"Deck the halls with ill-advised statements, fa-la-la-la-la"

I enjoy "A Prairie Home Companion," in a kind of "warm tea, cozy fire" sort of way. It rarely makes me laugh particularly loudly (or all that frequently), but it's comforting and pleasant, and a nice way to fill the silence of the afternoon. Thus, I have a certain affection for Garrison Keillor.

That said... oh, dear (via Jeffrey Goldberg):
You can blame Ralph Waldo Emerson for the brazen foolishness of the elite. He preached here at the First Church of Cambridge, a Unitarian outfit (where I discovered that "Silent Night" has been cleverly rewritten to make it more about silence and night and not so much about God), and Emerson tossed off little bon mots that have been leading people astray ever since. "To be great is to be misunderstood," for example. This tiny gem of self-pity has given license to a million arrogant and unlovable people to imagine that their unpopularity somehow was proof of their greatness.


Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And 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. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.

Christmas is a Christian holiday - if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.

That was... not a good idea. I know that Keillor suffered a minor stroke recently, and I'm not being glib or sarcastic when I say that I hope his faculties are intact. Because man, that column was a mistake. (It also doesn't make a whole heap of sense.)

I actually agree with Keillor up to a certain point, at least about the hymns. I have had occasion to sit in the pews and leaf through what I suppose could be described as "inclusive" hymnals, and been vaguely horrified by the gelding some of the hymns have undergone. I'm no great fan of, say, "Onward Christian Soldiers," among others, but I would choose to simply skip those songs I find theologically suspect in favor of those with a less "we will watch you roast in hell for all eternity" theme. Making some of the overtly Christian hymns less so merely drains them of meaning in an almost Orwellian manner. So, I agree that progressive denominations should either write new hymns or find old ones they like, not monkey with the words of the bothersome tunes.

However, the dig at Jewish songwriters? Yikes. (Frankly, I doubt most Jews would choose to listen to those songs, either.) "Buzz off"? Double yikes. I don't really want to wade into the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" culture war (handled nicely here), but Keillor should probably have a nice, thoughtful friend read his columns from now on before he turns them in. One cannot cram Christmas down the collective throats of non-Christian Americans and then demand that they not mess with it. Christmas is everywhere from the moment the last trick-or-treater falls asleep until bleary-eyed New Year's revelers start trying to shake off their hang-overs. Many Christians still try to celebrate it purely (or largely) as a religious holiday (which is how we view it in our home), but trying to pretend it remains thus for many (most?) Americans is like trying to mush toothpaste back into the tube.

I hate the thought that a man whose persona is crafted so much around affability has veered so close to crank territory. Nothing in the column really justifies its having been published, and plenty in it would have justified it getting quietly killed. It would have been a gift to Keillor, whether or not he knew it at the time.


  1. Keillor has been a nasty piece of work for years and years. Long, long ago I once listened to PHC, but when I read his books... my word, what a dark, depressing place his mind must be.