Marjoe Gortner, Imposter Revivalist

Toward a Cognitive Theory of Religious Misbehavior


  • Travis Warren Cooper Indiana University (Bloomington)



revivalism, fakery, trance, Marjoe, cognitive theories, embodiment


Revivalism is a hallmark of pentecostal history in North America. This study analyzes the infamous case of evangelist Marjoe Gortner as he carries out a revival tour under the guises of authenticity and sincerity. After providing a brief biographical overview of both the revivalist’s life history and Marjoe, the documentary film, I analyze Marjoe’s roleplaying through Judith Becker’s theoretical application of cognitive theories of being, perception, and embodiment to pentecostal praxis. I argue that the processes of trance, re-entry, and structural coupling implicate Marjoe as more than just an unbelieving instigator of ecstatic religious phenomena. He is caught up in the production of intense effervescent states of social or corporate energy, and himself becomes a vital part of the revival experience. Neurologically, Marjoe experiences cognitive dissonance in terms of self-identity. The learned nature of revival services, furthermore, demonstrates the complexly embodied nature of ecstatic religious rituals.

Author Biography

Travis Warren Cooper, Indiana University (Bloomington)

Religious Studies Department Anthropology Department (minor) Doctoral Student and Assistant Instructor


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How to Cite

Cooper, T. (2013). Marjoe Gortner, Imposter Revivalist: Toward a Cognitive Theory of Religious Misbehavior. PentecoStudies, 12(1), 83–106.