Monday, August 27, 2018

Crimes of Preachers

Rating:
In checking out the latest uploads at Gutenberg, I found a book called Crimes of Preachers (New York: Truth Seeker, 1914) that I thought might be interesting. The table of contents looked very interesting:
But, alas, none of the above was actually found in the book. It was instead an entire book listing every alleged crime committed by and conviction of a minister, priest, or rabbi M.E. Billings could uncover in his no doubt extensive research. Here's a screenshot of a tiny fraction of the contents:

The inspiration for this literary masterpiece is found its introduction: Apparently in 1906 an actor was denied membership in a local YMCA branch because, according to the Y, actors were immoral. I agree that the Pittsburgh YMCA made a stupid and narrow-minded decision in this instance. But another actor named Henry Dixey wasn't satisfied with simple harumphing, instead offering "to give one thousand dollars to charity if it could be shown that actors, man for man, were not as good as ministers of the gospel." Nobody took him up on his offer, so he took it to the next level, offering "another thousand dollars if there could not be found a minister in jail for every state in the Union." Again, nobody defended the honor of the clergy, so he did his own investigation and discovered that at the moment of his inquiry there were 49 clergymen (there no clergy women at that time) in jail and only 19 actors. 

Apparently this got M.E. Billings to thinking just how far he could take this research, and he took it pretty far indeed. He made it his life's work to uncover every crime or rumor of a crime, and list them in a book dedicated to nothing else. It might have been interesting had he attached any stories. But, no, the above screenshot is an example of all that's in there. Over 230 pages of it. Every vile (or moderately unsavory) deed committed (or alleged to have been committed) by the clergy anywhere in English-speaking North America between the years 1876 and 1914. Kudos to Mr. Billings for his single-mindedness. But for imagination and writing, Crimes rolls a ⚀.