How ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ Made American Religion Real

"A Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor. Photo courtesy of Prairie Home Productions
“A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor. Photo courtesy of Prairie Home Productions

Religion experts perennially complain that mass entertainment culture is ignorant about religion and portrays it badly.

But there’s one show they overlook.

For 42 years, Garrison Keillor’s deep, soothing voice brought a slice of Americana into our homes and cars through his popular show “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Keillor, who ended his run as host on Saturday (July 2) in an episode taped at the Hollywood Bowl, also brought a healthy dose of religion to the show.

For church people, the stories and songs had a familiar and humorous ring. They also transmitted a bit of education and an accurate portrayal of American Protestantism to the religiously uninitiated.

Keillor was reared in Plymouth Brethren churches but attended Protestant mainline churches most of his life. Indeed, he was so immersed in these churches he could critique and satirize them without betraying his own obvious appreciation and devotion.

Best-known for his comedic portrayals of Lutheranism in his native Minnesota, Keillor had a deep understanding of the entire American Christian landscape, from literal-Bible fundamentalism to Dutch Calvinism.

His show, which broadcast mostly from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, is surely the most widely known portrayal of Lutheran cultural strength in the Upper Midwest.

It was one of the only programs to air on NPR member stations in which listeners could hear hymns. Keillor and his musical guests sang hymns throughout the year, often in keeping with the liturgical calendar.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Religion News Service
Jacob Lupfer