Garrison Keillor: speaker of truth or Grinch who stole Kitschmas?

UPDATE: Fred Small who is the pastor of the Unitarian church that invited Garrison Keillor to speak has posted a rebuttal.

John is not happy with Garrison’s slam on secular Christmas songs in his oped piece “Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone.”

Perhaps it’s just satire when he whales on Jewish songwriters who “trash up the malls with Rudolph” “and the rest of that dreck,” but if so, he mixed in too many value judgments that do not seem satirical at all. Besides, what’s wrong with Rudolph? Jeez Louise, what a Grinch

Keillor of course runs the risk that all satirists, comedians, and public pundits face of being offensive and/or being misunderstood. I agree with John that I am not too bothered with Rudolph, Dr. Suess, or even Macaulay Culkin occasionally being left home alone (well, just the once). But I have to agree with GK that those songs that do speak to the sacred story should be left alone.

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice [espoused by Ralph Waldo Emerson] 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.

The sentence that follows is the one that offended John and I will not repeat it but perhaps express the sentiment in a slightly less offensive manner. You don’t find people who are not Jewish or Muslim writing songs for Rosh Hashanah or the Hajj. And to take John’s side against GK, Irving Berlin was not rewriting Silent Night or O Holy Night. He gave us White Christmas. I don’t mind that in the least (but I am bummed that Comcast On Demand does not seem to have Holiday Inn on this year).

On the other hand, and this goes to theology as well, I do take umbrage to those who would remove the birth of Christ from Christmas songs. This is the same as those who remove the doctrine of atonement from Good Friday and Easter. If one does not believe in the creeds and affirm basic Christian tenets that is fine (and a Unitarian Church is likely to be just the place for you), but don’t rewrite Christianity or its hymnody to meet your changing views.

If you are not a Christian but still celebrate the festivities, welcome! I hope and pray that you also learn and understand the “reason for the season,” as they say. But do not, as one colleague urged me this week, require that those of us who are Christians remove “that whole religion thing” from what is, in fact, a Christian festival.

In the meantime, I will shovel my driveway for a second time today and belt out another chorus of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

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