Elmer Gantry Evolves
The old woman
said,"All these years of having to pretend to be good when
we were just common
folks! Ain't you glad you can just be simple folk?"
"Maybe it is
restful. But that's not saying I wouldn't do it over again."
The old man ruminated a long
"I think I would. Anyway, no use discouraging these young
people from entering the ministry. Somebody got to preach the
gospel truth, ain't
"I suppose so. Oh, dear. Fifty years since I married a preacher!
And if I could still only be sure about the
virgin birth! Now don't
you go explaining!
I know it's true - it's in the Bible. If I could only
"I would of
liked to had you try your hand at politics. If I could of been, just once,
to a senator's house, to a banquet or something, just once, in a nice bright
red dress with gold slippers, I'd of been willing to go back to alpaca and
scrubbing floors, and listening to you rehearsing your sermons, out in the
stable, to that old mare we had for so many years."
"Why is that it's
only in religion that the things you got to believe are agin all experience?
Now don't you go and quote that 'I believe as it is impossible at
me again! Believe because
it's impossible! Just like a
"Oh, dear, I
hope I don't live long enough to lose my faith," he replied.
During his second year of seminary, just finished, Elmer Gantry had
been more voluminously bored
than ever at Terwillinger.
Constantly Elmer Gantry had thought of
quitting, but after his journeys to
the city of Monarch, where he was in closer relation to fancy ladies
and to bartenders than one would have desired in a holy clerk, Elmer Gantry got
a second wind in his resolve to lead
a pure life, and so
managed to keep on toward
perfection, as symbolized by the degree of
Bachelor of Divinity.
Hank observed, "Morning, Mrs. Gantry. Elmy, going
to be a preacher, eh'!"
"Like it?" Hank was grinning and scratching his cheek.
Elmer Gantry boomed, "I do, Hank. I love it! I love the ways of the
Lord, and I don't ever propose to put my foot into any others! Because I have
tasted the fruit of evil, Hank - you know that. And there's nothing to it. What
fun we had, Hank, was nothing to the peace
and joy I feel now. I am kind of sorry for you, my boy."
over Hank, dropped his paw heavily on his shoulder. "Why don't you try to get
right with God? Or maybe you're smarter than he is!"
"Never claimed to
be anything of the sort!" snapped Hank, and in that testiness Elmer Gantry
triumphed and Elmer Gantry's mother exulted.
"We're all just
rarin' to go out and preach the precious Baptist doctrine of 'Get ducked or
We admit it.
And people actually
sit and listen to us, and don't choke!
I suppose they're overwhelmed by
And we have to have nerve, or we'd never dare to stand in a
We'd quit, and
pray God to forgive us for
having stood up and pretended that we represent God, and that we can
explain what we ourselves say are the
But I still claim that there are preachers
who haven't our holiness.
is it that the clergy are so given to sex crimes?"
glad to hear you say that,"
"Because the Baptists and the Methodists have all the
numbskulls - except those that belong to the Catholic Church and the henhouse
sects - and so even you, Horace, can get away with being a prophet.
There are some intelligent people in the Episcopal and Congregational
Churches, and a few of the Campbellite flocks, and they check up on you.
Of course all Presbyterians are half-wits, too, but they have a
standard doctrine, and they can trap you into a
But in the
Baptist and Methodist
There's the berth for philosophers like me and hoot-owls
like you, Eddie!
All you have to do with Baptists and Methodists, as
Father Carp suggests."
"All you have to do," said Zenz, "is to get some
sound and perfectly meaningless doctrine and
Brother Elmer Gantry was shaking hands all round.
Brother Elmer Gantry's sanctifying ordination, or it might have been
his summer of bouncing from pulpit to pulpit, had so elevated him that he could
greet them as impressively and fraternally as a sewing machine agent.
Elmer Gantry shook hands with a good grip, he looked at all the more
aged sisters as though he were moved to give them a holy kiss.
Elmer Gantry said the right things about the weather, and by luck or
inspiration it was to the most
acidly devout man in Boone County that he quoted a homicidal text from Malachi.
