In an afterlife, H. L. Mencken is an intriguing idea. He always hoped there would be none, but he did say—when he realized he would not get everything done—that it would be nice to have one life for observation and another for comment. He felt, though, that a place where there would be no sinning people—even preachers—would be boring indeed; there would be nothing to laugh at!

Wherever he is now, Mencken is passe as far as this world is concerned. And with him lie many of his radical ideas. Along with speak-easies and the village atheist, he represents an era gone.

And most Christians are glad. United States 1956 with its fashionable churchgoing and its staid approval of evangelists makes quicker soil for growing Christians than the humus that Mencken stirred around Bryan. But though the soil seems to produce rapid growth, this may be the rocky ground of which Jesus spoke as producing plants that could not bear adversity.

Churchgoing America 1956 prefers the millions who quietly snooze in church pews to the one who threw brickbats at the stained glasss. And one can hardly blame them. But even from the grave Mencken’s missiles may stir Christians today—and perhaps even toughen them.

How irritated he would be if some of his brickbats became solid building blocks!

No one would accuse Mencken—the cynic, the cocky, the iconoclast, the sceptic, the impious, the arrogant, the irreverent, the blasphemer—of consciously backing Christianity or helping Christians. It would be unkind! And yet in what he said was so much basic truth that he often defended what are Christian ideas despite himself. Though he stood a long way from the church, some of the bricks he threw at religious superficiality, ...

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