Saturday, September 19, 2009

How About Queen Freaking Victoria?

Stumbled across this lede, from the Oregon Statesman-Journal:

If you are put on the spot and asked to name three famous Lutherans, the first one comes easily to mind — the namesake of the faith, the 16th century German reformer Martin Luther.  The next might be public radio humorist Garrison Keillor.

The third might come a little slower, but not for many religious folks. That is Dr. Martin E. Marty, renowned historical theologian and author.

Oh, Statesman-Journal!  Is that really the best you can do?  

First off, Keillor is an Episcopalian.  Second, among "religious folks" who read enough to recognize Marty's name, we can only believe that Paul Tillich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer jump more readily to mind.  Not to mention Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Soren Kierkegaard, and Rudolf Bultmann.  (Make no mistake, gentle readers:  We wish those same erudite types thought first of Wilhelm Loehe, Charles Porterfield Krauth,  and Carl Braaten -- but they don't.)

But for the not-so-erudite, or even not-so-religious, we expect there still a  lot of Lutherans more famous than Marty or even Keillor.  How about Bach?  And Mendelssohn? And Sibelius?  Or Dr. Seuss, Hubert Humphrey, and (we admit with some shame) Wernher von Braun?  As well as the English royals, from George I through the First World War.

Honestly, there aren't that many Lutherans who are famous for being Lutheran, largely because Lutherans just don't think that way.  (Unlike some religious communities we could name.  And we're looking at you, Dalai Lama.)  But there are a lot of famous Lutherans, many of them famous for reasons which are intrinsically connected to their Lutheranism (like Bach or, and we're not kidding, Dr. Seuss).

For those who have somehow missed it, there is a very funny, not to mention encyclopedic, song on this subject by Lost and Found.  Lyrics here, song here.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I was just about to write you about noticing the Lost And Found song - but of course, you were miles ahead of me. web

Pastor Joelle said...

I created the popular "Famous Lutherans" game on Facebook - and I mostly used the Lost and Found I added some of my favorite Lutherans in spirit like St. Paul and Augustine. :-)

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

And Keillor was something else before he was Episcopalian. Some kind of Brethern, I think. You can tell by the type of religious music he often chooses.

Diane said...

thank you for correcting the info re: Garrison Keillor. And PS is also right -- he talks about this in the intro to his new book: "Life Among the Lutherans."

However, I now must correct you (and I'm sure that it is very rare that this happens): Hubert Humphrey was a great stateman, but he was NOT a Lutheran. I believe he was a Methodist. He used to come and speak at the Svenskarnas Dag every year, but he was not Lutheran. Sorry.

Paul Wellstone was Jewish, of course, but his wife Sheila was a Lutheran (didn't grow up Lutheran, but attended Mount Olivet here).

Diane said...

oh, also didn't know that about the English Royals.

Diane said...

my first comment didn't seem to get through, the one where Hubert Humphrey actually was not a Lutheran. Really. I know what the Lutheran Song says, but they're wrong. I'm from Minnesota. I know.

I love Humphrey, but I believe he was a Methodist.

He did go to Svenskarnas Dag every year, though.

Father said...

So HHH was a Lutheran honoris causa, at any rate!

Diane said...

oh, mea culpa, Father. I went on the official website for HHH, and here is what it says: "He was brought up in a Lutheran family, although there was not a Lutheran church in the town he went to, so they went to the Methodist church. As an adult he attended a Congregational church."

To me, it makes being Lutheran sound a little like a cultural phenomenon. But it just makes HHH a lot like a lot of people, a kind of a hybrid.

Diane said...

oh, and how 'bout that Carl Braaten? at the Lutheran Core meeting this weekend.

My guess is that he and Nestingen are going to make awfully cranky neighbors.

Nestingen was one of my old teachers.

Father said...

Braaten is going over to the dark side, eh? Or anyway, thinking about it. No surprise, but it still saddens me. He has long been my favorite living ELCA theologian.

Now I have to read through "Mother Church" and selectively pull out quotes that can be used to make him look foolish. If only there were copies available in Transylvania.