals not to have a troubled heart, that 2,000 years ago that Jesus ascended back to heaven to prepare a room/mansion in heaven for them. When they die or if the Rapture happens before they die, the Evangelical is promised the keys to brand new home in the sky, This chapter also tells Evangelicals that Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, proving to the Evangelical the exclusivity of their version of the Christian gospel.
In verse 14 Jesus says, If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. Ponder these words for a moment. Think about all the prayers Christians have uttered over the centuries, prayers asked in the name of Jesus without nary a response. Evangelicals love to say that God answered this or that prayer, but pressed for proof of their supernatural claim, they quickly retreat to the safe confines of faith. (Please see A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God)
Let’s do some Bible math:
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, will do it + He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do = a church that should regularly see people raised from the dead and healed; a church that should be able to feed the hungry; a church whose leaders work miracles, including walking on water, turning water into Welch’s grape juice, and healing the deaf, blind, and dumb. Add to this, Jesus also said in Mark 16:15-18:
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
that those who believe in Jesus would cast out devils, speak in new languages, handle snakes, drink poison and not die, and lay their hands on the sick miraculously causing them to recover from their sickness.
Is it not then fair to ask where such Christians are today? Where can a non-believer go to see Christians doing greater works than Jesus? Why are hospital beds not empty, mental hospitals closed down, and world hunger eliminated? Surely, if as the Bible says, Christians are to do works greater than Jesus, we skeptics have the right to say show us.
Most Christian sects come up with elaborate schemes to explain away the normative meaning of these verses. The works of Jesus and the early church were sign gifts, the Evangelical says, and once the canon of Scripture was completed these sign gifts were no longer necessary. I wonder if Christians who say this ever consider that what they are basically saying is that Jesus was lying in John 15/Mark 16 or that there should no longer be the expectation of verifiable miracles. (I use the word verifiable to turn away those that want to appeal to all sorts of subjective experiences that they say is proof of God working a m-i-r-a-c-l-e)
In the delusional world inhabited by Pentecostals, snake handling Baptists, and those who subscribe to CHARISMA magazine, greater works than Jesus are being performed on a regular basis. When asked for verifiable proof of their claim, appeals are made to faith or the Christian mutters, I just KNOW that God is in the miracle-working business. Funny business God is in…no advertising or place of business, yet non-Christians are expected to believe the business exists. I know there is a McDonald’s right here, says the Charismatic, because a book I read tells me there is.
Here’s my challenge to Evangelicals. Please pray that God supernaturally heals me from my physical maladies. If she does, I will believe and recant every word I’ve ever written about the Bible, God, Jesus, and Christianity. Wouldn’t it be a great testimony to the miraculous power of almighty God and the veracity of the Christian narrative if God healed an atheist like me? Instead of praying for God to kill me, why not pray for God to heal me? Even a little healing like miraculously removing the cancer on my lower lip so I can stop Fluorouracil treatment will be enough to convince me. I’m waiting.
Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner (generally known as Marjoe Gortner; born January 14, 1944 in Long Beach, California) is a controversial former evangelist preacher and actor. He first gained public attention during the late 1940s when his parents arranged for him at age four to be ordained as a preacher, due to his extraordinary speaking ability; he was the youngest known in that position. As a young man, he preached on the revival circuit and bought celebrity to the revival movement.
He became a celebrity during the 1970s when he starred in Marjoe (1972), a behind-the-scenes documentary about the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching. This won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Film. This documentary is now noted as one of the most vehement criticisms of Pentecostal praxis…
…Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner was born in 1944 in Long Beach, California, into a long evangelical heritage. The name “Marjoe” is a portmanteau of the biblical names “Mary” and “Joseph”. His father Vernon was a third-generation Christian evangelical minister who preached at revivals. His mother, who has been labelled as “exuberant”, was the person who introduced him as a preacher and is notable for his success as a child. Vernon noticed his son’s talent for mimicry and his fearlessness of strangers and public settings. His parents claimed that the boy had received a vision from God during a bath, and started preaching. Marjoe later said this was a fictional story that his parents forced him to repeat. He claimed they compelled him to do this by using mock-drowning episodes; they did not beat him as they did not want to leave bruises that might be noticed during his many public appearances.
