when Garrison Keillor launched his Salon.com diatribe against Unitarians and our penchant for degenderizing, retheologizing our hymns, in this case our Christmas hymn Silent Night. It wasn't so much that he got a lot of things about our faith or our contributions to the Christmas season wrong; it was more that I had thought he was my friend---my faraway, fellow liberal, funny friend who told good stories, sang gospel harmonies on some of my favorite songs, and poked gentle fun at everyone, including himself.
And he was so mean about his criticism. If he intended to be satirical, it didn't work---at least for me. There's a not so fine line between sarcasm and satire, and he crossed it bigtime. He said hurtful things, not just about my faith but about others whose contributions to the Christmas season were good-hearted and creative. And he said it all right after the Unitarian Universalist church in Cambridge MA had hosted a book-signing and reading for him. Talk about gratitude!
That said, I am concerned for him. He had heart surgery a couple of years ago and recently had a mild stroke. I think it's possible that he has suffered an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury that has changed his perception of things, affected his disposition and judgment, and has contributed to a loss of good sense and good writing as revealed in his recent rant.
I have known people who have had similar health events and were changed by them, physically, emotionally and mentally. They began to hurt people with their criticisms, they insulted friends and family members in their frustration with their own limitations, and they narrowed their worlds even more because of the social isolation their behavior incurred.
I hope for his sake that he takes the outpouring of hurt and rebuttal seriously and reconsiders what he has written. (And maybe sees his doc for a change of meds. Or maybe a shrink.) As one of my colleagues has suggested, Christmas is a time of inclusion, not of exclusion of anyone who is not "in the club". Keillor's remark that "if you're not in the club, buzz off" shows a remarkably narrow interpretation of Jesus' message of inclusion.
So if I were his pastor, I'd suggest a little spiritual direction, a little prayer, a little humility, a little redemption and reconciliation. After all, it's Christmas.