The Real News from Lake Wobegon by Peter J. Leithart

The Real News from Lake Wobegon

Peter J. Leithart on Charity, Conversation & Celebration

During nearly twenty years of sporadic listening to NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, I have often noticed how closely the structure of the program resembles a camp meeting revival. Well-tuned as host Garrison Keillor is to the melodies of American religious life, I am quite certain that the resemblance is deliberate.

Lively music, punctuated by mock commercials and skits of wildly varying success, dominate the first half of the show, but after intermission the liturgy of the word begins in earnest. More music primes the audience, which is sometimes invited to sing along with Keillor. Expectation builds to the dramatic moment when Keillor announces, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town . . .”, always greeted by thunderous applause.

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Peter J. Leithart is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and the president of Trinity House Institute for Biblical, Liturgical & Cultural Studies in Birmingham, Alabama. His many books include Defending Constantine (InterVarsity), Between Babel and Beast (Cascade), and, most recently, Gratitude: An Intellectual History (Baylor University Press). His weblog can be found at www.leithart.com. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.

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