OK, so who out there in cyberspace who wasn't tempted to write a post about the Catholic priest in the Philippines who rode you know what around in the center aisle of the church? Who could resist the chance to write a headline like, oh, "Bishop suspends hoverboarding priest." I mean, the bishop could have "left him hanging" or something like that, as well.
It's one thing, I guess to write a basic news story about this strange case. Take for example the basic Religion News Service piece that started like this:
(RNS) Hoverboards earned a reputation as maybe the most dangerous gift for kids this holiday season, given their penchant for catching fire and inducing nasty spills.
But they’re apparently also perilous for Catholic priests who get it into their heads it might be a good idea to use one during Christmas Eve Mass — while congregants are shooting video on their smartphones.
I thought that was that. Alas, there was allegedly more to say on this case and by The Economist, no less.
As former GetReligionista Mark Kellner wrote, in a note pointing us toward this most bizarre piece, "$5, or a candy bar, to the first person who can connect this to reality. Seems to me like an awfully long stretch to work in the priest-on-a-hoverboard."
Amen to that sentiment. You can feel the stretching start right in the epic double-decker headline:
Conveying the Christian message
In church or between churches, clergy have a thing about transport
Say what? Here is the lede:
Ever since the founder of their faith rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, Christian clergy have been startling their followers with their choices of transport. ... And that doesn't apply only to the flea-bitten mules, precarious wooden boats, self-piloted planes and chauffeur-driven limos that have been used, over the years, to convey Christian shepherds from one part of their scattered flock to another. Christian ministers also have form in using bizarre modes of transport right inside their places of worship.
Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), a Los Angeles-based evangelist, used a motorcycle to make her point, though what exactly she did is disputed. At a minimum, she parked a police bike on the podium of her Temple, and blasted the sound of sirens in the ears of her audience, before telling them they faced prosecution because their lives were racing in the wrong direction. The story seemed to have gained in the retelling; some insist that she zoomed up the aisle before screeching to a halt and shouting: "Stop, you're speeding to hell!"
Had enough? Oh, there is much more. The theme of this story -- I think -- is that some clergy will do just about anything to seem him and modern.
Finally, we arrive at the priest of the moment:
But innovative means of conveyance and religion don't always mix happily. To quote a homely Sunday School song, it still seems that anybody who sets out for heaven on wheels, big or small, risks "rolling right by those pearly gates." That was discovered by a Filipino priest, Albert San Jose, who became an internet sensation when he celebrated a Christmas Eucharist by purring down the aisle on a hoverboard (a device loosely based on one seen in the film “Back to the Future II”), singing a joyful hymn. His masters in the diocese of San Pablo didn't get the joke; they said his behaviour was wrong and that he would be suspended from his duties to ponder his error. As the diocese observed: “The Eucharist demands utmost respect and reverence. It is the Church's highest form of worship, not a personal celebration where one can capriciously introduce something to get attention.”
But clearly that is old-school thinking, in this piece. If the goal is to compete in social media, the church may have to loosen up, or words to that effect.
Thus, I kid you not, this feature ends with this wisdom:
Capricious or not, images and video of the hoverboarding priest travelled to far more people (at least 14m) than anything else the diocese will ever do. Perhaps the diocesan authorities should ponder an 18th-century hymn: "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform."
Uh? No, this was not The Onion. This was in The Economist. Perhaps someone had too much to drink at the newsroom holiday affair?