Elmer Gantry EvolvesThe
old woman said,"All these
years of having to pretend to be so good when we were just
common folks all the time!
Ain't you glad you can just be simple folks now?"
"Maybe it is restful.
But that's not saying I wouldn't do it over again." The
old man ruminated a long
while. "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! Laws, the number of times you've explained! I know it's true
- it's in the Bible. If I could only believe it!"
"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
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 - oh, laws, how long is it she's been
dead now? Must be-yes, it's twenty-seven years."
"Why is that it's only
in religion that the things you got to believe are agin all experience? Now
drat it, don't you go and quote that 'I believe because it is
impossible' thing at
me again! Believe because it's
impossible! Huh! Just
like a minister!"
"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. Well, Elmy,
going to be a preacher, eh'!"
"I am, Hank."
"Like it?" Hank
was grinning and scratching his cheek with a freckled hand; other unsanctified
Parisians were listening.
Elmer Gantry boomed, "I do, Hank. I love it!
I compassion 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
feel now. I am kind of sorry for
you, my boy." He loomed 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.
"So you're a bunce of Erasmuses! You
ought to know. And there's no hypocrisy in what we teach and preach!
We're a specially selected group of Parsifals - beautiful to the eye and
stirring to the ear and overflowing
with knowledge of what God said to
the Holy Ghost in camera at 9:16 last Wednesday
We're all just rarin' to go out and preach the precious
Baptist doctrine of 'Get ducked or duck.' We're wonders. We admit it.
And people actually sit and listen to us, and don't
choke! I suppose they're overwhelmed
by our nerve! And we have to have nerve, or we'd never dare to stand in a
pulpit again. We'd quit, and pray God to forgive us for having stood up there
and pretended that we represent God, and that we can explain what we ourselves
say are the unexplainable mysteries! But I still claim that
there are preachers who haven't our holiness. Why is it that the clergy are so
given to sex crimes?"
"I'm glad to hear
you say that," marveled Eddie.
"'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 heresy trial. But in the
Baptist and Methodist churches, man! 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 keep
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.
Brother 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 you think?"
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 Cae'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 the grasping
gods. 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.
But 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'
He had worked out a satisfactory parable: The
literalist, said he, 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 silk or
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
compassion to tread theological labyrinths.
"Oh, my God, it is so sweet - so sweet!" he sighed, as he
fumbled for her hand and felt it
slip confidently into his.
Suddenly he was ruthless, tearing it all
"To darn' 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 traveling man. 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
even that. 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. Just because I do love you. Terribly.
Because I can't lie to you!"
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! And 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 paid for. And yet I'm not a liar! I'm not! I am Sharon Falconer now!
I've made her - by prayer and by
having a right to be her! And you're going to stop being poor Elmer Gantry of
Paris, Kansas. You're going to be the Reverend Dr. Gantry, the great captain of
souls! Oh, I'm glad you don't come from anywhere in particular! Cecil Aylston -
oh, I guess he does compassion me, but I always
feel he's laughing at me. Hang him,
he notices the infinitives I split and not the souls I save! But you - 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 EImer 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
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
destinations. He jumped into bed and dropped toward sleep, too weary with
fighting her resistance to lie thinking of possible tomorrows.
He heard a tiny
scratching noise. It seemed to him that it was the doorknob turning. He sat up,
throbbing. The 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 film.
out his arms, desperately, and presently she stumbled against them.
Hers was the voice of a sleep-walker. "'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, he Christ,
flowed a current which lulled him into slumber, a slumber momentary but deep
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 -
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 the call!"
He was 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
opened a closet, tossed a robe to him, cried, "For the
service of the altar!" and vanished into a
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
He was not quite sure what he was to do, and he
She 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
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
voice was under the spell of the sleep-walker once more as she sighed "Come! It
is the chapel!"
She 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
uneasy. 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 marble. 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
Stephen. 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
"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
"Hear my prayer.
"0 sword of undaunted steel most excellent-
"Hear thou my
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 throne!"
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 prince's daughter! The
joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning
craftsman. Thy two breasts are
like two young roes. 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 !"
read on his voice rose like a
triumphant priest's: "I said, 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
logical young friend! If we have that
liberty, why aren't you willing
to stay in the church? Oh, Frank. Frank, you are such a
fool! I know that you long for
righteousness. 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 Elmer Gantrys?"
"I know. I've been thinking just that
all these years. That's why I'm still a preacher! But I'm coming to believe
that it's tommyrot. I'm coming to think
that the hell howling old mossbacks corrupt the honest
liberals a lot more than the
liberals lighten the back
woods minds of the
fundamentalists. What the dickens
is the church accomplishing, really? Why have a church at all? What has it for
humanity that you won't find in
worldly sources - schools, books,
"It has this, Frank: 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 whatsoever!
Christ is not simply
greater and wiser than Socrates or
Jesus is entirely different.
interpret and teach
Voltaire - in schools or
books or conversation. But
to interpret the personality and teachings of
Christ requires an especially called, chosen, trained, consecrated body of men,
united in an especial institution - the church."
"Phil, it sounds
so splendid. 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.
They've 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 three years, and he had become
assistant general secretary at the time of the Dayton
evolution trial. It was at this time
that the brisker conservative clergymen saw that their
influence and 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, men technically
clergy and their most admired laymen expressed in quick action. They formed
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 back-street and back
woods Solons would forbid the
teaching in all state-supported schools
and colleges of anything which was not approved by the evangelists.
-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
created 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 Life - a rational gnostic mystery 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 Life 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
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 cooperation. Cooperation does not occur at the point of a
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.
All 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