The Modern Day Elmer Gantry

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“When I was a child, I understood as a child and spake as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:

Elmer Gantry arrived as a womanizing drunk with a good singing voice, a knowledge of the bible, and a charismatic manner that allowed him to charm people into believing he was a saintly man. He led women, his church, and himself to ruin and destruction by pretending to be something he wasn’t.

It was easy for him, he had a charming manner and people loved him; until, he was exposed as a liar and a hypocrite.

He has seduced a preacher’s daughter, Lulu Baines, in the past and she ended up as a prostitute in a bordello, after being driven from her home by her enraged father. Thus his pattern is set for destroying those around him who have faith in his looks and his charming manner.

Gantry depicts a man whose morally corrupt lifestyle contradicts everything he professes and advises for others. The opening and closing lines of the book reflect the hypocritical and sanctimonious nature of Gantry: “Elmer Gantry was drunk. He was eloquently drunk, lovingly and pugnaciously drunk… we shall yet make these United States a moral nation.”

Like most con men the public takes to its breast, there is an eventual and unavoidable tragedy before the public realizes the extent of the charade.

The book, “Elmer Gantry”, 1927, by Sinclair Lewis, is a much more in depth study of faulty personalities and of fanaticism, hypocrisy, and the gullibility of the public, than the movie. Elmer was a morally corrupt evangelist, who seduced, corrupted, and ruined devout but lusty women in his psychopathic quest of hedonism. Sinclair Lewis skillfully portrayed the devastation that results from mis-placed trust in cult-like figures like Gantry. Eventually, these charismatic false heroes not only destroy the people they love, but they destroy themselves and the institutions around them as well.

Lewis may have intended to portray the sanctimonious nature of corrupt evangelists, but I see the story as a vehicle to portray all hypocrites and the tragedy that follows mis-placed trust. The revival evangelist seems to be but a convenient vehicle for the condemnation of the morally corrupt who lead with false piety and intentions.

America’s twenty-first century Gantry is easily identified as President Obama. Without documentation, America was deluged with claims of Obama’s genius and greatness: claims that have never been substantiated or documented, nor have we seen the slightest indication of superior wit or intelligence. Like the Gantry character, Obama can give impassioned speeches, with a caveat; Gantry didn’t need tele-prompters to speak. Gantry could also vary his speech delivery patterns to work a crowd into a frenzy: America’s public has been over exposed to Obama’s one trick pony style of delivery and is bored at the thought of listening to the same speech with different wording. Thus as the public grew tired of Obama, the cries to repeal the twenty-second amendment have been discarded and forgotten. Democrats realize he will probably lose his bid for a second term and the loss of the Senate seems inevitable, the cries for repeal of the twenty-second has become a moot point and an embarrassing memory.

Although, Obama has shown no tendency to be a womanizer, he managed to seduce the public; especially, the young and the “unsophisticated”, those who see brilliance as an “uncanny” ability to read a teleprompter from two directions.

Both Gantry and Obama granted themselves an equivalency with God; Obama plays his as an implied element of malignant Narcissism: Gantry defied God to strike him dead at the pulpit within 15 minutes if he disagreed with his work. Obama’s vision of God has become inconsequential in view of Obama’s ascension to the presidency.

In the book, Gantry admitted to detesting religion. It is not difficult to see Obama detesting the United States with his mentors throughout his life.

Some quotes from the book “Elmer Gantry”:

It is not enough for the ministry to stand back warning the malefactors, but a time now to come out of our dignified seclusion and personally wage open war on the forces of evil.

In the beginning of Obama’s presidency, Republicans were the enemy and were told Obama didn’t care to listen to them talking and they could come along if they sit at the back of the bus. Now that his fortunes have changed, he is calling for a new era of cooperation. Obama’s hypocrisy begins to confront him as satire. His reversal of fortune is so typical of the arrogant Narcissist who feels his world collapsing.

Lulu Bains: Oh, he gave me special instructions back of the pulpit Christmas Eve. He got to howlin’ “Repent! Repent!” and I got to moanin’ “Save me! Save me!” and the first thing I know he rammed the fear of God into me so fast I never heard my old man’s footsteps!

Lulu Baines is well aware of the contradictions within Gantry. There must be many more who were aware of the inconsistancies of Obama, but for some reason, no one spoke out.

Elmer Gantry: Sin, sin, sin! You’re all sinners! You’re all doomed to perdition!

Its’ best to picture a bleak picture for your flock and increase the vision of yourself as a problem solver; the situation I have inherited is much worse than I anticipated. It will take time to turn this situation around. Of course most students of economics learn that recessions last between four and seven years, if you do nothing. Why not enrich your friends and contributors in the interim? Loot the treasury and put the country in debt for perpetuity. Unfortunately, the looting of the treasury probably increased the severity of the recession and extended its lifespan. Neither Gantry or Obama could see the impending devastation yhat was a direct result of their moral corruption.

