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February 6, 2012

If you OCeeker, you will find

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/if_you_oceeker_you_will_find_20120206/

This is definitely not your father’s faith column.

The OCeeker, a new feature from the OC Weekly, offers reviews of houses of worship in Orange County. It’s a great idea, and I can see why the alternative news weekly’s editor in chief—that Mexican guy—is so excited about it.

The OCeeker is Josh Dulaney, who comes by way of my old stomping grounds, the San Bernardino Sun, but brings a very different voice—complete with f-bombs and talk of Calvinists.

The inaugural review focuses on a Mars Hill’s OC offshoot, “where one will not find sh*tty little anthems of praise,” which coincidentally meets at the Observatory music hall. It turns out that when the OCeeker visited, Mark Driscoll was in town:

Driscoll is constant fodder in the evangelical blogosphere. Whether it’s his views on Christian manhood, or his tendency to wax long about all things Driscoll, he feeds the blog beast with one money quote after another. He was there to encourage the new church and give a message based on his controversial book, Real Marriage—a manual on matrimony and sanctified sex. Go Maaark! Git bizzy! Go Maaark! Git bizzy! It was standing room only in the temporary temple, where DJ Quik ironically is scheduled this month to bust rhymes about “Sweet Black P*ssy.”

(skip)

Ultimately, Driscoll urged the men, mostly in their 20s and sporting hip haircuts, to treat their wives, mostly in their 20s and flaunting SoCal couture, as Christ treats the church—with love, respect and understanding. It was an apt illustration plucked from the pages of the New Testament.

A high point of the message was Driscoll’s exhortation to men who probably aren’t ready for marriage:

“If you’re a guy who still thinks that The Big Bang Theory is interesting, that Zach Galifianakis is funny, that Seth Rogan has interesting insights, that David Spade contributes anything to the human race, (or) Adam Sandler has ever made a movie worth watching, punch yourself in the face.”

The OCeeker has an edge to it that makes it unique in the arena of religion reporting. (Funny, I’ve always told people that religion reporting is not about reporting what happened at St. Michael’s on Sunday—but for the OCeeker, it kind of is.) It’s also comes off as knowledgeable of the world of religion. However, the tone borders on condescending.

Maybe that came from a general dislike for Driscoll or a disagreement over the Mars Hill doctrine or a disdain for religion in general. I guess that that will become clearer as the OCeeker reviews more houses of worship. Gustavo Arellano, in an editor’s note, said that we can expect to see Josh Dulaney finding “Holy Rollers, mosques, parish, or Zoroastrianism center in the search for the holy, the sacred, and the freaky.”

I’m excited about this new feature, but also interested to see how it works out. Religion reporters certainly aren’t above having some fun with their stories—nor should they be—but they are best when they aren’t making fun of the people in their stories. That’s what Bill Maher didn’t get with “Religulous.” The result was a funny movie, even brilliant, but it wasn’t a sincere documentary and it didn’t reflect religion but only fringe fundamentalists.

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