I apologize in advance for being a bit contentious in the holiday season.

But this ridiculous piece by the 'humorist' Garrison Keillor so plainly toys with anti-Semitism that it cries out to be taken seriously. Summary for those not interested in reading the whole thing: Keillor wants non-Christians (such as Unitarians and Jews) to not appropriate anything like the traditional Christmas vibe of his own upbringing, reaching a peak of invective with this rant:

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.


Speaking as a Christian myself, I would like to know how anything Unitarians or others might do with Christmas tradition invalidates my own experience? Or, for that matter, how innocuous popular songs written by Jews or non-Jews makes the Incarnation less, well, incarnate. "Spiritual piracy?" Please. Real Christians know that God is always with them, and who wrote the tune shouldn't be that important.

I bet Mr. Keillor has enthusiastically sung 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing" many times without troubling himself over Felix Mendelssohn's family history. Should the Eastern mysticism cultivated by Gustav Holst cause us to excise 'In the Bleak Midwinter" from the hymnal? Do the Unitarians need to get permission from Mr. Keillor's approved theologian for adapting a song written in the 19th century for their needs, as part of worship? For crying out loud!

It seems to me that Mr. Keillor has learned the wrong lesson. The success of others does not make us failures, and there is something deeply unsettling about Mr. Keillor's willingness to take a cheap shot at non-Christians involved in holiday entertainment. The day that some enterprising Hollywood secular type has the stones to make an historically accurate film about Martin Luther, he might (as a Lutheran) have cause to cry 'foul'. The fact that some great Americans like Johnny Marks (Bronze Star in WWII) or Irving 'God Bless America' Berlin happen to have made a living penning holiday-themed songs with a wide appeal doesn't hurt me.

Why it bothers Mr. Keillor is a mystery to me.