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I’m a new UU blogger!  Surely I must have something to say about That Article in Salon!  Actually, I do.  A few things, in fact.

Keillor has made fun of UUs for years.  I think we tend to dismiss his mockery–or misinterpret it as gentle joshing–because so many of us love his radio show and want to believe he’s really one of us.  Since I don’t love the show, or even like it anymore, I’ve never felt the inner conflict.  It seldom features music I like; when it does, it is too often ruined by Keillor’s self-indulgent habit of making himself the star singer (I guess no one in his inner circle wants to break it to him that his voice could charitably be called mediocre); the jokes are tepid, and I hate his habit of repeating a line if it didn’t get a laugh the first time.  The man can write when he’s a mind to, and I have sometimes been moved by the News from Lake Wobegon segment–the one in “the last show,” twenty years ago, was beautiful–but it too is swamped by unfunny attempts at humor.

JMHO.  But my point is not to criticize the show (I’m just enjoying doing that along the way).  Rather, I’d like to ask, does it really matter if Garrison Keillor turns out to have serious objections to our religion?  Sure, it hurts when someone one likes is critical.  Clearly, for many UUs, Keillor is someone they see as a kindred spirit, perhaps even an exemplar.  But Thomas Jefferson enslaved people, Albert Schweitzer was patronizing well past the point of racism, Martin Luther King was a compulsive philanderer–we all know all this, so I don’t need to list dozens more, but you know I could.  Even our heroes are complicated, which is a nice way of saying they’re far from heroic in every aspect of their lives.  So even if Keillor is your hero, why be shocked when he gets something wrong?

Whether he is wrong is a question for us to ponder, even if he doesn’t make a very good case for himself.  Keillor is off the rails here; you can see it, if nowhere else, in his sideswipe at “all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck.”  I’m sorry, are you saying Irving Berlin somehow tainted the sacred day with “White Christmas”?  The whine that follows about how Christians don’t mess with Judaism (uh . . . right) verges on anti-Semitism, and doing it in Yiddish makes it worse.  (Dear Garrison:  don’t like Jews influencing “your” culture?  Then please remove “dreck” from your vocabulary.)  And his writing is a mess, reeling from charges of spiritual piracy to Lawrence Summers’ bad investments to admonishments to eschew perfectionism, and throwing in a snarl at elitism for no apparent reason.  I guess it’s always a winner to accuse people of elitism.  But none of this answers the question that I think is really the reason this half-baked piece of writing is getting under our skin:  is he right about us?

We UUs do want to sing “Silent Night” without really embracing the theology.  We want to tell the Christmas story, own it as part of our tradition, without saying the words we don’t believe, that “Christ the Savior is born.”  To that extent he is correct, but the real question is whether it’s all right to do.

I think so . . . but this’ll have to be continued in another post.  I have to write my Christmas Eve homily.


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