Classes start tomorrow, and I’m getting organized tonight: doing computer chores, setting up a new printer, making sure I know where I’m going and when, and finding out whether I’ll be “behind” on assignments before I even locate the classrooms… So I’ll have to add more later. But what follows made me laugh so much I’m using it fill the “dead air.” I don’t know who did the transcription, where to find it (I’ve googled), or which Prairie Home Companion show it was on, but apparently the ELCA statement on same-sex relationships made the “News From Lake Wobegon” (thanks, JC!). I don’t think anyone will ever characterize the text more perfectly:
By Garrison Keillor
Pastor Ingqvist was so glad about the snow. He was thinking he might have to do a sermon on the Lutheran church, its announcement of its commission on its position on same-sex relationships and the ordination of same-sex people. But then he thought, “No, I don’t really need to do that. People are thinking about snow.” Nobody had really asked him about this commission report, which was a masterpiece of muddling through – just a masterpiece. It was a beautiful piece of writing
It’s a case where you establish a commission to take up a question that militants on either side are waving their bright shining swords, and they’re up in arms about. And you put a commission in there, and it takes three years to work at it, and it puts out a report which nobody can understand, which says that essentially nothing has changed, and yet, some things have changed, but we don’t approve of that, and yet if you went ahead on the basis of conscience and did what you wanted to do, don’t worry about us coming after you, because we wouldn’t do it. It’s sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell, never mind” position.
And it’s beautiful. It’s a Lutheran art to take a controversial subject, and to restate the question so that nobody understands it, and then to write the response so that it has to do with nothing whatsoever. And out comes the report, and nobody can really be that angry about it, because it’s made up of all of this mishmash, this beautiful mishmash, and these sentences that are like extruded marshmallow. And so all of? the militants who would be tempted to go to battle over this… Peace is kept! On the basis of confusion! A Lutheran art, to achieve strength through indirection and vagueness. This is an irritating quality about Lutherans, and people have become angry at Lutherans. “Why don’t you say what you mean? Tell us what you think.” Well… no! No.
No matter how many militants and absolutists there are, there’s a great tide of moderation in my little town of Lake Wobegon. Moderates are people who have experienced back pain. Lower back pain. That’s what makes a moderate. When you’re your age, when you’re young, you can be extreme on these things and pick up the flag and carry it forward. But you get to be my age and you’ve experienced lower back pain and you realize, this is the crucial thing. These questions of principle and so forth, these can be put off until later.
So when I was your age, in the wintertime I used to see a piece of ice and I’d run towards it. I would run towards it and I would slide across it. And then I got to be towards my age, and I realized how treacherous the world is and how, even though you’re very careful, you can step just the wrong way off a curb, even if it is shoveled, or you can climb up over a mountain of compacted snow and ice there on a corner, and you just take one little misstep, and there’s a twinge in your lower back and now this becomes the focus of your life for a long time. This has happened to people. They go to specialists, and the specialists do X-rays, and they look at them and they murmur for a while.
And they have tried different healing solutions, and some people have, in their pain, they have left the Lutheran church, and they have gone off to the South. They have gone off to churches where people stand, and they hold their hands up in the air. Which feels good for your back. Or they encourage crying out, and shouting, which people who suffer from lower back pain often are tempted to do, anyway. And you go down to these churches, these Southern churches, and they do certain laying on of hands. Now we don’t go for that in the Lutheran church, but they do that down South, the laying on of hands, and so forth.
But it just doesn’t work, you see. Because they believe in positive thinking. They believe in putting away all negative thinking and creating positive expectations that create an aura of possibility that is powerful and that attracts success. This may work in economics. It may work in government. It doesn’t work for lower back pain.
Complaining. That’s what works. That’s what never fails to make you feel better. The moderates sit there in the Chatterbox Cafe and they talk about this weather. They just cannot believe it. It is so cold. It is so miserable. They can’t wait for winter to be over. They’re complaining. They’re Lutheran. It’s winter. They’re happy.
That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.