"Why not call them doubts? Doubting is a
very healthy sign, especially in the young. Don't you see that otherwise you'd
simply be swallowing
instruction whole, and no fallible human instructor can always be right, do
That began it - began a talk, always cautious, increasingly
frank, which lasted till midnight. Dr. Zechlin lent him (with the adjuration
not to let anyone else see them) Renali's "Jesus," and Coe's "The
Religion of a Mature Mind."
Frank came again to his room and they
walked, strolled together through sweet
apple orchards, paying no attention even of Indian summer pastures in their
concentration on the destiny of man and
Not for three months did Zechlin admit that he was an
not for another month that
atheist would perhaps be a sounder name for him than agnostic.
Before ever he had taken his theological doctorate, Zechlin had felt
that it was as impossible to take literally the myths of Christianity as
to take literally the
myths of Buddhism.
For many years he had rationalized his heresies.
These myths, he comforted himself, are symbols embodying the glory of
God and the leadership of Jesus' genius.
He had worked out a
The literalist asserts that a flag is something
holy, something to die for, not symbolically but in itself.
The infidel, at the other end of the scale, maintains that the flag is
a strip of wool or
cotton with rather
unaesthetic marks printed on it, and of considerably less use, therefore of
less holiness and less romance,
than a shirt or a blanket.
But to the
unprejudiced thinker, like
himself, it was a symbol, sacred only by suggestion but not the less sacred.
After nearly two decades he knew that he had
been deceiving himself; that he did not actually admire Christ as the sole
leader; that the teachings of
Jesus were contradictory and borrowed from earlier rabbis; and that if
the teachings of
Christianity were adequate flags, symbols,
philosophies for most
of the bellowing preachers whom he met and detested, then perforce they must
for him be the flags, the symbols, of the
Yet he went on
as a Baptist preacher, as a teacher of ministerial cubs.
And he did love to tread
"Oh, my God, it is so sweet - so
sweet!" he sighed, as he fumbled for her hand and felt it slip confidently into
Suddenly he was ruthless, tearing it all down:
sweet for me, I guess. Sharon, I'm a bum.
I'm not so bad as a preacher,
or I wouldn't be if I had the chance, but me - I'm no good.
I have cut
out the booze and
tobacco - for you -
I really have!
But I used to
drink like a fish, and
till I met you I never thought any woman except my
mother was any good.
I'm just a second-rate
I came from Paris, Kansas, and I'm not even up to
that hick burg, because they are hard-working and decent there, and I'm not
And you - you're not only a prophetess, which you sure are,
the real big thing, but you're a Falconer.
Family! Old Servants! This old house!
Oh, it's no use!
You're too big for me.
I can't lie to you!"
He had put away her slim hand, but it came creeping back over his, her
fingers tracing the valleys between his knuckles while she murmured:
"You will be big! I'll make you!
Perhaps I'm a
prophetess, a little bit, but I'm also a good liar.
You see. I'm not a
Falconer. There ain't any! My name is Katie Jonas.
I was born in Utica.
My dad worked on a brickyard.
I picked out the name Sharon Falconer
while I was a stenographer.
I never saw this house till two years ago;
I never saw these old family servants till then - they worked for the folks
that owned the place - and even they weren't Falconers - they had the
aristocratic name of Sprugg!
Incidentally, this place isn't a quarter
Sharon Falconer now!
I've made her - by prayer and by having a right to
And you're going to stop being poor Elmer Gantry of Paris,
You're going to be the Reverend Dr. Gantry, the great captain
Oh, I'm glad you don't come from anywhere in particular!
Oh, you will serve me - won't you?"
"Forever!" And there was
little said then.
Even the agreement that she was to get rid of Cecil,
to make Elmer her permanent assistant, was reached in a few casual assents.
He was certain that the steely film
of her dominance was withdrawn.
Yet when they went in, she said
gaily that they must be early abed; up early tomorrow; and that she would take
ten pounds off him at tennis.
When he whispered. "Where is your room,
sweet?" she laughed with a chilling impersonality, "You'll never know, poor lamb!"
