Yes, this is The Onion: Why do newspapers publish PR pieces for some churches?

Yes, this is The Onion: Why do newspapers publish PR pieces for some churches?

OK, so the graphic over there is wrong. This is a GetReligion post about an alleged religion "news" item from The Onion.

On one level, that makes no sense. We try to critique the mainstream press, so why bother our readers with an item from a satirical, pretend newspaper?

Well, your GetReligionistas also, from time to time, like to write about op-ed page pieces and commentary essays that are clearly linked to life on the religion-news beat. Most of those are pretty serious.

Obviously, that is not the case this time around.

In fact, I am not sure WHAT is going on in this piece of pseudo-news. But I do have some theories and I'd like to know what GetReligion readers think. 

More on that in a moment. First, let's look at the top of this "news" piece:

FINDLAY, OH -- Saying the space would offer a laid-back atmosphere and a variety of fun activities for young people, 31-year-old local youth pastor Marc Kindler told reporters Thursday the new rec room at Grace United Church of Christ has everything a teenager could want.
As he pointed out a collection of two dozen DVDs and Blu-rays, a board game shelf, and a kitchenette where several types of potato chips and other snacks are available, Kindler remarked that the 800-square-foot basement facility is filled with “all the stuff” kids love, and predicted it would be a big hit with 13- to 18-year-old members of the congregation.
“We pretty much have it all down here,” said Kindler, gesturing around the room that was until recently the church’s primary storage space, and which he has decorated with inspirational prints and several posters of Ohio sports teams. “There’s a ping-pong table, foosball, and cold sodas in the fridge. There’s a corner with a big couch and some chairs where you can hang out, talk with friends, or just relax. We wanted to make this into a cool place for teens to come after school, you know?”
“To be honest, I don’t think there’s anywhere else nearby that’s got so much going on,” he added. “There’s definitely something here for everyone.”

OK folks, it gets worse really quick. Hipper than thou?

Showing reporters around the brightly lit space, the youth pastor called attention to a bookcase containing several Harry Potter novels, a few Bibles, and a stack of teen-oriented magazines, as well as a PlayStation console that features multiple controllers “so you and your friends can play together.” He also noted that kids who are into music can plug their iPods into the stereo and listen to whatever they want.
Kindler -- who prefers to be called “Pastor Marc” -- explained that he sees the rec room becoming a hub of social activity for local middle and high school students, regardless of their interests or background.

That's enough. You gotta love the once-trendy items lined up next to the Bibles.

So what, precisely, is being satirized in this piece? What are my theories?

Is this a satire of churches that think they are really with it, when they are actually chasing trends in mainstream culture that long ago jumped the shark? Come to think of it, has the phrase "jumped the shark" actually jumped the shark?

Now, most of the time, people think of evangelicals as the masters of the embarrassingly hipper-than-hip cultural gesture, as in this classic viral video:

But look carefully at The Onion piece. Is this, in fact, an alleged news piece about an evangelical church?

No, it's about a congregation in the denomination that serves as the cutting edge of the hardcore religious left, President Barack Obama's own United Church of Christ. You know, the folks that did all of those famous advertisements, like this one:

Now, do you think The Onion folks do not know what the United Church of Christ is all about? Is there some possibility that this church name -- Grace United Church of Christ -- was chosen by accident? Yeah, right.

So, what is being satirized in this piece? Let's look at this as a satire of NEWS, as opposed to one focusing on church life.

Is this a satire of those fuzzy, cheerful semi-public relations pieces that weekly or small daily newspapers often run about churches and other civic institutions? Could be.

But is there some chance that this piece is a satire of the advocacy, public-relations pieces that some mainstream news executives -- like those who produce the newspaper that lands in my front yard -- tend to run about churches that offer modernized doctrines that are popular with journalists who lean forward, taking a Kellerism approach to religion, culture and morality?

I honestly do not know what is going on here. Thoughts?

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