Your Crap Archivist appreciates the role that crazy preachers have played in the grand pageant of our nation’s history.
As purely American a development as baseball or individually wrapped slices of cheese, these holy hell-raisers have deserve applause for their great contribution to the national character: our tendency to blame complex social problems on the unrelated and newfangled.
For the first Studies in Crap Crazy Preacher Invitational, your Crap Archivist has lined up impassioned tracts on a common theme: how everyone who ever so much as hully-gullied will boil for eternity in a pit of fire. (See ya, Tom DeLay!)
In one corner, we have Dan Gilbert, whose angry 1942 pamphlet Hell Over Hollywood dared to expose secret Jewry in the movie business! In the other, we have the Billy-Graham hating evangelist John R. Rice, who honored his Prince of Peace by naming his publishing company “Sword of the Lord”!
Gentlemen, start your batshittery!
Dan Gilbert’s The Heritage of Hell vs. John R. Rice’s What’s Wrong With the Dance?
Gilbert: “Conceived in hell and brought forth by the brothel, the dance has established its immoral dominion over the life and destiny of the larger element of American youth.” (page 39).
Rice: “Listen to me, sisters, you bunch of hens. You who have been carrying on these dances in your homes, don’t open your chops. You have paved the way for lewdness, trained boys and girls for it.” (page 24)
At first blush, Rice’s tract seems the crazier. He complains that dances are named “after animal functions” and rails against “the bunny hug” and the square dance. He thunders, “I tell you frankly, my friend, the dance itself is lustful and lust provoking and the mother of lust!”
A transcript of a wild-eyed 1935 sermon, What’s Wrong With the Dance? is the most spittle-flecked book I have ever read. It’s rife with lunatic repetition, reckless exclamation points, and anecdotes of elusive significance:
“The devil’s crowd takes possession of the ‘nice, clean, dance.’ Just like the farmer said the first time he saw a giraffe, ‘There ain’t no sich animal!’ There is no such thing as a nice, clean dance.”
No such thing as a nice dance? On this point, at least, he’s in full agreement with Ike & Tina. And, hey, don’t giraffes exist?
Rice berates this crowd for 48 pages, holding them responsible for all of the “adultery, murder, idolatry, drunkenness and nakedness all connected with the dance.” He claims that dances have ravaged the morals of greater Dallas, resulting in a record divorce rate and “102 cases of venereal disease” in the previous week alone.
Here, he quite literally condemns local mothers for their permissiveness toward “the dirty, low down, rotten dance”:
“You put the dance on in the public school through the Parent-Teachers’ Association. You are guilty in God Almighty’s sight. You are responsible for it! The lewdness will curse Dallas in the Texas Centennial– you are partners in it, all you who give dances. You are as guilty as hell! You are! Yes sir; you are! You are!”
Sometimes, he asks if anyone in the crowd wishes to defend dancing. At one point, he even “double-dog dares” them. Unsurprisingly, not one hen so much as opens her chops.
Rice loves a list. Here’s some of the “bad company” he says turn up at dances: tough nuts, crack-brained bullies, drunken blackguards, low down dirty rakes who would seduce any girl and lead her to Hell, prostitutes, syphilitics, the rotten-as-hell adulterous crowd, bootleggers, whiskey drinkers, high school kids doomed to car crashes, your sons and daughters.
The Heritage of Hell
While significantly less shouty than Rice, Gilbert’s 1946 screed is competitive when it comes to cockeyed ranting. He denounces the saxophone, “with its weird appeal to the expression of unrestrained passions,” and assails what he calls the “spasm bands” that have spread from brothels to decent America. He damns jazz music as especially dangerous because its emphasis upon improvisation leads kids to anarchism.
“This is even true of the jitterbug dancing that accompanies jitterbug music . . .In any jitterbug contest the winner is the dancer who shows the most originality and daring in devising new steps, twirls, somersaults or indecencies.”
Since he died in 1962, I doubt that Gilbert ever witnessed modern country line dancing, which holds to his every ideal: dancers moving with all the personal expression of a volleyball rotation.
Jitterbugging, Gilbert claims, has been “deliberately conceived” to break down young women’s resistance to sexual advances:
“Jitterbug music combined with jitterbug dancing produces a state of emotional and nervous derangement which is scientifically indistinguishable from intoxication induced by stimulants or narcotics.”
Statistics hate dancing, too. GIlbert touts a survey claiming that 97 per cent of juvenile delinquents took “their departure from the path of virtue and purity” after a dance or attending a movie; another insists that, of 67 cases of assault committed by high school boys against their girlfriends, each transpired after a dance or a movie.
While Rice seems the more amusingly crazy, Gilbert’s contention that the dance-induced horniness is “deliberately conceived” holds great promise. Let’s see how they do under questioning!
What has modern dance done to fashion?
Rice: “Women don’t wear corsets anymore to dances.”
Gilbert: “Designers have created ‘new styles’ simply by incorporating in women’s ‘party dresses’ more and more features of the clothing worn by the commercial courtesans of the vice world.”
Who benefits from dancing?
Rice: “The fact of the business is, it was impossible to get a nudist movement started until the modern dance got rotten as hell.”
Gilbert: “The modern educational system in America is largely under the control of a small group of influential Soviet educators . . . Their program is to paganize and Sovietize American youth. The enforcement of a dancing program in public high schools is essential to the success of that objective.”
Any last words?
Rice: “Somebody says, ‘Brother Rice, I do not have bad thoughts when I dance.’ I say you are a dirty liar, and you know it!”
Gilbert: “Hitler is gone, but the dance remains a means of Hitlerizing American youth: of reducing them to the brute level, of filling their lives with all that is ugly and revolting, of accentuating brute passion, of encouraging vice and degradation.”
Dan Gilbert,exploiting a quirk in the timeline! Fulminating eleven years and one World War after Rice, only he could dream up naming Adolf Hitler as the unlikely force behind this most terrible of made-up social problems. I raise my near-beer to you, Brother Gilbert, and celebrate the fact that, after your Nazi scapegoating, Americans would never fall for such laughable comparisons ever again!
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[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice‘s sister paper, The Pitch.]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 1, 2009