Christianity Ha-Ha: In about 36 hours, 1,000 pastors from around the country are coming to my megachurch, where I have worked for the last six years. They are coming for a pastors’ conference to learn how to run their churches more effectively. My job is to make them laugh

Alt weeklies and alte kackers: An ancient Indian burial ground… A modern construction project that can’t be stopped… A remake of Poltergeist? No, something better: good alt-weekly journalism from Chrisanne Beckner of the Sacramento News & Review, writing on the debate over “science,” “grave robbing,” the rights of the dead, and the sacred, recently excavated by transit workers beneath downtown Sacramento.

Most “alternative” weeklies deserve only one half of that label these days. Owned by corporate chains, the majority function as arts & leisure supplements to local dailies that are too busy retreading wire reports and running “health” columns. That may be the economic reality, but it’s no excuse for the poverty of writing one encounters in these rags — self-styled Menckens who think muckraking consists of bashing pop bands and regurgitating already-antique cultural studies dogma.

And yet, some of the more interesting religion writing in recent years appears in these papers, reported by journalists who simply haven’t been trained in the dailies’ doctrine of religion as either a transparent vehicle for politics or “inspirational.” No alt weeklies we know of are publishing great religion writing on a regular basis, but there are a few writers who are simply doing the job the dailies aren’t, with a little extra kick: Malcolm Gay, at the East Bay Express; Eli Sanders of the Seattle Stranger; Gregory Flannery of the Cincinnati CityBeat; Lisa Sorg of the San Antonio Current; veteran Doug Ireland, most regularly in the L.A. Weekly; and — with this story, at least — Chrisanne Beckner in Sacramento.

All of these writers work the alt weekly tradition of snark, tough-mindedness, and distrust of authority. Conservatives, political or religious, won’t find many champions among them. That’s ok — they have the Weekly Standard.

Back to the alts. Our list of talented alt weekly writers is too short. As a solution, we recommend less crap in the alt weeklies. We also propose a directory of alt weekly writers who deal with religion. For that, we need help. Check out your local alt. Keep an eye out for good journalism about religion. Not just the obvious, but also the tangential, such as Beckner’s piece on Native American bones. And then nominate your contenders — below or by email.

China eyes Jerusalem: How big is evangelicalism in China? Consider this: Chinese Christians, writes a nameless grad student, reviewing David Aikman, a former Time reporter turned evangelist, “see themselves as the ideal candidates to bring Christianity ‘back’ to the Muslims of the Middle East, to break into the ’10/40 window’ (the band of earth from 10 degrees above the equator to 40 degrees below it) that evangelical Christians worldwide see as their next big challenge. In a… meeting in Beijing a few years back, the Chinese Christians surprised the international evangelicals present by announcing their ‘back to Jerusalem’ goal to have 100,000 Chinese missionaries active outside of China by the year 2007.” More, at Lumpenlogracy.