Friday, December 18, 2009

I am not amused. (Warning: rant.)

Picture: from Wikipedia Commons/Prairie Home Companion's website (http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/about/press/index.html#photos).

I just read Garrison Keillor's latest piece on Salon.com. You can read it at this link.

I was not amused.

I have been told for years that when Garrison Keillor does his "bits" on "Unitarians" (as he calls us), he's not laughing with us; he's laughing at us. And yet, I thought the pieces were mostly amusing, pointing out some truths about our tradition in a way that was mostly funny.

But I find his latest editorial downright offensive. There's anti-Semitism, for one thing. It has me so shocked, I'm not even sure what to say about it just yet.

And as for his comments on "Unitarians"... first, let me say that I don't always like the tinkering we do with the lyrics to traditionally Christian hymns, either. We should be mindful when we change the words of these sacred songs.

Having said that... Both the Unitarians and the Universalists come out of the liberal Protestant tradition. Christmas is as much a part of our own heritage as anyone else's. I believe we have the right to celebrate Christmas in our own way, just as various Christian denominations have slightly different ways of doing things. In our religious tradition, using language that is not gender inclusive (to give one example) is offensive; and so we have the right to change lyrics to make them in alignment with our religious beliefs. That's my opinion.

If he doesn't like the lyrics of our Unitarian Universalist tradition, he has every right to worship in a place that uses the original lyrics. There are many such places. I just wonder if he realizes that the lyrics were written by fallible human beings, not by God. The lyrics were not written by Jesus, either. They were written by people, just like you and me, from another era. In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, it is accepted practice to make the lyrics match our present times. In fact, we have even changed the lyrics to "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear", which was written by a Unitarian (and yes, Edmund Sears was a Unitarian, before the Unitarian Universalist merger).

And that reminds me. I'm tired of Keillor calling us "Unitarians". I'm not a Unitarian. I was born in 1968, after the 1961 merger of the Unitarians and Universalists. I know it's a mouthful -- and I know he constantly makes fun of how many "U's" are in our name -- but I wish he'd get our name right. I've been a Unitarian Universalist all my life. Actually, I feel closer to the Universalist part of our tradition most days.

I wouldn't normally complain about something petty like that, but Keillor's piece put me in a foul mood. If we can't change lyrics, he can't change our name.

And if we Unitarian Universalists don't have the right to choose our own lyrics out of respect for the original Christian lyrics, then what right does Keillor (a non-UU, clearly) have to mock us constantly?

He has lost me as a fan. It's true: he's not laughing with us; he's laughing at us. But I'm no longer laughing at all.