I Don’t Think Hans Fiene Is Funny, but He Is Arrogant

Hans FieneI was looking for a quote from Garrison Keillor where he jokes about his ancestors coming to America in search of less freedom of religion. I couldn’t find it, but I did find an article he wrote in The Washington Post right before Donald Trump was inaugurated president, Trump Has Me Searching for a New Religion. It’s okay — more a testament to how we liberals felt at the coming of President Trump than anything else. It’s well written and as funny as one could expect under the circumstances. But Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene doesn’t think so!

The Problems With Garrison Keillor

In his article, Garrison Keillor Is on a Quest to Leave the Religion He Never Found, Fiene tells us two important things: Keillor isn’t a real Lutheran and he isn’t funny. Now I have a general problem with both of these claims. You can’t really say that someone isn’t funny — only that you don’t find it funny. For example, I couldn’t make it more than 5 minutes into Dumb and Dumber, yet I know it is funny because people laugh at it. As for being a “real Lutheran,” that’s not just a classic case of No True Scotsman, it is the height of hubris.

I’m not sure what to make of the sexual abuse allegations against Keillor. They don’t seem terribly strong, but just the same, why would any woman have a reason to lie about such a thing? I’m sure that Hans Fiene would have said something about this, but these articles were both written before these allegations became known. Regardless, they don’t really have anything to do with Keillor’s humor and they certainly don’t have anything to do with his status as a Lutheran.

Hans Fiene Thinks He’s Funny

One person Hans Fiene does think is funny is himself. His bio on The Federalist explains that he is “the creator of Lutheran Satire, a series of comical videos intended to teach the Lutheran faith.” Wow. There’s nothing like pastors who think they are funny. So I checked out his YouTube channel. Here is his most recent humorous video:

I’m sure that this video is hilarious to fellow conservative Christians. But I don’t see anything to laugh at. If I hated Catholics and loved guns, I’d probably find it somewhat amusing just because it is fun to pretend you are having a debate with someone you hate and showing how dumb they are. But since I’m kind of ambivalent toward both Catholics and guns, I don’t see anything to laugh at.

Fiene used another fallacy in his attack on Keillor: appeal to authority. He claimed (more than once) that Keillor wasn’t funny. And the closest he came to defending it was to refer to The Simpsons episode “Marge on the Lam.” In it, there is a parody of a PBS pledge break. It’s a pretty tame parody and doesn’t make the point that Keillor isn’t funny but that different people like different things. But whatever.

Conservative Christian?

Normally, I would say that it takes a lot of guts for someone who supposedly makes comedy to make such unsubstantiated claims about the most successful humorist of his generation. But in the case of Fiene, it’s just arrogance. The man is full of himself. But what do you expect from a religious person who is so focused on politics?

I was going through his recent videos and they are mostly just about how awful other religions are. If they aren’t, they are explicitly political. How they “teach the Lutheran faith” I can’t say.

Hans Fiene: More Catholic Than the Pope

Probably the worst part of the video above is its presentation of Pope Francis. It’s all based on this tweet:

Hans Fiene doesn’t just tell the pope things about Christianity that I’m sure the pope knows more about he does. He also tells the pope about Catholic doctrine. Again, I’m sure this makes his fellow conservatives very happy. If you look at the replies to the pope’s tweet, it is filled with similar arrogance like “Pope needs to remember the story of Sampson and Goliath. I stand with the true God. I don’t know who the pope stands with.”

But Fiene isn’t just some idiot on twitter. He is a Lutheran pastor. Frankly, I would think he would show more humility and class. But such is not the case.

It’s all kind of a shame because the videos themselves are well made. If Hans Fiene had something good or even positive to say, I would recommend them. But it’s a waste of effort to just tell other Lutherans that they are the right kind of Christians. It reminds me of how in 17th century England, you were an atheist if you weren’t protestant. Meanwhile, in France, you were an atheist if you weren’t Catholic. It’s all very silly but also sad.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

11 thoughts on “I Don’t Think Hans Fiene Is Funny, but He Is Arrogant

  1. Keillor’s act sold better out of state. It was Minnesota schtick, like the accents in “Fargo.” Nobody talks that way here, and nobody bought into the faux-homespun tales of Lake Wobegon.

    We did like the old-timey radio sound effects, though, they reminded us of recordings our grandparents would check out from the library. And the live music. The music ranged from good to exceptionally good.

    • It was a good show. I don’t think anyone takes Keillor’s act as real. He’s working the same realm as Aesop. I remember one segment he did about the local Lutheran church back in 2004. In it, half the congregants were Bush supporters and half were Kerry supporters. It worked in that non-threatening way that he always works when he’s at his best. He often made me laugh. I can’t say that about Hans Fiene.

      But I quite agree that the music was generally very good.

      • Aesop is a good comparison. I don’t find his fables particularly wise, but if others get something out of them, that’s great.

        And while I didn’t listen to Keillor often, I thought some of his jokes were terrific. There was one, I can’t remember it precisely, where the gist was “you fall in love, you get married, and one day you wake up and wonder who is this person and why is my closet full of their stuff?” That’s excellently true. Marriage is wonderful but also inherently weird.

        What always bugged me about Keillor was how well his fable version of Minnesota played outside the state. It’s not reality. Minnesota is probably the most genuinely liberal state in America, real liberalism as opposed to cultural-signifier liberalism, and Keillor’s fable was entirely of the cultural-signifier variety. “I’m socially tolerant but I’m also a small-town guy.”

