Here there was a stir of dissent around the table.
“Oh, I am not challenging your sincerity,” Ernest continued. “You are sincere. You preach what you believe. There lies your strength and your value—to the capitalist class. But should you change your belief to something that menaces the established order, your preaching would be unacceptable to your employers, and you would be discharged. Every little while some one or another of you is so discharged.* Am I not right?”
* During this period there were many ministers cast out of the church for preaching unacceptable doctrine. Especially were they cast out when their preaching became tainted with socialism.
This time there was no dissent. They sat dumbly acquiescent, with the exception of Dr. Hammerfield, who said:
“It is when their thinking is wrong that they are asked to resign.”
“Which is another way of saying when their thinking is unacceptable,” Ernest answered, and then went on. “So I say to you, go ahead and preach and earn your pay, but for goodness’ sake leave the working class alone. You belong in the enemy’s camp. You have nothing in common with the working class. Your hands are soft with the work others have performed for you. Your stomachs are round with the plenitude of eating.” (Here Dr. Ballingford winced, and every eye glanced at his prodigious girth. It was said he had not seen his own feet in years.) “And your minds are filled with doctrines that are buttresses of the established order. You are as much mercenaries (sincere mercenaries, I grant) as were the men of the Swiss Guard.* Be true to your salt and your hire; guard, with your preaching, the interests of your employers; but do not come down to the working class and serve as false leaders. You cannot honestly be in the two camps at once. The working class has done without you. Believe me, the working class will continue to do without you. And, furthermore, the working class can do better without you than with you.”
* The hired foreign
palace guards of Louis XVI, a king of
France that was beheaded by his people.
After the guests had gone, father threw himself into a chair and gave vent to roars of Gargantuan laughter. Not since the death of my mother had I known him to laugh so heartily.