Northwoods Ecumenism by Allan Carlson

Northwoods Ecumenism

A Surprising Little Angle on Unity

I write from what may be the northernmost human structure in the old 48 states (according to a few anarcho-localist writers like Bill Kaufmann, Alaska and Hawaii still don’t count). Created by a surveyor’s error in the 1760s that was codified by the 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolution, Minnesota’s “Northwest Angle” is a hundred-square-mile patch of muskeg, bedrock, and pine and birch forests jutting above the 49th Parallel into the vast Lake of the Woods. I started coming up here as a teenager with my parents in the 1960s. With my wife and children, I have been a regular visitor since 1977. About a hundred people, mostly running fishing camps and related tiny enterprises, live in this curious corner of the United States.

A trip to “the Angle” actually casts a light, of sorts, on the status of “mere Christianity” in 2011 America. Driving north from Illinois, through Wisconsin and into Minnesota (via Duluth), the billboards record a telling change. Above Spooner on U.S. 53 and along Route 11 west of International Falls, it seems as though every third outdoor ad features an anti-abortion message: “Life Begins at Conception”; “The Embryo Is a Human Being”; and so on. There are frequent images of beautiful new babies.

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Allan C. Carlson is the John Howard Distinguished Senior Fellow at the International Organization for the Family. His most recent book is Family Cycles: Strength, Decline & Renewal in American Domestic Life, 1630-2000 (Transaction, 2016). He and his wife have four grown children and nine grandchildren. A "cradle Lutheran," he worships in a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He is a senior editor for Touchstone.

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