The UPCI and the Movie Borat

Borat at UPC camp meeting Borat at UPC camp meeting Borat at UPC camp meeting

The United Pentecostal Church, an organization that preaches against movies, has found itself on the big screen, much to the dismay of some. They were fooled by the film makers when Hollywood came to one of their meetings.

In November 2006, 20th Century Fox released the movie, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." It has created a stir among the United Pentecostal Churches due to a section of the film that features Borat at a UPCI camp meeting service in Mississippi. Camp attendees attempt to pray Borat through to the Holy Ghost in the film (for those unaware, that means they expect him to speak in tongues as they consider that the evidence of having received the Holy Ghost).

UPC evangelist Greg Godwin and UPC minister Jason Dillon are featured in the film. Godwin is ordained and Dillon is general licensed, with Godwin based in Texas and Dillon in Mississippi.

Borat enters the service, already in progress. It has been shared that it is Timothy Spell who is leading worship when Borat enters the meeting. The film shows scenes of people dancing, running, jumping up and down, raising their hands and worshipping. Clips of politicians addressing the people are shown (Charles "Chip" Pickering and Jim Smith). Then comes the preaching of Greg Godwin.

Interspersed are scenes of Borat observing and one where Jason Dillon, Jerry Dillon's son, is speaking in tongues while Borat is standing next to him. (It has been alleged that it was Jason Dillon and Greg Godwin that signed the waivers to allow the filming.) The preaching continues, ending with the usual call to the altar. Jason walks with Borat to the front where Greg Godwin introduces him to the audience and allows Borat to speak. There are shots of the audience while Borat and Godwin have their conversation.

It is Greg Godwin who speaks directly with Borat, assuring him that Jesus loves him and others, and attempts to pray him through to the Holy Ghost. Borat asks, "Is there anyone who can help me?" When he asks, "Can Jesus heal the pain that is in my heart?" the people explode with enthusiasm. Godwin tells Borat to raise his hands and proceeds to pray with him. He can be heard to say, "God forgive me of my sins. Forgive me God; cleanse me." You can hear Borat say "cleanse me" several times. Godwin continues, "Let that tongue go. Here it comes. You're going to speak in tongues. Let it go." He presses his hand on Borat's head as he prays, a normal happening in the UPC, and proceeds to speak in tongues while expecting Borat to also speak in tongues. Borat fakes this and soon ends up on the floor.

This scene, other than the faking of tongues, is something that regularly happens in UPC and other Pentecostal churches. Often people have hands placed on their head and/or back/shoulders and sometimes with force placed on the head. Their arms are often held up in the air. What I saw in the clips of the film, it does accurately reflect things that happen in UPC services.

Echoing the thoughts of some other church members, one female poster on the Good News Cafe, an apostolic discussion board, had the following to say about the film. "I explained that, while Sacha Baron Cohen's (Borat) foray into a house of worship to serve his own comedic purposes "crossed the line" and should not have happened in any faith's place of worship, the most troubling thing to me was the complete absence of an important Gift of the Spirit: that would be "discerning of spirits." ...How could it be that one of the UPCI's premier, very much in demand evangelists (Godwin) and another strong very conservative voice (Dillon) in one of its "districts" be so incredibly clueless as to who was among them? None of those "big-timers" could even tell that "Borat" wasn't even authentically speaking in tongues!"

The movie is descibed on Yahoo as: "Borat Sagdiyev, Kazakhstan's sixth most famous man and a leading journalist from the State run TV network, travels from his home in Kazakhstan to the U.S. to make a documentary. On his cross-country road-trip, Borat meets real people in real situations with hysterical consequences." Of course, this is not a true documentary and is a comedy film that carries an R rating "for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language." Click here to go to the Yahoo page. (The original page linked to is no longer in operation, so we have provided a different Yahoo link.)

There has been an inside struggle in the UPC in recent years to allow its licensed ministers to advertise and broadcast services on television. A great divide exists among the ministers, with some threatening to leave should this ever be permitted. The portrayal of the UPC in Borat has caused some additional discussion in this area, with a call for people in favor of the change to reconsider.

The United Pentecostal Church has taken a stand against its members watching movies made by Hollywood, as well as television shows. (See their Articles of Faith and their positions on technology as well as videos for further information.) Ministers are regularly required to affirm that they believe and embrace these teachings and that they will practice and teach them.

This creates a difficulty for some members as they have become curious as to their portrayal in this film. Despite the reason for the R rating, some UPC members have already seen it, others intend to, and still others will never watch in keeping with UPC teachings and due to the nature of the film.

Above is a YouTube video of part of the movie. This is just the audio of the UPC related portion of the film. The video clips of this scene keep being removed from YouTube due to copyright violations.

Below are some responses from UPC members as well as others. The discussion boards are two apostolic debate boards. Note that the one from the GNC goes off track for many posts but does later return to the subject.

A response from Scott Phillips, UPC ordained minister in Mississippi, on YouTube.

Another response from Scott Phillips, UPC ordained minister in Mississippi, on YouTube.

UPC on Borat? from the Where You Can Find Me blog on blogspot. (Link removed at owner's request on Jan. 4, 2013.)

Borat & Me posted by Kent on the Collideoscope blog.

A response from Ren Rutledge, general licensed UPC licensed minister in Connecticut.

More From Borat posted by Denelle Burns on the Collideoscope blog.

EveryonesConnected discussion of the movie. (Many apostolics participate on EveryonesConnected, though it is not an apostolic site.) Please be forewarned of some language. [NOTE: This site is no longer in operation.]

Borat and the Pentecostals: God Always Gets the Last Laugh by Scott Phillips, UPC ordained minister in Mississippi.

Good News Cafe debate.

Will Greg Godwin or any of the others involved come out with a public statement? Only time will tell....


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