I’ve been re-reading Tom Wolfe for an upcoming NRO piece I’ve just finished. In my old copy of his out-of-print anthology The Purple Decades, I found this golden passage describing a fictional “Modern Churchman.” It was written in the 1970s, but it sure adds context to current events, which didn’t emerge from nowhere. Wolfe writes:
He was a socially acceptable but obscure minister to the Tassel Loafer & Tennis Lesson Set until the day in 1975 when he announced that he was a pederast. He not only announced it, he enunciated his theory that the sexual life of the child was an essential part of, not an obstacle to, the spiritual life of the child, and that anyone who doubted that God had created a link of sexual attraction between generations was an upland Tennessee aborigine.
Half of his congregation walked out, but the other half was stimulated by the television coverage. The diocesan governors had long been troubled by declining church membership and felt that here, at last, was a Modern Churchman who could Reach the Urban Young People.
Emboldened by a measure of fame and official support, he enunciated the theory that terrorists were God’s Holy Beasts, arguing that Jesus had entered the temple with a flog or cat-o’-nine tails, according to which Renaissance painting one looke at, to drive the moneychangers out and that the Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros had once led a maching-gun raid on the home of Leon Trotsky. He was a great supporter of the arts, and in his home, an old carriage house redone in nail patterns by Ronaldo Clutter, the interior designer, the painting frame had replaced the cross as a religious symbol.
When he held a Holy Roller Disco Night in the sanctuary and urged the recitation of the prayer book ‘in tongues,’ he was featured in the Religious sections of both Time and Newsweek, and his elevation to bishop was said to be imminent.