Keillor not silent on ‘Silent Night’

Published 6:39 am Monday, December 28, 2009

I didn’t say this and I wouldn’t say it, at least not in public writing. But I’m glad Garrison Keillor said it in public writing, i.e., his syndicated column, “the Old Scout.” It is, of course, hyperbolic cartooning and thoroughly Garrison Keillor. The immediate, literal meaning is not his point, but one can recognize the point as the subtext beneath his outrageous screed. Christmas is recently past, but I hope not out of our thoughts. If it is, it wasn’t much of a Christmas, and I’m sorry.

Minnesota returned-native son Keillor recently visited Cambridge, Mass., and its icon Harvard University. He first takes off on snobbish intellectual elites he found, or thinks he found, in the yard.

Then he’s on to Unitarians (who believe in at least some kind of god and Jesus as a man but no trinity of the godhead): “….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)….”

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He takes on the Lutherans — among whom but not of whom he has lived all his life — almost every week on “Prairie Home Companion.” So, why not Unitarians?: They “listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that’s their personal right…” Acceptably tolerant, this.

He’s just winding up: “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.”

He approaches his point with shock intended to lay it out: “This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism and we Christians have stood for it long enough.” And there you have it.

Harvard elites and Unitarians aren’t his only target: “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 [“worthless trashy stuff, especially low-quality merchandise”; I had to look it up]. 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.”

Now his point, as only Keillor could (or would dare) put it: “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.”

This, then, was his pre-Christmas greeting to strong women, (we) good-looking men, and above-average children.

As I said, I didn’t say; he did. He did not say intellectuals are not intelligent, that Unitarians are ungodly, or that Jewish people are dreckish. He said they are not Christians, while affirming their rights, and that, therefore, Christmas is not their holiday. Christmas not being their holiday, he objects to attempts to take Christmas away from Christians by political correctness and a denial of equal rights for a majority group.

He might have said this in politically correct or academic language, but he complains he’s tired of people not listening. So he codifies it in Keillorism. Christmas is Christian, and that’s all there is to it.