These days, religion-bashing is just par for the course

Let me start off by saying that I love technology. I love Twitter and blogs, videos and my iStuff. “SmartHouses” no longer only exist during a cool scene in Back to the Future. They are a (growing) reality, and I look forward to the day I’ll be able to preheat my oven from my desk at work.

That being said, some things about technology I do not love. Like how it’s further enabled sloppy reporting and lightning-fast dissemination of “facts” minus the “verification” part.

Many voices in the mainstream media — in particular Time magazine and Huffington Post — recently lauded and shared a story at warp speed about a “one-minute church service.” Tim Christensen, a Lutheran pastor in Montana and a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, was videoed on a recent Sunday seemingly racing through a service so he could get back to what’s really important: his television and the Big Game.

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His “initiative” was called “brilliant” and “triumphant” — after all, what’s a church service other than a compilation of “unnecessary bits”? From the laudatory reaction to this video, it’s possible Christensen is already in the running for next year’s Man of the Year. Look out, Pope Francis.

The story zipped around the blogosphere, being passed from one giddy commentator to another before someone thought to check and see if it actually was true. Of course it wasn’t, as any person who attends church with any type of regularity could have seen from the lit candles and the prepared altar behind him.

It was a one-minute clip of a pastor who loves football joking with his congregation. Real, funny and appropriate within its actual context.

The pesky facts, though, weren’t cleared up until later in the day when the website Mashable ran its own story with the headline: “Pastor’s 1-Minute Sermon Ahead of NFL Playoffs Was Just a Joke.” By that time, though, Christensen had been crucified in the comment boxes of various websites and was being called, among other things, a “fraud.” But that’s no big deal, right? It’s just one of those people who believes in that weird God thing.

The reality is that religion-bashing (especially online) is just par for the course these days. Just read Jamie Stiehm’s recent opinion piece on U.S. News & World Report’s website in which she lambasted Catholics — from the “nunnery” of the Little Sisters of the Poor to “the meddlesome American Roman Catholic Archbishops” (looks like she can’t fact-check either) — for our “war on women.” It’s one ludicrous sentence after another and was defended by her editors as “fair commentary.” Thankfully, for those of us in the religion biz, technology can work in our favor, too, and Catholic commentators rushed to the Church’s defense.

But how sad these two stories are for a profession that prides itself on “digging up the truth.” The only thing that should have gone viral was shame.

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