Now why in the world didn't I think to write this column? Veteran Godbeat scribe Peter Steinfels offers this heartfelt plea to those who believe that the mainstream press does not devote enough attention to religion news or, when covering the beat, gets things messed up.
Wait a minute: What exactly is the mainstream press? Keep that in mind as you read the following riot of a piece. I mean, is this shooting ducks in the pond or what?
The next time laments are heard and verdicts rendered about the media's lack of attention to religion, will someone please remember Weekly World News?
As everyone whose life experience has not been limited to upscale food stores or buying groceries online knows, Weekly World News was the supermarket tabloid printed only in black and white but carrying articles as colorful as the most fevered imaginations could produce.
When those articles did not feature a resurrected Elvis, the love life of Bigfoot or space aliens meeting secretly with leading politicians, they often dealt with religion: "Baby Born With Angel Wings" (accompanied by photo). "Quick Test Tells If You're Going to Heaven or Hell!" "Adam & Eve's Skeletons Found -- in Colorado!"
Well, where else would it be? The Rockies have always looked like heaven to me (along with some really nice territory in the Great Smokies).
But Steinfels does have a news hook. The strangest of all checkout line tabs is closing shop and he simply wants to note that "no one has sufficiently mourned the loss to religion reporting." With a hat-tip to the mainline standard, The Christian Century, he offers a short list of the scoops offered by Weekly World News.
Q.: What does God look like?
A.: God "has fiery green eyes, flowing brown hair and stands 9 feet tall." ...
Q.: Where is heaven?
A.: Heaven is 28,000 light-years from Earth, according to another space probe.
Q.: Where is hell?
A.: Nine miles below the surface of Earth, according to Soviet engineers drilling in Siberia (the Soviets played a curiously large part in these discoveries). Weekly World News reassured readers that those engineers had capped the hole after smelling smoke and hearing the cries of the damned.
Q.: How do you get to heaven?
A.: Through the Bermuda Triangle -- did you have to ask? This was attributed to a Dutch physicist, who also reported that the passage to heaven was open 16 times a year.
So is there anyone else out there who wants to share a favorite religion-beat classic from this august newspaper of record? Speak up.
Confession is good for the soul. You at least read the headlines from time to time, right?