Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Five - The Church of the Merchants

Rhetorical Black-Hanging

It is the duty of the clergy, not merely to defend large- scale merchants while they live, but to bury them when they die, and to place the seal of sanctity upon their careers. Concerning this aspect of Bootstrap-lifting I quote the opinion of an earnest hater of shams, William Makepeace Thackeray:

I think the part which pulpits play in the death of kings is the most ghastly of all the ceremonial: the lying eulogies, the blinking of disagreeable truths, the sickening flatteries, the simulated grief, the falsehood and sycophancies - all uttered in the name of Heaven, in our State churches: these monstrous Threnodies which have been sung from time immemorial over kings and queens, good, bad, wicked, licentious. The State parson must bring out his common-places; his apparatus of rhetorical black=hanging. ...

And this, of course, applies not merely to kings of England, but to kings of Steel, kings of Coal, kings of Oil, kings of Wall Street. Leland Stanford, son of a great king of Western railroads, died; and standing over his coffin, a Methodist clergyman, afterwards Bishop, preached a sermon of fulsome flattery, wherein he likened young Leland to the boy Christ. In the year 1904 there passed from his earthly reward in Pennsylvania a United States senator who had been throughout his lifetime a notorious and unblushing corruptionist. Matthew Stanley Quay was his name, and the New York "Nation," having no clerical connections, was free to state the facts about him:

He bought the organization, bribed or intimidated the press, got his grip on the public service, including even the courts; imposed his will on Congress and Cabinet, and upon the last three Presidents - making the latter provide for the offal of his political machine, which even Pennsylvania could no longer stomach - and all without identifying his name with a single measure of public good, without making a speech or uttering a party watchword, without even pretending to be honest, but solely because, like Judas, be carried the bag and could buy whom he would.

Such was the lay opinion; and now for the clerical. It was expressed by a Presbyterian divine the Reverend Dr. J.S. Ramsey, who stood over the coffin of "Matt," and without cracking a smile declared that he had been "a statesman who was always on the right side of every moral question!"

In that same year of 1904 died the high priest of our political corruption, Mark Hanna. He had belonged, to no church, but had backed them all, understanding the main thesis of this book as clearly as the writer of it. In his home city of Cleveland the eulogy upon him was pronounced by Bishop Leonard, in St. Paul's Episcopal Church; while in the United States Senate the service was performed by the Chaplin, the Rev. Edward Everett Hale. This is a name well-known in American letters, as in American religious life; it was borne by a benevolent old gentleman, a Unitarian and a liberal, who organized "Lend-a-Hand Clubs" and such like amiabilities. "Do You Love This old Man?" the signs in the street-cars used to ask when I was a boy; and I promptly answered "Yes" - for my mother took the "Ladies' Home Journal," and I swallowed the sentimental dish-water set out for me. But when I read the Rev. Edward's funeral oration over the Irrev. Mark, I loved neither of them any longer. "This whole- soled child of God," cried the Rev. Edward, "who believed in success, and knew how to succeed by using the infinite powers!" You perceive that the Chaplain of the Millionaires' Club agrees with this book, that the "infinite powers" in America are the powers that prey!

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