Garrison Keillor claims Christmas for Christians

Lake Woebegone sage Garrison Keillor has stirred things up with a column entitled Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone. An excerpt:

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.

I don’t remember hearing Keillor being so crotchety. I’m not sure I agree that only Christians should celebrate Christmas. I think it is a wonderful tribute to the Lord Christ that even people who do not know Him nevertheless unwittingly celebrate His birth, giving gifts and invoking Christmas blessings on their neighbors. It is a case of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord.

UPDATE: Read Lars Walker’s comment on Keillor’s rant. Among other trenchant observations, he raises the important underlying question: Do we think that Christianity with its holidays like Christmas should impact the culture as a whole, or not? Political liberals like Keillor, as well as separatist Christians, say “no.” Christmas like Christianity should be a matter of personal reflection and private practice. But it should be kept out of the secular marketplace. What we see here is that some Christian theologies affirm culture, while others do not. Also, note the agreement on this issue between liberalism and fundamentalism.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And yet, I appreciate Keillor’s critique of Unitarianism, the cultural elite, and the influence of Emerson. I especially appreciate his affirmation of creedal Christianity and the Messiah.

HT: Cheryl at A Ropund Unvarnish’d Tale

Mark Hemingway on “30 Rock”

Did you watch “30 Rock” the other day and hear a cryptic reference to someone you faintly recall hearing of recently? Well, remember how I mentioned Lutheran journalist and conservative pundit Mark Hemingway the other day? Well, he’s made it to the big time: having his name taken in vain on a sit-com and becoming a pop culture reference.

Now the political insider site Politico is talking about this. It’s a genuinely funny line, and Mark is both taking it in good humor and reveling in the attention.

What else do “30 Rock,” “Politico,” and the Cranach blog have in common?

Ridiculing the Penn State t-shirt controversy

Here is how to deal with a pseudo-controversy (referring to the student-selected t-shirt design for a football game, the logo drawn from the stripe on the Penn State uniform). Penn State Students Poke Fun at T-Shirt Cross 'Controversy' | Christianpost.com:

Though the two-side design looks innocent enough, to some, the combination of the vertical blue stripe running down the center of the shirt’s front side along with the words “Penn State” cutting across the vertical beam appeared reminiscent of a cross.

Penn State t-shirt

And to a handful of students, the seemingly religious imagery on the shirt was reason enough to file complaints with the university and even to organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, which in turn contacted Penn State officials.

According to Bill Mahon, vice president of university relations, six people have voiced their objections to Penn State over the shirt design while around 30,000 shirts have so far been sold.

Despite the small number of complaints, the school’s newspaper and even Fox News picked up on the story and brought the alleged controversy into light to the surprise of many Penn State students. . . .

In three letters that appeared in the Collegian on Monday, students further expressed how laughable the current controversy is and how it’s been blown out of proportion.

“While driving through Centre County, I saw power poles shaped like crosses. Advice to Allegheny Power: You'd better change your design before someone is offended,” wrote Penn State alumnus David Dimmick.

Recent graduate Steve Edling also mocked the current controversy, suggesting sarcastically that it was time to protest that all lowercase t’s be immediately stricken from campus as well.

“From this day forth, the words ‘Penn State’ shall be in all caps or never written at all, because crosses belong at Notre Dame and nowhere else,” he wrote.

This is a good example of how humor–satire, ridicule, laughter–is often a better way to respond to things like this than trying to out-outrage those who are outraged.

Bill Cosby & the Bible

Bill Cosby was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor last night, a much-deserved tribute for a true humorist in the Mark Twain tradition. Notice that Cosby doesn’t tell funny jokes. He tells funny stories. How did he learn how to tell them so well? He tells The Washington Post:

Where does the gift come from? For Bill Cosby, it begins in a housing project in North Philadelphia. He's 6, maybe 7 years old. He's sitting at the knee of his father's father, hoping for a quarter. But first he has to listen.

Samuel Russell Cosby Sr. read the Bible, and told his grandson the stories. Young William didn't exactly listen — "To this day, I don't know the names he said" — but he sure enough heard. The details of the stories, of course, weren't as important as the way his grandfather told them — his tone, his pace, the look on his face. It was how you told it, not what.

All of it stuck with the kid. A couple of decades later, when he was honing his own brilliant stories on a nightclub stage, Cosby would hear it again in his own voice.

"You learned storytelling from a man like this," Cosby says. He's on the phone from Los Angeles, and he's in career-reminiscence mode. He'll be in Washington on Monday night to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center. There's a big to-do in his honor, with celebrity presenters (Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Carl Reiner). It's basically a comedy Hall of Fame induction ceremony. So Cosby, 72, is reflecting.

"So [granddad] says, 'This is from the book of something, and then he'd start telling it. Telling it." Not preaching, just telling. "Somehow it pertained to my life, some wonderful lesson."

Little Cos absorbed it, but he was mostly focused on the quarter. Granddad kept his change in a sock, which he kept tucked into his belt. If the boy sat still and listened long enough, his grandfather would pull a coin from his sock-purse.

