Yesterday there was a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, a political act paraded as a national revival meeting. And guess who showed up? None other than Elmer Gantry. If you are too young to remember who Elmer Gantry is, Youtube comes to your rescue. Based on a novel published by Sinclair Lewis in 1927, the fictional character Gantry is a consummate hypocrite preaching against vice from the pulpit and practicing vice whenever he has a chance. Lewis wrote it as a satire on the bigoted Protestant fundamentalism of his day, and earned the mantra of “Satan’s cohort” from famed evangelist Billy Sunday. Perhaps it is time to bring the novel back to the required reading list or at least re-release the film version starring Burt Lancaster.

Glenn Gantry, I mean Elmer Beck, well you know who I mean, left the set of his Fox News extravaganza and cozy radio perch to lead a rally of Tea Party and other discontents, but claimed that God had dropped a sandbag on his head (I suspect it was rather heavy sand to cause such a reaction) and made him realize the rally should be a religious revival, getting America back to her Christian roots. The fact that it was planned on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s memorable speech in the same place (only three years after the release of the Elmer Gantry film) is said to be accidental or divine. I suspect for showman Beck, there is little difference between the two.

Watching Beck-Gantry work the crowd is right out of a Hollywood B movie; adding Sarah Palin reminds me of those old studio movies where the hanger-on actresses are always fit in somewhere. No one, and I mean no one, provides more laugh tracks for Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show than the multi-millionnaire crewcut nutcase Glenn-Elmer. Like Gantry, one day he too will fall from the grace of his boyish charisma. It may not be a sex scandal like Jim Baker or Jimmy Swaggert or Ted Haggard, but stupidity, like pride, cometh before a fall. What frightens me most in the meantime is the gullibility of those who take this kind of staged rally seriously, who think America has turned its back on God (conservative Christians have always said that America has turned its back on God), or the Rapture is any day now or Harry Reid is the antichrist. There are so many losers in this scenario, including the Jesus of the Gospels. Consider the following comments recorded in today’s New York Times article:

Becky Benson, 56, traveled from Orlando, Fla., because, she said, “we believe in Jesus Christ, and he is our savior.” Jesus, she said, would not have agreed with what she called the redistribution of wealth in the form of the economic stimulus package, bank bailouts and welfare. “You cannot sit and expect someone to hand out to you,” she said. “You don’t spend your way out of debt.”

Dear Becky and dear Mr. Beck, which version of the gospels have you been reading? Try Matthew 19, where the rich young man (say someone like Glenn Beck) comes to Jesus and asks what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Simple, enough, “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,” Jesus said in clear Scofield Bible English. And here was a rich man who had kept all the commandments, so Jesus said “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” If this is not redistribution of wealth, even blatant socialism, I do not know what is. I guess the question is whether you worship Jesus the Savior as recorded in the Gospels or Protestant John Calvin and tycoon Andrew Carnegie.

Now, imagine if Jesus had come to that rally yesterday and tapped Glenn Beck, Inc. on the shoulder and politely asked to speak to the crowd of people who mostly would swear how much they love him. I wonder what Jesus would have said? Would the words have been closer to those of Martin Luther King in 1963 in which he called for racial equality and freedom from bigoted discrimination or would they have followed the Fox News script? He might have repeated the beatitudes, about who is to be blessed. And if so, he might have said exactly what he said then about the woes, “But woe unto you that are rich…” “Woe unto you who are full…” Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets.” And this is when Jesus dropped the bombshell that many Christians quickly forget: “But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them who hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you…” and ” Give to every man that asketh of thee..” It’s all there in Luke 6; even Matthew recorded it. And I would suspect that “enemies” for the people listening would include the world’s billion plus Muslims, as well as people whose skin color happens not to be white.

The issue is not WWGBD but what he has already done and what he will not do.

Luke R. E. Publican