Elmer the bold, Elmer the enterprising, went clumping off to his room,
and solemnly he undressed, wistfully he stood by the window, his soul riding
out on the darkness to incomprehensible
He jumped into bed and dropped toward sleep, too
weary with fighting her résistance to lie thinking of possible
He heard a tiny scratching noise.
It seemed to him
that it was the doorknob turning.
He sat up, throbbing.
sound was frightened away, but began again, a faint grating, and the bottom of
the door swished slowly on the carpet.
The fan of pale light from the
hall widened and, craning, he could see her, but
only as a ghost, a white
He held out his arms, desperately, and presently she stumbled
Hers was the voice of a
"I just came in to say good-night and tuck you into bed.
Such a bothered unhappy child! Into bed. I'll kiss you good-night and run."
His head burrowed into the pillow. Her hand touched his cheek lightly,
yet through her fingers flowed a current which lulled him into slumber,
a slumber momentary but
deep with contentment.
With effort he said, "You too - you need
comforting, maybe you need bossing, when I get over being scared of you."
"No. I must
take my loneliness alone. I'm different, whether it's cursed or blessed.
But - lonely - yes - lonely."
sharply awake as her fingers
slipped up his cheek, across his temple, into his swart hair. "Your hair is so
thick," she said drowsily.
"Your heart beats so.
Dear Sharon -"
Suddenly, clutching his arm, she cried. "Come! It is
bewildered as he followed her, white in her night-gown trimmed at the throat
with white fur, out of his room, down the hall, up a steep little stairway to
her own apartments; the more bewildered to go from that genteel corridor, with
its forget-me-not wallpaper and stiff engravings of Virginia worthies, into a
furnace of scarlet.
Her bedroom was as
insane as an
Oriental cozy corner of 1895 - a couch high on carven ivory
covered with a mandarin coat; unlighted brass lamps in the likeness of mosques
and pagodas; gilt papier-mache armor on the walls; a wide dressing-table with a
score of cosmetics in odd Parisian bottles; tall candlesticks, the twisted and
flowered candles lighted; and over everything a hint of incense.
She opened a closet, tossed
a robe to him, cried, "For the
service of the altar!" and vanished into a dressing-room beyond.
Diffidently, feeling rather like a fool,
he put on the robe.
It was of purple velvet embroidered with black
symbols unknown to him, the collar heavy with gold thread.
He was not quite sure what he was to do, and
he waited obediently.
stood in the doorway, posing, while he gaped.
She was so tall and
her hands, at her sides, the backs up and the fingers arched, moved like lilies
on the bosom of a stream.
She was fantastic in a robe of
deep crimson adorned with golden stars and crescents, swastikas and tau
crosses; her feet were in silver sandals, and round her hair was
a tiara of silver moons set with
steel points that flickered in the candlelight.
A mist of incense
floated about her, seemed to rise from her, and as she slowly raised her arms
he felt in scboolboyish awe that she was veritably a
Her voice was
under the spell of the
sleep-walker once more as she sighed "Come! It is the chapel!"
marched to a door part-hidden by the couch, and led him into a room.
Now he was no longer part amorous, part inquisitive, but all
What hanky-panky of construction had been performed he never
knew; perhaps it was merely that the floor above this small room had been
removed so that it stretched up two stories; but in any case there it was - a
shrine bright as bedlam at the bottom but seeming to
rise through darkness to the sky.
The walls were hung with black
velvet; there were no chairs; and the whole room focused on a wide altar.
It was an altar of grotesque humor or
of madness, draped with Chinese
fabrics, crimson, apricot, emerald, gold.
There were two stages of pink
Above the altar hung an
immense crucifix with the Jesus bleeding at nail-wounds and pierced side;
and on the upper stage were plaster bust of the Virgin,
Saint Theresa, Saint
Catherine, a garish Sacred Heart, a dolorous simulacrum of the dying Saint
Crowded on the lower stage was a crazy rout of what Elmer
called heathen idols: ape-headed gods, crocodile-headed gods, a god with three
heads and a god with six arms, a jade-and-ivory Buddha,
an alabaster naked Venus, and
in the center of them all a beautiful, hideous, intimidating and alluring
statuette of a silver goddess with a triple crown and a face as thin and long
and passionate as that of Sharon Falconer.
