by Garrison Keillor:
I have made fun of Lutherans for years - who wouldn't, if you lived
in Minnesota? But I have also sung with Lutherans and that is one of
the main joys of life, along with hot baths and fresh sweet corn. We
make fun of Lutherans for their blandness, their excessive calm, their
fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for
their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like
them. If you ask an audience in New York City, a relatively
Lutheranless place, to sing along on the chorus of "Michael Row the
Boat Ashore", they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them
to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Lutherans
they'll smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down
Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony. It's a
talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or
tenor or bas and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your
little head against that person's rib cage. It's natural for Lutherans
to sing in harmony. We're too modest to be soloists, too worldly to
sing in unison. When you're singing in the key of C and you slide
into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it's an
emotionally fulfilling moment. I once sang the bass line of Children
of the Heavenly Father in a room with about three thousand Lutherans
in it; and when we finished, we all had tears in our eyes, partly from
the promise that God will not forsake us, partly from the proximity of
all those lovely voices. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise
that we will not forsake each other. I do believe this: People, these
Lutherans, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of
people you could call up when you're in deep distress. If you're
dying, they'll comfort you. If you're lonely, they'll talk to you. And
if you're hungry, they'll give you tuna salad!
The following list was compiled by a 20th century Lutheran who,
observing other Lutherans, wrote down exactly what he saw or heard:
1. Lutherans believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked
to pray out loud.
2. Lutherans like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or
a hymn with more than four stanzas.
3. Lutherans believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital,
even if they don't notify them that they are there.
4. Lutherans usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is
their way of suffering for their sins.
5. Lutherans believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially
during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the
6. Lutherans feel that applauding for their children's choirs would
make the kids too proud and conceited.
7. Lutherans think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle
while passing the peace.
8. Lutherans drink coffee as if it were the third sacrament.
9. Some Lutherans still believe that and ELCA bride and an LCMS
groom make for a mixed marriage.
10. Lutherans feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their
own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.
11. Lutherans are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.
12. Lutherans think that Garrison Keillor stories are totally factual.
13. Lutherans still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of
the season and think that peas in a tuna hot dish adds too much color.
14. Lutherans believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and
never take themselves too seriously.
15. You know you're a Lutheran when: it's 100 degrees, with 90%
humidity, and you still have coffee after the service.
16. You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as
loudly as you can.
17. Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.
18. The communion cabinet is open to all, but the coffee cabinet is
locked up tight.
19. All your relatives graduated from a school named Concordia (or
Luther, St. Olaf, Augustana, Wittenberg, etc. ).
20. When you watch a "Star Wars" movie and they say, "May the Force
be with you", you respond, " and also with you".
21. You actually understand those folks from Lake Wobegon, MN.
22. And lastly, it takes ten minutes to say goodbye