Yes, this was a piece of commentary. In other words, it was not a news story that automatically fell into GetReligion territory.
Yes, this mini-essay was about a new reality-television show way off in the outer reaches of cable land.
But, well, it was also a piece that was published with a staff byline in the pages of The New York Times under one of those double-decker headlines that simply demands attention, right this very moment:
Seek and Ye Shall Find a Hottie
In ‘It Takes a Church,’ the Congregation Helps Pick Your Date
Said review also contained an out-of-the-blue statement that, well, you just knew GetReligion readers were going to bring to our attention again, and again, and again, world without end, amen. More on that in a moment.
Nevertheless, your GetReligionistas passed the URL around for a day or so and we concluded that we would let this one pass us by. Then GetReligionista emeritus M.Z. Hemingway jumped in, over at The Federalist, and went all GetReligion on it. Thus, we are choosing to pass along what she had to say.
So what’s this all about? The Times explains:
Each week the show visits a congregation and matches up one of its single members with a prospective mate. The first episode travels to the Rock Worship Center in Charlotte, N.C., where 30-year-old Angela laments, “I can’t find a man.” Apparently, she hasn’t been looking very hard, because when the TV cameras come to town one Sunday, bachelors pop up from the congregation like weeds, each accompanied by a “matchmaker” — his mother or some other advocate — extolling his virtues.
The gimmick of the show is: It’s not Angela who does the initial winnowing. It’s the congregation, though the criteria the parishioners are using to thin the field are not clear. Anyway, after the elimination round, the usual shallow banter ensues — here, devoid of the sexual innuendo common on other dating shows — and Angela eventually picks one fellow for a date, the results of which we do not learn.
M.Z., tongue only slightly in her cheek, noted that this scenario does not sound all that unusual to her. Why is that?
Unlike most people who work at the New York Times or in journalism in general, I’m a journalist who goes to church every week. So I of course think this gimmick is a fantastic idea. There are several couples at my church right now who owe their relationships to the hard work of many of us. (All we ask in return is that they name their firstborn child according to a list we’ve prepared.)
In fact, when one of my single friends from church and I were mocking this review, he told me, “That’s not a game show, that’s my life!”
So what is the statement in this nasty little Times piece that caught everyone’s attention? Here we go:
The show is utterly frivolous and is reviewed here only because it’s another development in the continuing spectacle that is religion in America. It’s also another development in the continuing, sometimes desperate effort to find something the conservative Christian audience will watch.
Obviously, it’s the first half of that paragraph that almost made me spew my diet Cherry Dr Pepper the first time I read it. You know, I actually think I would agree that executives abiding in the glass corner offices of most major entertainment corporations have little or no idea what conservative Christians find entertaining or engaging.
The Divine Mrs. M.Z. concluded:
Well then! Seriously, the problem isn’t even that reporter Neil Genzlinger is doing the New York Times standard operating procedure of mocking Christians but that he’s too lazy to even write the gibe. It’s the casual contempt that galls. He’s just so comfortable assuming that everyone will just nod their heads in bigoted agreement. “Christians are stupid TK” would have been more clever.