I have here in my pocket – and thank heaven you can’t see them – lewd, dirty, obscene, and I’m ashamed to say this: French postcards. They were sold to me in front of your own innocent high school by a man with a black beard… a foreigner.

The hero must always point out the problems in the community and scold his followers to establish a superiority over his flock; after all, he is a superior being and he knows of their weaknesses. The use of straw men was also a device of Gantry. Enemies are much easier to defeat if they don’t exist.

A janitor: Mister, I’ve been converted five times. Billy Sunday, Reverend Biederwolf, Gypsy Smith, and twice by Sister Falconer. I get terrible drunk, and then I get good and saved. Both of them done me a powerful lot of good – gettin’ drunk and gettin’ saved. Well, good night.

The fascination of cult figures disappears when the fraud and corruption is exposed. The cult-hero loses his prominence and becomes insignificant. Obama has just about played out his string.

Elmer Gantry: I was accosted by three painted women. Your streets are made unsafe by shameless, diseased hussies, rapacious pick-pockets, and insidious opium-smokers.

The human interest stories of the man who looks out for all of us by creating straw men are endemic of both characters and laughable as well. Obama’s letters from the down and out, but still hopeful for the future, that still cling to the forlorn hope that he will save them has become a standing joke.

Jim Lefferts: You look like a man who could use a drink.
Elmer Gantry: You know somethin’, Jim? There oughta be a law against drinkin’.
Jim Lefferts: There is. Prohibition.
Elmer Gantry: That’s against sellin’, not drinkin’.
Jim Lefferts: Amen.

The ability to rationalize with faulty logic was seen as a cultural difference early in his career, but the public is muh less forgiving after two years of the Obamanation failures.

Elmer Gantry: What is Love — the divine Love of which the—the great singer teaches us in Proverbs? It is the rainbow that comes after the dark cloud. It is the morning star and it is also the evening star, those being, as you all so well know, the brightest stars we know. It shines upon the cradle of the little one and when life has, alas, departed, to come no more, you find it still around the quiet tomb. What is it inspires all great men—be they preachers or patriots or great business men? What is it, my brethren, but Love? Ah, it fills the world with melody, with such sacred melodies as we have just indulged in together, for what is music? What, my friends, is music? Ah, what indeed is music but the voice of Love!

America thought it was getting a philosophical wise man; Gantry could at least do a better job with the ruse and he wrote his own material.

He explained that hatred was low. However, for the benefit of the more leathery and zealous deacons down front, he permitted them to hate all Catholics, all persons who failed to believe in hell and immersion, and all rich mortgage-holders, wantoning in the betraying smiles of scarlet women, each of whom wore silk and in her bejeweled hand held a ruby glass of perfidious wine.

Gantry and Obama are paragons of virtue in their own minds and those of the public for a short time; until the facts begin not to add up. It is obvious that Obama has his crony friends on Wall Street among the super wealthy. They work in concert; Warren Buffet stands and confesses that he and other wealthy people don’t pay their fair share of taxes. This baring of the corporate soul is heart warming; unfortunately, Warren Buffet is in a desperate battle with the IRS over back taxes and is trying desperately to keep from paying more taxes.

He was still not at all certain that he was doing any good, aside from providing the drug of religious hope to timorous folk frightened of hell-fire and afraid to walk alone.

The less sophisticated or intellectually dull to be less kind are the ones who still believe the lies and see Obama as the one who will protect them and care for them.

I was brought up to believe that the Christian God wasn’t a scared and compromising public servant, but the creator of the whole merciless truth, and I reckon that training spoiled me — I actually took my teachers seriously!

Obama gets into his folksy role to act like one of his subjects and for a few minutes, they feel the bonds of brotherhood with his Highness Obama.

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 called “Fundamentalists”.

A common Liberal trait is to accuse the opposition of their own indiscretions; it is a fundamental precept of hypocrisy. Yet if you attack your opposition with relentless accusations, some of them will eventually be accepted as fact and the truth. Obama is a cult figure that has lost his momentum. His fall from grace will be much more catastrophic because his whole life has been built around a mythic cult-figure that has never existed.

A professional horseman for over 40 years, Skook continues to work with horses. He is in an ongoing educational program, learning life's lessons from one of the world's greatest instructors, the horse. Skook has finished an historical novel that traces a mitochondrial line of DNA from 50,000 years ago to the present. The book Fifty-Thousand Years is awaiting me to finish a final proofread and it should be sent to the formatter in a matter of days. I am still working, so it is not easy to devote the time I need to finish the project. The cover is a beautiful wok of art. I would put it up here if I could figure out how to make it work.

21 Responses to “The Modern Day Elmer Gantry”

  1. 2

    Liberal1 (objectivity)

    Funny, but I thought the “trait of accusing the opposition of their own indiscretions–a fundamental precept of hypocrisy” was a conservative one.

