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Wednesday, November 02, 2011  

Lake Wobegon's Culture War

My travelogue/post-mortem on the Michele Bachmann phenomenon is online:

In 2008, the Bachmanns decamped Stillwater for a big house on a golf course in the sprawl country directly east of St. Paul. Bachmann's residence is finally aligned with her electoral fortunes: her current precinct went for her in a big way in 2010. This southeastern corner of the sixth district, on the boundary between cul-de-sacs and cornfields, was my last stop. I attended the late service at New Life Church in Woodbury.

Karl Marx called religion the heart of a heartless world—and he hadn't even visited Woodbury. Just south and east of the freeway noose encircling Minneapolis-St. Paul, Woodbury is an unfocused grid of arterial roads connecting chain stores, parking lots and crepuscular housing developments. A little over half the seats in New Life's worship space were full. It was the most ethnically diverse church I visited in the sixth district, drawing from the area's South Asian and African immigrant populations. The service featured excellent musical execution and a highly approachable worship format.

The sermon was on a very Lutheran topic: "How do you know if your faith is real?" Yet the answer proved to be anything but Lutheran. Our faith is genuine, the preacher told us, if it bears enough fruit and if we experience joy in it. Lacking any sacrament or words of pardon, the service left an impression of unrelieved striving toward a benevolently disposed but standoffish God. It was as if the cohesion and discipline of the old farm town could be regained through sheer spiritual exertion.

posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 9:09 PM
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