Source: Socialist Spirit
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Pulpit Anarchy”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 1
Issue number: 2
|“Pulpit Anarchy.” Socialist Spirit Oct. 1901 v1n2: pp. 12-13.|
|T. De Witt Talmage (public statements); McKinley assassination (religious response: criticism); society (impact on Czolgosz); society (criticism).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Thomas Jefferson; Thomas Babington Macaulay; William McKinley; T. De Witt Talmage [middle name wrong below].|
The presiding elder of the Methodist churches of Washington, preaching in President McKinley’s church on Sept. 8, said in his sermon that the assassination of the President had almost converted him into “an advocate of lynch law;” while Dr. T. DeWitt Talmage, preaching on the same day at Ocean Grove, N. J., called forth applause from 10,000 church-goers by saying in his sermon:
“I wish the police at Buffalo who arrested the scoundrel who shot our adored President had taken the butt of the weapon and dashed the man’s brains out on the spot.”
The assassination of the President, occurring
as it did near the end of the week, served to exhibit the preachers on the following
Sunday in all the wolfishness of their unreflection. Had they been given a day
or two longer in which to restrain their man-hunting instincts, their “religious”
feeling, expressed so freely in the pulpits, would doubtless have been less
sanguinary. Some of them declared that had they been present they themselves
would have murdered the anarchist with the unpronounceable name. Others were
content merely to justify the lawless act of lynching. All, however, hastened
to express the attitude that is the utmost antithesis of Christian teaching.
They all thirsted for blood.
There is something unspeakably hideous in this evidence of the spirit of murder among those who by their assuming to teach religion, are conceded to possess more of God than other men. Should one be surprised at such an act as the killing of a President by a man who had never come under the sway of the nobler instincts and examples; when among the refined and educated teachers of society one has only to scratch the hide to reveal red-handed murder? These preachers are convicted by their own utterances, which the yellow press greedily licked up for the people’s delectation.
These preachers are red anarchists. That is, they have the night side of anarchism. The dawn side, the liberty side, they do not see.
If they had had any respect for law, they would never have gone on record  as they did. If they had any respect for God or humanity they would be now on their knees praying Jehovah to take from them the thirst for killing. Mr. McKinley himself did not froth at the mouth, nor howl like a wolf for the blood of the poor savage who shot him.
He asked that no one should hurt him.
Mr. McKinley knew, perhaps, that savages of the Czolgosz type are the natural result of the preachers’ divorcing religion from human life;—preferring theology to natural justice. When a church becomes a society for “good,” people only, the proletariat does not see its religious side. It sees only its snob side.
Czolgosz is the type of Hun and Vandal, which Macaulay, the English historian, declared long ago in a letter to Thomas Jefferson would ravage our republic in the twentieth century. Macaulay said that these Huns and Vandals would be the product of our own civilization. He was a privileged person himself, never having to give anything in return for the food he ate and clothes he wore unless he wanted to; and yet he was not so blind as these preachers are. He saw that you could not pacify all hungry men by telling them that Heaven is for them. It is no good trying to tell a joke to a man in agony.
Human life can only be sustained upon the earth.
If society therefore is so organized as to make all the material resources of the earth the private property of less than all the people;—if a single man is left outside,—then this man becomes an enemy to society.
Czolgosz seems to have been left outside.
It is related that several preachers had asked him to come to church. Some had advised him to be good. But it does not appear that any of them took him by the hand and promised to help him get his share of life through normal political action.
When a man is left outside he is generally ignorant. He has had no one to teach him that it is a wrong system which is oppressing him and not a single individual who may achieve political distinction. Men have been striking all through history at the result or product of institutions instead of at the institutions themselves. This is why the peoples in their long catalogue of revolutions have never really gotten anywhere.
There was no one to teach this to Czolgosz. The preachers could not teach it to him because they do not know it.
Czolgosz thought he could stamp out economic tyranny by killing Mr. McKinley.
The preachers think they can stamp out anarchy by killing Czolgosz.
Czolgosz and the preachers are alike in one particular. They are both damnably ignorant.
For Czolgosz there seems to be some excuse for this ignorance. If reports are true even the anarchists in Chicago would not teach him.
But most preachers are the product of universities.
Of course, it must be remembered that the yellow journals quote only the bloodthirsty preachers—the prominent ones in the big churches. There are assuredly a few who have not joined in the blood-baying. Preachers are no worse than other men, save when they know the truth and prostitute their souls by ignoring it. That is a depth to which, from his peculiar occupation, only the preacher can fall.
The outcast who, owing to an unrighteous social system, has been denied access to the opportunities to live a complete life, and who strikes blindly with physical force at some individual, may be designated as an assassin of the body.
The preacher who in this same society purchases his opportunities for a complete life by voicing false doctrines agreeable to the privileged classes, may be designated as an assassin of the soul.
By estimating the difference in value of the body, which is clay, and the soul, which is immortal, the relative criminality of Czolgosz and the preachers who are preaching what they are paid for may be properly estimated.