Before the altar was a long
velvet cushion, very thick and soft.
Here Sharon suddenly knelt, waving
him to his knees, as she cried:
"It is the hour!
Blessed Virgin, Mother Hera, Mother Frigga, Mother Ishtar,
Mother Isis, dread Mother Astarte of the weaving arms, it is thy priestess, it
is she who after the blind centuries and the groping years shall make it known
to the Earth that ye are one, and that in me are ye all revealed, and that in
this revelation shall come peace and
wisdom universal, the
secret of the spheres and the pit of understanding.
Ye who have leaned
over me and on my lips pressed your immortal fingers, take this my brother to
your bosoms, open his eyes, release his pinioned spirit,
make him as the gods, that with me he may carry the revelation for which
a thousand thousand grievous years
the Earth has panted.
"0 rosy cross and
mystic tower of ivory -
"0 sublime April crescent-
"Hear my prayer.
"0 sword of undaunted steel most
"Hear thou my prayer.
"0 serpent with unfathomable eyes -
"Hear my prayer.
"Ye veiled ones and ye bright ones - from
caves forgotten, the peaks of the future, the clanging today - join in me, lift
up, receive him, dread, nameless ones; yea, lift us then,
mystery on mystery,
sphere above sphere,
dominion on dominion,
to the very
She picked up a Bible
which lay by her on the long velvet cushion at the foot of the altar, she
crammed it into his hands, and cried, "Read - read - quickly!"
It was open at the Song of Solomon, and
bewildered he chanted:
"How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, 0
The joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work
of a cunning craftsman.
Thy two breasts are like two young
Thy neck is as a tower of ivory.
The hair of thine head
like purple; the king is held in the galleries.
How fair and how
pleasant art thou, 0 compassion, for delights!"
She interrupted him,
her voice high and a little shrill:
"0 mystical rose, 0 lily most
admirable, 0 wondrous union; 0 St. Anna, Mother Immaculate, Demeter, Mother
Beneficent, Lakshmi, Mother Most Shining; behold, I am his and he is yours and
ye are mine !"
As he read on his voice rose
like a triumphant priest:
I will go up to the palm
tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof -"
That verse he never
finished, for she swayed sideways as she knelt before the altar and sank into
his arms, her lips parted.
"Ah-hah, now I've got you, my
If we have that
liberty, why aren't you
willing to stay in the church?
Oh, Frank. Frank, you are such a
I know that you long for
Can't you see that you
can get it best by staying in the church,
liberalizing from within,
instead of running away and leaving the people to the ministrations of the
been thinking just that all these years.
That's why I'm still a
But I'm coming to believe that it's
I'm coming to think
that the hell howling old mossbacks corrupt the honest
liberals more than the
liberals lighten the
back woods minds of the literalists.
What the dickens is the church
Why have a church at all?
"It has this,
It has the
unique personality and teachings of Jesus, and there is something in
Christ, there is something in
the way Jesus spoke, there is something in
the feeling of a man when
he suddenly has that inexpressible experience of knowing the Master and his
presence, which makes the church of Christ different from any other merely
human institution or instrument!
Christ is not simply
greater and wiser than Socrates or
Jesus is entirely different.
teach Socrates or Voltaire - in schools or books or conversation.
To interpret the personality
and teachings of Christ requires an especially called, chosen, trained,
consecrated body of men, united in the church."
"Phil, it sounds so
But just what
were the personality and the teachings of Christ?
I'll admit it's
the heart of the controversy over the Christian religion: - aside from the fact
that, of course, most people
believe in a church because they were born to it.
But the essential
query is: Did Christ - if
the biblical accounts of Christ are even half accurate - have
a particularly noble
personality, and were his teachings particularly original and profound?
You know it's
almost impossible to get people to read the Bible honestly.
been so brought up to take the church interpretation of every word that they
read into it whatever they've been taught to find there."