They trained him to deliver sermons, complete with dramatic gestures and emphatic lunges. When he was four, his parents arranged for him to perform a marriage ceremony attended by the press, including photographers from Life and Paramount studios.Until his teenage years, Gortner and his parents traveled throughout the United States holding revival meetings, and by 1951 his younger brother Vernoe had been incorporated into the act. As well as teaching Marjoe scriptural passages, his parents also taught him several money-raising tactics, including the sale of supposedly “holy” articles at revivals. He would promise that such items could be used to heal the sick and dying. He was however for the majority of his childhood unknown and “relatively insignificant” as an evangelist, as he found fame much later from his documentary…
…Gortner spent the remainder of his teenage years as an itinerant hippie until his early twenties. Hard-pressed for money, he decided to put his old skills to work and re-emerged on the preaching circuit with a charismatic stage-show modeled after those of contemporary rock stars, most notably Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. He made enough to take six months off every year, during which he returned to California and lived off his earnings before returning to the circuit.
In the late 1960s, Gortner experienced a crisis of conscience about his double life. He decided his performing talents might be put to better use as an actor or singer. When approached by documentarians Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, he agreed to let their film crew follow him during 1971 on a final tour of revival meetings in California, Texas, and Michigan. Unbeknownst to everyone involved – including, at one point, his father – he gave “backstage” interviews to the filmmakers between sermons and revivals, explaining intimate details of how he and other ministers operated. The filmmakers also shot his counting the money he had collected during the day later in his hotel room. The resulting film, Marjoe, won the 1972 Academy Award for best documentary…
If you have not watched the documentary Marjoe, I encourage you to do so. While it is over forty years old, it still provides a behind the scenes look at what goes on in pentecostal and charismatic tent meetings, revivals, and healing services.
As a Baptist, I had a healthy mistrust and hate for all things pentecostal and charismatic. I saw their preachers as charlatans and false prophets. A good friend of mine and fellow non-believer was a charismatic pastor for twenty years. We never could have been friends while we were in the ministry because I thought people like him were being used by Satan to deceive the masses.
When it comes to stories like Marjoe, the question I have is whether the person was sincere. Were they a true blue believer? Did they really believe they could heal people? Did they really believe God used them to work miracles? In Marjoe’s case, he was conditioned and indoctrinated by his parents to believe that he really had these gifts. Were his parents true blue believers? That’s the bigger question. Were they just passing on the gifts to their talented, precocious son or were they con artists, Elmer Gantry-like hustlers for God?
Thanks to modern technology and dogged investigative reporters, we now know that many of the pentecostal and charismatic evangelists are frauds. People like Peter Popoff, Ernest Angley, Robert Tilton, WV Grant, Leroy Jenkins,Bob Larson, and Benny Hinn are hustlers out to fleece the flock of God. Many of the prosperity gospel preachers are con-artists who have found a way to become fabulously rich off the pain, suffering, and poverty of others. One quick way to judge an evangelist or ministry is to look at their checkbook. Where’s the money going? Whose being enriched by the “ministry” of Bro Heal Them All? In the case of Marjoe, not only did he make quite a bit of money, so did his parents. The family business was hustling for Jesus and it paid quite well. In the end, Marjoe’s father ran off with the cash and left his son and wife behind.
When I was in college, I cleaned a local Sweden House restaurant. One night, a couple of pentecostal evangelists had rented one of the banquet rooms for a healing service. After the service, not knowing I was standing around the corner, I heard the evangelists bitterly complaining about how poor the offering was. This was my first taste of money driven Christianity. As I would learn later, Baptists had their own problem with money-grubbing con-artists, men who preached up a storm only so it would rain twenty-dollar bills. I think the average Christian would be shocked to find out how many of the preachers they love, trust, and support are in it for fame and money. I know of several well known IFB preachers who retired from the ministry as millionaires. Ain’t God good?
