I have long detested Garrison Keillor, host of the faux-populist program “Prairie Home Companion” on public radio (not, I should note, National Public Radio). I have practically injured myself in my haste to change the station so as not to have to listen to his voice, oozing with smug insincerity. So I’m happy to report that, at long last, Keillor is returning my dislike.
Recently Keillor wrote a column attacking (are you ready?) Unitarians, for the sin of rewriting the words to “Silent Night” to make them less Christian. (For the record, we sing “Silent Night” to close the Christmas Eve service at our Unitarian Universalist church, and we don’t change the words, even though few of us are believing Christians.) Keillor has a few unkind words for the Jews as well. He writes:
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.
For good measure, Keillor does not know that people who live in Cambridge are Cantabrigians, not — as he writes, crayon firmly in hand — “Cambridgeans.”
No doubt Keillor would respond that he was trying to be humorous. And I have no problem with making fun of people’s religion, not even Unitarian Universalism. But Keillor is as humor-impaired a humorist as has ever walked among us, so when he tries to be funny, mayhem is the almost-certain outcome.
What I find especially delightful about this is that liberal, affluent, public radio-listening UUs are Keillor’s base. He has just succeeded in alienating a rather substantial percentage of his microscopic audience. At the very least, I’d like to see him grovel and deliver an apology, insincere though it would be.
Here is a response from one of his former listeners, a member of the Cambridge UU church that was the proximate cause of Keillor’s outburst.
Update: And mea culpa. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby went after Keillor yesterday. “Remember when Keillor was endearing and witty?” asks Jacoby. Uh, no, Jeff. I don’t. But nice slam.