  2. 3


    Awe, you can’t see this occurring on both sides?

    I may be slanted towards thinking more along the right side, but even I am not so blind to feel that one side always does the bad and the other side only does good.

    Both sides have hypocrisy. Show me one person who hasn’t been hypocritical at any point in their lives. Please?

    But, do you find it funny that the “right wing extremism” and “war-like rhetoric” was bandied about in regards to the shooting of Representative Giffords, yet the rhetoric from those same people, including President Obama, has continued unabated?

  3. 4

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    Gantry the Book and the movie should be required reading/viewing in our schools as to the study of human behavior when it comes to politics and religion. To demonstrate how many people will choose to let the preachers/politicians do their thinking for them. Gantry is an excellent example of that phenomenon which psychologists and sociologists have an unlimited number of theories as to explain why some people will be more than willing to put the Ring through their own nose, and to cheerfully hand the attached chain to their political masters. Look at how many people in both parties only vote the way they are told too by their respective parties. or how the so-called independent voters will vote in mass for whoever the press tells them too. Many in the media tried to question Obama’s past achievements, and his personal history but were ignored or called racists, and or negative people. We remember O’Riley who actually got upset that many Americans did not want to hear anything that could be construed as negative against obi. That the facts were taking the back seat. He was not alone either. Now those same sociologists and psychologists are claiming that Americans were and are sick and tired of the professional politician, so they refused to hear, see, and speak no evil against Obi who supposedly represented real change. What worries me most out of all of this is how many voters will still not change from this bad experience with Obi. Real research on candidates takes time, and effort in this brave new world today with most sites, books, and news being one sided. And then our own professional politicians who are now threatened, and telling the voters that a newcomer cannot do their job. That term limits are not necessary. And many voters believe them even with the mess we are in now. A responsible person has to dig and dig some more, to get past all the BS our press and politicians try to hide from us everyday like Gantry so they can remain safe and secure in their positions of power.. One has to look at the funding source, and then track it back to where it came. Look, listen, and learn for the hidden agendas, etc… But in the end many people will always make an excuse as to why they must remain ignorant, and vote with the group. And in the end little if any real change will ever occur because we the voters keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That was an excellent read by the way Skooum! Thanks!

  4. 6

    Hard Right

    @Wm T Sherman:

    Liberal #2 isn’t here to debate since the last time it tried it got utterly humiliated. You’ll never get an answer. It’s just a bigoted drive by poster.
    Liberal hypocrisy is so overwhelming, just saying liberal hypocrite is an example of redundancy.

    In order to try and get back into power, they screamed about how bad the economy was under W despite unemployment being at about 5%. They talked down the economy every chance they got.
    When we point out how bad the economy actually is, they accuse US of talking down the economy just to get back into power. Ok, that’s also a good example of projection too, but you get the point.

    They screamed about the body count under Bush, and the news reported on the number of dead daily. Yet under obama, you hear about the number lost far less-certainly not daily. These same people accused us of not caring about the troops. Apparently they only care when they make a convenient political hammer.

  5. 7



    “Funny, but I thought the “trait of accusing the opposition of their own indiscretions–a fundamental precept of hypocrisy” was a conservative one.”

    This seems to have become a defining characteristics since Obama was elected. Some conservatives are also convinced that liberals are prone to projection. A post-grad psychology major could find enough material around here for a doctoral thesis.

  6. 9

    Wm T Sherman

    @Wilson: “A post-grad psychology major could find enough material around here for a doctoral thesis.”

    Yes, there is indeed a lot of useless, phoney-baloney crap passed off as scholarship these days, you’re right about that. If the Flopping Aces idea doesn’t fly with the thesis advisor, there’s always “Correlation Between Self-Reported Angst Levels and Broadcast Frequency of Above-Ground Swimming Pool Infomericals” or something.

  7. 11


    Skookum, the picture of the elderly man kneeling in front of Obama’s motorcade is frightening, sickening, and disturbing. Unfortunately, it also proves that you can fool some of the people all of the time.

  8. 12


    Great Guns Skook: I have been wondering and asking why would Captain Ahab spend twenty years of Sundays going to church to hear Preacher Wright when the answer was the obvious “Preacher’s Poise” which draws forth the congregation to repent, kneel, submit and denate their lonely coin to the church. Elmer Gantry also declared that he had a gift pledged to Sister Falconer that he could fill her Tabernacle if given that gift.

    Liberals, of all stripes, cannot answer the simple question “Who is Obama?” They consistently fall down attempting to justify their allegiance and then when asked “What do you like about the guy?” the eggs really get scrambled.

