The lede read likes something straight out of a farcical newspaper:
As the chandeliers dim against the vaulted ceiling of the Chapel in the Mission, women wearing Baptist-size hats fan themselves while men balance heaping plates of eggs and biscuits on their chino-clad knees. A soloist emerges from the be-robed gospel choir and sings:
“When you call my name, it’s like a little prayer.”
The Madonna hit rings through the former funeral parlor and current performance venue: “Just like a prayer; you know I’ll take you there.” The choir and crowd join in.
The “there” is Sunday’s Finest, host, organizer and reverend-for-the-day Mustafa Khan’s “nonreligious” church service. Khan, who previously worked for Facebook in operations and marketing, has developed a loyal following among the new Mission scenesters with his events, including April’s Silicon Valley Fashion Week, San Francisco’s Daybreaker dawn dance parties, and the recently launched Midnight Brunch. For $30 to $40, guests at Sunday’s Finest get a comfort-food buffet, seats to the show/church service and a sense of small-town closeness in the big city.
“Brothers and sisters,” Khan, decked out in a black-and-gold brocade faux vestment with shimmering lamé pants, greets the guests, “Welcome to Sunday’s Finest. We’re a fake church in a real church.”
But the source of this story is not The Onion.
Rather, it's a piece from the San Francisco Chronicle.
As a Christian, I take my faith seriously and try to be respectful of other people's sincere beliefs — even if I don't share their beliefs.
At the same time, I'm not offended by the irreverent "fake church" profiled by the San Francisco newspaper. I don't want to barf, as a friend described his reaction to the Chronicle piece. More than anything, I'm saddened that these people lack the true joy I've found in Jesus Christ.
However, the purpose of GetReligion is not for me to share my testimony. This website focuses on promoting quality media coverage of religion — or, in this case, non-religion.
So how's the journalism with this story?
Ha ha ha ha ha!
No, seriously. There's not much to see here by way of below-the-surface reporting. But if you're into anecdotes poking all kinds of fun at organized religion, hey, knock yourself out:
Like any Mass, the service has been building up to the Holy Communion presentation, but instead of the body and blood of Christ, guests are served Mission favorites: bread from Tartine Bakery and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
“If the bread doesn’t last,” Khan says, “blessing” the host, “it’s because it’s from Tartine and it’s expensive.”
After more acrobatics courtesy of the “eight times great-grandson of Jesus Christ” (Orion of Circus Automatic), the Sunday’s Finest choir offers one final hymn, again on the theme of friendship.
“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want,” the choir sings to a roar of recognition, “So tell me what you want, what you really, really want,” the congregation responds, launching into the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.”
For starters, the piece lacks any sort of real context on what motivates a roomful of people with such apparent disdain for church to want to be part of one.
Do these folks believe in God? Would they consider themselves atheists or "nones?" Did they grow up in religious households? Did they have negative experiences as kids that made them bitter toward religion? Are they always so disrespectful of religious people? If so, what makes this OK in their minds?
Questions specifically for the Chronicle: What makes this news? What trend, if any, does this gathering illustrate? Is there a way to connect this gee-whiz feature with the actual practice of journalism?