The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


February 6, 2009

'A man of Lutheran virtues'

That’s how Garrison Keillor described John Updike Wednesday in a column about the novelist who died last week. Read it all, but first guess just what Keillor—whose business, you could say, is built on knowing Lutheran virtues—listed.

OK, here’s Keillor’s list: “cheerful, hardworking, self-deprecating, ever grateful for opportunity.” Whether or not you know Updike and his books, do you think Keillor has it right with this summary of “Lutheran virtues?”
Would you add, or drop, something?

I’m remembering others who, like Keillor, describe themselves as appreciators of Updike and, particularly, as a man of faith. Stephen Paulson, writing our Easter feature in 2001 , takes off from a poem Updike wrote 41 years earlier, beginning his article on the Resurrection: “Leave it to John Updike to teach us something true about flesh—and the limits of his craft. In Seven Stanzas at Easter, he nearly leaves writing altogether to mount the pulpit and declare Jesus Christ’s victory over death.”

And Norman D. Kretzmann , Updike’s pastor who remembered that the writer told him he’d joined Clifton Lutheran Church in Marblehead, Mass., because it “nurtured the roots of faith he had grown up with in Pennsylvania.” It was at that church that Updike entered Seven Stanzas... in the congregation’s Religious Arts Festival and won the $100 top prize, which he donated back to the congregation. Sounds like something a “man of Lutheran virtues" would do, don’t you think.

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