Monday, January 28, 2008

The Evangelical Preacher

I found this at the SCP site (see the link on the RH of this blog):

Given, a man with moderate intellect, a moral standard not higher than the average, some rhetorical affluence and great glibness of speech, what is the career in which, without aid of birth or money, he may most easily attain power and reputation...? which a smattering of science and learning will pass for profound instruction, where platitudes will be accepted as wisdom, bigoted narrowness as holy zeal, unctuous egoism as God-given piety? Let such a man become an evangelical preacher; he will then find it possible to reconcile small ability with great ambition, superficial knowledge with the prestige of erudition, a middling morale with a high reputation of sanctity.

Pleasant to the clerical flesh... is the arrival of Sunday!... He has an immense advantage over all other public speakers. The platform orator is subject to the criticism of hisses and groans. Counsel for the plaintiff expects the retort of counsel for the defendant. The honorable gentleman on one side of the House is liable to have his facts and figures shown up by his honorable friend on the opposite side.... the preacher is completely master of the situation: no one may hiss, no one may depart. Like the writer of imaginary conversations, he may put what imbecilities he pleases into the mouths of his antagonists, and swell with triumph when he has refuted them. He may riot in gratuitous assertions, confident that no man will contradict him; he may exercise perfect free-will in logic, and invent illustrative experience; he may give an evangelical edition of history with the inconvenient facts omitted;-all this he may do with impunity, certain that those of his hearers who are not sympathizing are not listening.

~George Eliot, Westminster Review, 1855


Superslug said...

Sounds like a great Job profile, where do I apply?

Jenny Hillebrand said...

This is so scary and so true! It is always a challenge to preach with integrity knowing that there is likely to be very little genuine criticism.

What I struggle with is that many people in the pew are actually ok with this sort of thing. Generally along the lines of - tell us nice stuff with real conviction and we will be happy. Truth and intellectual honesty are hardly recognised. But maybe that is just in my context!