H. L. Mencken, theo-crushes, & “fair and toothsome” pastors

My apologies if you find this sexist; I didn’t write it— H. L. Mencken did. (UPDATE: no, I do not agree with everything he says.) In any case, much of it seems to me to be rather piquant. And I don’t care who you are, Mencken’s zingers are without equal in his time or ours:

“…a good deal more aphrodisiacal than learned.”

I did laugh out loud at that. Indeed, I lol’d.

In searching for just the right graphic, I came across a Steadfast Lutherans article from a few years back entitled “Hot for Preacher— The Issue of Lust in the Church.” Definitely worth a read, whether you’re a pastor, seminarist, a layman, or a woman. If you’re none of these things, then don’t bother.

The following excerpt is from Mencken’s In Defense of Women.

HT: Konig


Image credit: Steadfast Lutherans

Women…are not naturally religious, and they are growing less and less religious as year chases year. Their ordinary devotion has little if any pious exaltation in it; it is a routine practice, forced on them by the masculine notion that an appearance of holiness is proper to their lowly station, and a masculine feeling that church-going somehow keeps them in order, and out of doings that would be less reassuring. When they exhibit any genuine religious fervour, its sexual character is usually so obvious that even the majority of men are cognizant of it. Women never go flocking ecstatically to a church in which the agent of God in the pulpit is an elderly asthmatic with a watchful wife. When one finds them driven to frenzies by the merits of the saints, and weeping over the sorrows of the heathen, and rushing out to haul the whole vicinage up to grace, and spending hours on their knees in hysterical abasement before the heavenly throne, it is quite safe to assume, even without an actual visit, that the ecclesiastic who has worked the miracle is a fair and toothsome fellow, and a good deal more aphrodisiacal than learned. All the great preachers to women in modern times have been men of suave and ingratiating habit, and the great majority of them, from Henry Ward Beecher up and down, have been taken, soon or late, in transactions far more suitable to the boudoir than to the footstool of the Almighty. Their famous killings have always been made among the silliest sort of women— the sort, in brief, who fall so short of the normal acumen of their sex that they are bemused by mere beauty in men.




  1. “The hair of a dead Chinaman, artfully dressed and dyed, gives them as much delight as the authentic tresses of Venus.”

  2. Jonathan’s quote is surely from Mencken. But I don’t get this modern habit of quoting someone and not giving their name. Maybe it is based in a (misguided) sense of modesty–of not wanting to show off? A person worthy of being quoted is worthy of being given credit.

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