However, the answer to that last question appears to be "yes". I found a 2006 entry in an Christian blog that actually criticizes the "side hug" and suggests replacing it with "the enthusiastic high five". The Christian blogger in question goes on to offer a very reasonable sounding explanation of the origins of the "side hug" among Christians:
I realize that the side hug probably started occuring because of two main reasons. First, there was some concern amongst churchfolk that full-frontal hugs could arrouse sexual tension between a man and a woman. It might send mixed signals and confuse both parties, thus we should clearly communicate with perhaps a few pats around the shoulder, "Hey...you're...a...good...friend." Thus we came up with the side hug to avert this all together to show people that we're close, but not that close. The second reason is because somewhere along the way guys were educated to the point that they realized that giving hugs showed they had some degree of emotional depth. However, going in for the real deal posed too much of a threat to their masculinity, so they came up with the side-hug as a worthy compromise.The person who wrote this blog entry sounds very matter-of-fact about all this, and also sounds quite rational, sane and intelligent. And there are several comments to that blog entry, one of them from a young Christian minister who says that he was taught to give side-hugs as part of his training! So it looks like this is the real thing. Oh. My. Fucking. Gods.
[From the "There and Back Again" blog -- entry for 3-23-2006]
It really still could be a hoax. But if it is then it is a very well done and well researched hoax!!