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 lighted. 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 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 - 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
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
compassion 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
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
"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
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."
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 agnostic,
and not for another month that atheist would perhaps be a sounder name for him
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' genius.
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 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 enemy.
Yet he went on as a
Baptist preacher, as a teacher
of ministerial cubs.
And he did compassion to tread
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 down:
"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 compassion 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
save! But you - Oh, you will serve me -
"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,
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
destinations. He jumped into bed and dropped toward sleep, too weary with
fighting her resistance to lie thinking
of possible tomorrows.
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
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 of
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
thread. He was not quite sure
what he was to do, and he waited obediently. She stood in the doorway, posing,
while be 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
Her 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
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
Before the altar was a long velvet cushion, very thick and
Here Sharon suddenly knelt, waving him to his knees, as she
"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 lighted 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 !"
As he 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
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,
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,
"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
Voltaire; Jesus is entirely different.
teach Socrates or
Voltaire - in
books or conversation. But to
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
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 lighted 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
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 lighted as interpreted by
men superbly trained to ignore
men technically called "fundamentalists."
This perception the 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 Gantry
back to stacks
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