"He'd say, 'Take this quarter, put it in the bank. Save it. Don't go wasting it on ice cream!' "

So the boy diligently squirreled away Grandpa's quarters and then one day he . . .

"What?! Are you drunk?" Cosby sputters. "I went and got some ice cream! It was five cents a dip in those days. With a sugar cone."

Once again we see the influence of the Bible on a deep structure, cultural level. (Yes, I know it isn’t the purpose of the Bible to teach storytelling but to convey Law & Gospel! That’s not the point right now. Just as Luther’s translation of the Bible had the additional cultural effect of standardizing the German language, and just as the King James translation can be heard in the background of much of English and American literature, and just as the Bible’s portrayal of time as having a beginning, a turning point, and an end shaped our culture’s sense of time, its great stories and a grandpa’s impulse to tell them to his grandson shaped Bill Cosby’s comedy.)

Hu's on first

The Dodgers are in town, on the verge of giving the Nationals their 100th defeat. I was pleased to learn that the team from L.A. has a player from Taiwan named Chin-lung Hu. I’m sure Southern California is already sick of the Abbott & Costello possibilities, but there is no reason the rest of us shouldn’t indulge in that sketch again, now that we really can say, “Hu’s on first.”

Why is this so funny?

Devil's Dictionary, revisited

Ambrose Bierce was a late 19th, early 20th century American satirist who penned The Devil’s Dictionary (1906), a word book of supreme cynicism but with some very funny definitions. A sample:

SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.

SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one’s self and to nobody else.

SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.

SENATE, n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and misdemeanors.

Now Matthew Rose “The Wall Street Journal” has made some new entries in light of our current economic woes in The Devil’s Dictionary–Financial Edition. Samples:

BAILOUT, n. First known use: Noah. Novel regressive taxation scheme whereby vast sums of capital are transferred from those citizens who didn’t participate in the illusory Bacchanalia of the housing bubble to those who did and weren’t clever enough to get out in time.

CREDIT-DEFAULT SWAP, n. loose translation from the original Latin “ubi mel ibi apes,” or “where there’s honey there are bees.” 1. A complex financial instrument vital to the functioning of a modern economy in the way it spreads risk among consenting parties. (Greenspan, A., pre-Sept. 2008.) 2. A complex financial instrument that nearly destroyed modern capitalism (Greenspan, A., post-Sept. 2008).

CREDIT LINE, n. A set amount of borrowed money available only to those who don’t need it.

DEFICIT, n. For the party in power, at worst a minor irritant and at best a precondition for economic growth. For the minority, the gravest threat to the stability of the Republic.

FEEDBACK LOOP, n. Process by which the significance of an event is amplified by constant repetition. Orig: CNBC. See ADVERSE FEEDBACK LOOP.

LIGHT TOUCH, n., obsolete. Theory of regulation in which financial companies recycle profits to lawmakers as campaign contributions, prompting them to relax the rules until the banks inevitably mess it up, at which point the dominant theory switches to “heavy hand,” prompting years of economic contraction and the cycle to repeat.

PPIP, or PUBLIC-PRIVATE INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP, v.t. Orig: Gladys Knight. To use a form of hypnotism in which merely saying you intend to fix a problem has the effect of making everyone forget about the problem. Usage: “We really peepipped Congress on those AIG bonuses.” See ASSETS, TOXIC.

QUANTITATIVE EASING, n. A regulatory approach based on the point in Western movies when the sheriff, having fired all available bullets, in an act of final desperation throws his gun at the bad guys. See also INFLATION, HYPER.

SECURED CREDITORS, n. In modern American capitalism, the parties last in line for repayment after a company’s failure. The others in line include the government, unions, sundry suppliers, friends of the union, friends of the government, unsecured creditors and people vaguely familiar with the matter.

TARP, n. acronym. 1. A synthetic device designed to cover up an unsightly mess, or to protect perishable goods (firewood, banks) from the ravages of the elements, typically costing somewhere between $12.99 and $700 billion. 2. Prime example of how governments use otherwise anodyne acronyms, abbreviations and sports metaphors to disguise matters of controversy. See also TALF, TLGP, TURF, FHFA, BACKSTOP, WRAP, OFHEO and SPECTRE.

TOO BIG TO FAIL, idiom. Banks, insurance companies, car companies, presidential approval ratings, Fed chairmen seeking second terms, other people who think they should be Fed chairman, the reputations of people who’d be responsible for letting things fail. Antonym: TOO BORING TO SAVE.

TOXIC ASSETS, n. 1. A collection of bad loans and other botched financial bets that caused big losses for banks, prompted a credit crunch and sank the economy (Sept. 2008 to May 2009). 2. Long-term investments that will pay handsomely when the housing market recovers (June 2009 onward).

HT: a href=”http://pagantolutheran.blogspot.com/2009/09/with-apologies-to-ambrose-bearce.html”>Bruce Gee


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