  9. 14

    Nan G

    Sinclair Lewis’ writings extend a wonderful and long line of esoteric writings extending back to the fragments we still have from the earliest novel, Petronius’ Satiricon.
    Petronius would have found his life forfeit had he openly criticized Rome in their own day.
    So he wrote satire and thinly veiled parallels (from what we have, he used wickedly edgy sexual substitutes for how the Roman rulers treated their subjects).
    After the Dark Ages ended Voltaire used satire (in Candide, for example) to skewer a French aristocracy that also would have killed him, if they had seen through his guise.
    Johnathon Swift’s Modest Proposal and other writings were seen as satire, but the British government didn’t kill him….progress!
    Earlier Americans than Lewis used humor and even cartoon art to needle our government into making adjustments.
    Sinclair Lewis would have been so glad you used his work to show Obama’s true colors.
    But the real shame is that there are so few doing the work of useful esoteric writing nowadays.
    In fact, one of the few I can think of is….you, Skookum.
    I hope you have great success when your book comes out.

  10. 15

    Hi Skook:

    While I don’t agree with the central thesis, to wit:

    his whole life has been built around a mythic cult-figure that has never existed.


    I come not to debate with you, but to praise you (borrowing from Mark Antony).

    What an absolutely extraordinary piece of writing!

    Just as an aside, Elmer Gantry is definitely on my top 10 favorite film list. When I was in high school, I worked as a movie usher and I saw that film dozens of times, during its (first) run. Since then, I’ve seen it probably another half dozen times, and your remarkable essay has stimulated me to look to see if I can find it on Netflix or wherever, to watch it yet again.

    – Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

  11. 16


    Larry, thank you for your gracious words and for the opportunity to expound on your reference to Shakespeare.

    I am familiar with the writings of the Bard. Reading his plays is one of my hobbies. The quote has a greater significance to the comparison of Obama and Gantry than you may have at first realized.

    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
    The evil that men do lives after them,
    The good is oft interred with their bones,

    And from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, 1612:

    Noble madam,
    Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues
    We write in water. May it please your highness
    To hear me speak his good now?

    These lines carry a great significance in our time, just as they did in the early 17th Century. Yet, we consider ourselves to be an enlightened and advanced society, but how far have we advanced since men with carts walked through the streets of England and Europe extolling people to bring out their dead during the Bubonic Plague.

    Oh sure, we have advances in science and medicine; we understand the advantages of hygiene and of how to prevent many diseases, but how far have we as homo sapiens actually advanced. That is the perplexing question for me.

    These quotes from Julius Caesar have haunted me all my life. Honor, betrayal, regret, melancholy, integrity, they are all defined, but we so often ignore the warnings, “Beware the Ides of March.”

    Caesar: The ides of March are come.
    Soothsayer: Aye, Caesar, but not gone.

    Cassius: Men at some time are masters of their fates:
    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

    Caesar: Let me have men about me that are fat;
    Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights.
    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
    He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

    Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
    It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
    Seeing that death, a necessary end,
    Will come when it will come.

    Act III
    Caesar: The ides of March are come.
    Soothsayer: Aye, Caesar, but not gone.

    Speak, hands, for me!
    Casca, scene i

    Caesar: Et tu, Bruté? — Then fall, Caesar! Note: (Caesar as he is being stabbed to death realizes that his beloved friend is among the assassins, he is saying, “You too, Brute” in the Latin personal form saved for family and those you love.”

    Cassius: How many ages hence
    Shall this our lofty scene be acted over,
    In states unborn and accents yet unknown!

    Brutus: As fire drives out fire, so pity, pity.

    Antony: O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
    That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!

    Antony: Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of war.

    Antony: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
    Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
    If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
    And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
    Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest, —
    For Brutus is an honorable man;
    So are they all, all honorable men, —
    Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
    But Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honorable man.

    Antony: O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
    And men have lost their reason.

    Antony: My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
    And I must pause till it come back to me.

    Antony: If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.

  12. 17


    Nan G, thank you for the kind words.

    Lewis was a obviously a complex man. In his day, he was considered a Liberal, but in that day a Liberal possessed skepticism and cynicism. The modern Liberal is expected to believe in the wisdom of their leaders and of the policies of the movement regardless of failures and hypocrisy.

    Lewis and many others of superior intellect would be among the first to skewer and eviscerate the inept and incompetent in positions of leadership. To think that obtuse minds like Obama, Kerry, Holder, and Biden could hold back the lethal pen of writers like Lewis is sublime comedy at its most outrageous pretensions. Oh, but to read a few pages of that esoteric pen cutting so wide and deep, that would be great fun!

  13. 19

    Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues
    We write in water.

    All too true. There’s nothing new under the sun. (a quote going back even further than Shakespeare: Ecclesiastes/1-10)

    – LW/HB

  14. 21


    Great post. I have mentioned Elmer Gantry many times over the years to many people and very few if any have known what I was talking about. Glad to be in the company of those here that do.

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