In the mid 1970’s, I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked for a local grocery store. Every week, several van loads of Pentecostals would come into Food Giant to shop. They were from Miracle Valley, Arizona, the home of evangelist AA Allen. Allen, an alcoholic died in 1970 after a heavy drinking binge. He was 59. The van loads of long dressed women were from one of the Miracle Valley pentecostal ministries or colleges. This was my first exposure to Pentecostals. At the time, I thought, nice looking women, too much clothing. My girlfriend, at the time, wore skirts and dresses that were in keeping with style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s In other words, I could see her legs.
As I was doing some research for this post, I came upon an interesting story on Wikipedia about one of the pentecostal groups that took up residence in Miracle Valley:
In 1978-80 approximately 300 members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church (CMHCC) moved from Mississippi and Chicago. They purchased property in the subdivision on the north side of Highway 92 across from the bible college. Thomas was a former disciple of Allen’s at MVBC and attempted to purchase it after his death. Over the following two years numerous conflicts arose between the church and its members, and the local community and law enforcement on the other. Tensions escalated when it was discovered that five young children of church members had died over the previous year, with one and possibly four due to the church’s refusal to seek medical attention. Faith healing was a major component of the church’s teachings. Conflicts also arose when the church refused access to parents and law enforcement in retrieving he children of at least two families who had been illegally transported to the Valley against their parents’ wishes. Racial tensions arose between the African American church members and the mostly white residents. In late 1982 a variety of incidents with law enforcement culminated when local sheriff deputies, with backup by state law enforcement, attempted to serve bench warrants for the arrest of 3 members of the church. A large group of church members confronted the officials and in the ensuing “shootout” two church members were killed and seven law enforcement officers were injured. One church member and one sheriff’s deputy would later die of their injuries. The church and its members departed Miracle Valley in early 1983.
My brother lives near Miracle Valley in Tombstone. He was, at one time, the marshal of Tombstone. He can tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of crazy that went on in out-of-the-way places in Cochise County, Arizona.
I attended a charismatic healing service in the mid 1980’s at the Somerset Elementary School in Somerset, Ohio. At the time, I was pastor of the Baptist church and I want to see firsthand what went on at a healing service. The show was quite intense and towards the end the evangelist started going down the rows laying hands on people. Next to me was an old scruffy woman with dirty and greasy hair. When the evangelist came to her, he looked at her head and kept his hand a few inches above it. Right then and there I knew that this guy was a con artist. What, a bit of greasy hair going to keep you from healing someone? When he came to me, I gave him my keep on moving look. I wonder, did I miss out on God healing me? Am I cursed with sickness to this day because I didn’t let Elmer Gantry’s cousin lay hands on me?
Here’s my take on Marjoe, pentecostal evangelists, and faith healers. I think some of them are true blue believers. Indoctrinated from an early age, they sincerely believe what they are preaching. When it comes to the money they make, they view it as God blessing them. But, I also think that a large number of preachers, evangelists, and faith healers are scam artists, frauds who have found a way to make lots of money without doing much work. They are, at best, entertainers, at worst they are predators who prey an ignorant, gullible Christians.
If you happened to watch the videos above and see the emotional craziness that went on at Marjoe’s meetings, I should let you know that I saw similar behavior at Baptist revival meetings, preacher’s meetings, camp meetings; especially those held south of the Mason-Dixon line. The only difference? Everyone spoke in English. I’ve seen aisle running, pew jumping, flag waving, shouting, and screaming at countless old-fashioned revivals or camp meetings. I’ve seen churches and preachers collect Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets of cash; thousands of dollars collected for “the Lord”,