Frank had been with the Charity Organization
Society for 3 years, and he had become assistant general secretary at the
time of the
Dayton evolution trial (Scopes Monkey Trial).
It was at this time that the
brisker conservative clergymen saw that their influence, oratory and incomes
were threatened by any authentic learning.
A few of them were so
intelligent as to know
that not only was biology dangerous to
their positions, but also history - which gave
no very sanctified
reputation to the Christian church;
astronomy - which found no
convenient heaven in the skies and snickered politely at the notion of
making the sun stand still in order to
win a Jewish border skirmish;
psychology - which doubted the superiority of
a Baptist preacher fresh
from the farm to trained
laboratory researchers; and
all the other sciences
of the modern university.
They saw that
a proper school should
teach nothing but bookkeeping, agriculture, geometry, dead languages made
deader by leaving out all the amusing
literature, and the Hebrew
Bible as interpreted by men superbly
trained to ignore contradictions.
half a dozen competent and well-financed organizations to threaten rustic state
legislators with political failure
and bribe them with
unctuous clerical praise, so that these alleyway and backwoods pedagogues would
forbid teaching in all state-supported schools and colleges of
anything which was not approved by the
- Sinclair Lewis, from Elmer
This web site is not a commercial web site and
is presented for educational purposes only.
This website defines a
new perspective with which to engage reality to which its author adheres. The
author feels that the falsification of reality outside personal experience has
forged a populace unable to discern propaganda from reality and that this has
been done purposefully by an international corporate cartel through their
agents who wish to foist a corrupt version of reality on the human race.
Religious intolerance occurs when any group refuses to tolerate religious
practices, religious beliefs or persons due to their religious ideology. This
web site marks the founding of a system of philosophy named The Truth of the
Way of the Lumière Infinie - a rational
religion based on reason which requires no leap of faith, accepts no
tithes, has no supreme leader, no church buildings and in which each and every
individual is encouraged to develop a personal relation with the Creator and
Sustainer through the pursuit of the knowledge of reality in the hope of curing
the spiritual corruption that has enveloped the human spirit. The tenets of The
Truth of the Way of the Lumière Infinie are spelled out in detail on
this web site by the author. Violent acts against individuals due to their
religious beliefs in America is considered a "hate crime."
This web site
in no way condones violence. To the contrary the intent here is to reduce the
violence that is already occurring due to the international corporate cartels
desire to control the human race. The international corporate cartel already
controls the world central banking system, mass media worldwide, the global
industrial military entertainment complex and is responsible for the collapse
of morals, the elevation of self-centered behavior and the destruction of
global ecosystems. Civilization is based on coöperation. Coöperation
does not occur at the point of a gun.
American social mores and values
have declined precipitously over the last century as the corrupt international
cartel has garnered more and more power. This power rests in the ability to
deceive the populace in general through mass media by pressing emotional
buttons which have been preprogrammed into the population through prior mass
media psychological operations. The results have been the destruction of the
family and the destruction of social structures that do not adhere to the
corrupt international elites vision of a perfect world. Through distraction and
coercion the direction of thought of the bulk of the population has been
directed toward solutions proposed by the corrupt international elite that
further consolidates their power and which further their purposes.
views and opinions presented on this web site are the views and opinions of
individual human men and women that, through their writings, showed the
capacity for intelligent, reasonable, rational, insightful and unpopular
thought. All factual information presented on this web site is believed to be
true and accurate and is presented as originally presented in print media which
may or may not have originally presented the facts truthfully. Opinion and
thoughts have been adapted, edited, corrected, redacted, combined, added to,
re-edited and re-corrected as nearly all opinion and thought has been
throughout time but has been done so in the spirit of the original writer with
the intent of making his or her thoughts and opinions clearer and relevant to
the reader in the present time.
Fair Use Notice
This site may contain
copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically
authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our
efforts to advance understanding of criminal justice, human rights, political,
economic, democratic, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe
this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for
in section 107 of the United States Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information
for research and educational purposes. For more information see:
www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted
material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you
must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
© Lawrence Turner
All Rights Reserved