        Much of that is true — people here are nicer to strangers than anywhere else I’ve been, not just in America, anywhere. But that’s not some kind of happy accident, which occurred because we have snow and cornfields & such. It’s been a battle from Day One, beginning with French trappers who sometimes married into native tribes, sometimes killed the natives, sometimes both. Continuing on through the labor wars, etc. There’s always been a contingency that wanted things to be convenient for those in power, and another side that supported the underdog. Sinclair Lewis wrote about it in “Main Street.” The film “Sweet Land” is another strong example. Compared to those, I regard “Prairie Home Companion” as exceedingly weak tea.

        Fun thing about “Main Street.” In it, the conservative husband and liberal woman meet in St. Paul. Their first date involves walking from downtown across the Mississippi, then back again, then over to a historic military fort, scenic falls in the vicinity, and so on. That’s one helluva walk! Even when I was 20, that would have been beyond my capabilities. Apparently people were in better shape back then, or put a lot more effort into getting laid.

        • Keillor, like pretty much every comedian, is an acquired taste. One gets used to his pacing. Just the same, I don’t consider him all that clever a writer. But he is a good writer. And he has a clear style. I’ve noticed that about Stewart Lee. I love him. I think he is probably the best comedian I’ve ever seen. But I showed some of his stuff to Elizabeth (via rabb.it) and she really didn’t find him amusing. And I do understand why. I suspect most people watching him would wonder why the audience is laughing. Of course, in his case you really have to focus; he is extremely demanding of his audience.

          In the case of Keillor, it’s kind of the opposite. But I still think he’s done a lot of good work.

          • It is a matter of pacing and taste. I kind of like both fast and slow-paced comedians, depending on my mood. But my taste in humor does tend to run more towards Mr. Lee’s punchlines than Mr. Keillor’s. Really nothing against fans of Keillor, though. He did write one overtly political book I enjoyed.

            Here’s why I always had a distaste for Keillor, and it’s a very petty reason. I lived in a rented room in Santa Barbara for nine months, and for most of that time my landlords were utter snob assholes. Really condescending people. Until one night when I saved their lives (in the easiest, least-effort way) and they became nicer to me after that.

            When I gave my notice to leave, they asked where. And I said Minnesota. They were appalled. “You can’t live there! That’s where all the religious conservatives are!” I said, “well, Prairie Home Companion is done there.” “Oh, well, that’s all right, then.” So I developed an unfair grudge against Keillor immediately. (I’d never heard his show.)

            Of course, when I moved to Saint Paul, where would I end up? Five floors above the Fitzgerald Theater, where the show was taped. One of life’s little funny coincidences.

            They would have yearly free block parties outside the theater with local folk/gospel musicians, and I quite enjoyed those. (It’s where I first heard the masterpiece “Down By The Riverside.”) Free is a very good price!

            • Great story! And you managed to get in a reference to Peterson Furniture! God, I remember those commercials! When I moved to Portland, my wife and I had almost no money. I was getting a stipend of $10,000 per year. We had to pay all our expenses plus for her college. I kind of miss those days! It really did feel like we were walking a tightrope. But we bought a small B&W TV for $2 at a yard sale so we could watch Star Trek: The Next Generation (my wife was obsessed). Things got a lot better 9 months later when I got a NASA fellowship that paid $14,400 per year! A 44% raise! We were rich!

              I agree about Keillor. The biggest thing that I liked about him was that my father really liked him and I could cook dinner and listen to the show. But I do think Lake Wobegon Days is excellent.

              • That is some old-school Oregon, right there. I thought I was pretty safe with the Tom Peterson reference, nobody can get that one. Turns out I wuz Wrong. Glad you folks had a marriage & raise, though, sounds terrific.

                I don’t know what the Minnesota equivalent of knowing Tom Peterson commercials would be. Not knowing Keillor, that’s unimportant here. Maybe knowing names of local sports stars? Types of atrocious regional State Fair food? I’m grasping at absolute straws, I have no clue.

                • I don’t know what’s it like in Portland now. But when I was there and watching television — 1990 – 1993 — he was on constantly. I’ve talked to other people who didn’t live there very long at all. The one thing everyone seems to remember is Peterson Furniture. There is something oddly compelling about the guy. I mean, it is a throw-back to a time when commercials were less sophisticated. Of course, that’s always true of local commercials. But there is just something about him. Wow! I just checked: he’s still alive at 88! Strangely, that makes me happy. The world can’t be too out of kilter if Tom lives!

                  I miss Portland.

                  • Gus Van Sant put him in both “Drugstore Cowboy” and “My Own Private Idaho.” The guy’s a local icon.

                    Portland used to have some of the highest wages and lowest rents in the country. Alas, it’s now pretty much the exact opposite of that. But I’ll always fondly remember my apartment near Civic Stadium. Falling asleep to the sounds of minor-league baseball was truly wonderful.

  2. The saddest part is that you consider Pastor Hans Fiene not to be funny just because he is a conservative protestant (which I am, too).

    • Since that is not actually what the article is about, I can only assume you haven’t read it. But to be clear: I don’t find him funny because I don’t find one religion mocking another religion as funny. And that is pretty much all he has to offer.

      The lack of theological depth of most American Christians makes me sad. Most, like Fiene, seem only to care about politics. It’s a waste of a life and a religion.

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