(Since today is the Memorial Day holiday, I am taking a break and doing a repost.)
There is a famous and funny old sketch called the Five Minute University in which comedian Don Novello acts in his character of Father Guido Sarducci.
As he says, when students study theology at his university, all they will learn are the answers to the two questions: “Where is god?” (Answer: God is everywhere) and “Why?” (Answer: Because he likes you). I am beginning to think that the answer to the first question is absolutely correct.
Take a look at this picture of a cut tree stump that is in a churchyard in Ireland. What do you see?
Nothing? Just a tree stump that someone has cut in an odd way? Oh ye of little faith! To the devout this looks like the Virgin Mary and they think its appearance is (what else?) a miracle. People are making pilgrimages to pray around it. Over 2,000 have signed a petition objecting to plans to uproot the stump, and want to convert it into a permanent shrine of some sort.
The thing that strikes me is that recently Jesus and Mary seem to be showing up all over the place, in slices of toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, womb ultrasounds, Marmite jar lid, Kit Kat bar, shower curtain, cheese curl (the last one has been dubbed ‘Cheesus’), dental x-rays, mugs of hot chocolate, even on the backside of a dog and in bird droppings.
Commenter Chris sent me this compilation of a huge number of Jesus sightings that local TV news shows love to report on. There seems to be an epidemic.
The one newsperson had it right when she said, “You know, it seems like if Jesus was going to show up somewhere it wouldn’t be in ice cream.”
Such stories, apart from revealing religious people to be hopelessly credulous, also demonstrate how weak some people’s faith is, not how strong. It is only people who are really desperate for a sign to bolster their beliefs that will seize on such pathetic things as validating their faith. The woman who saw the Marmite Jesus ‘took comfort from the image’ saying, “I’m not particularly religious but I like to think it’s Jesus looking out for us.” She seems oblivious to how ridiculous it is to think that god would reveal his presence in a bread spread.
This kind of thing puts religious authorities in a quandary. On the one hand, they realize that if you have too many such sightings, religion begins to look more and more ridiculous. Even the TV reporters in that compilation clip seemed to find the whole phenomenon humorous. After all, if people start worshipping tree stumps, how can you distinguish so-called mainstream religion from more allegedly primitive religions, such as paganism. Some religions actually do involve tree-worship and the Christmas tree symbol itself likely began as one.
On the other hand, religious authorities cannot categorically debunk all of them as nonsense because their livelihood depends on people believing that god can reveal himself to people on occasion even if it is such weird and useless ways. The problem for the church is that it wants to discourage freelancers and maintain a monopoly on what qualifies as a revelation of god and what doesn’t, as this is the source of their power and money. They tried to walk that fine line on this occasion too.
Local parish priest Fr Willie Russell said on radio station Limerick Live 95FM yesterday that people should not worship the tree. “There’s nothing there . . . it’s just a tree . . . you can’t worship a tree.”
A spokesman for the Limerick diocesan office said the “church’s response to phenomena of this type is one of great scepticism”.
“While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition,” he said.
Fortunately for the spokesman, he was not asked what distinguishes this particular “superstition” from all the superstitions that the church expects people to believe, such as that the wafer and wine become transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus when the priest mumbles some words over it. Mary-in-a-tree-stump is nothing compared to that. He could depend on the ‘respect for religion’ nonsense to deter ‘polite’ reporters from asking such obvious questions.
That Mitchell and Webb Look reports on another miraculous sighting.
All these Jesus and Mary sightings and the comment in the above clip that the melon message blew his tomato message out of the water gave me an idea for a new reality TV series, because what the nation really needs is another reality show. This one would consist of people bringing their candidates for an authentic god appearance and making the case for it on live TV. Then a panel of theologians would give their comments, the audience votes for which artifact is the best miracle of god, and then everyone worships the ultimate winning object.
I think the perfect title for the show would be “American Idol”. I hope no one has used it already.
POST SCRIPT: You mean the Earth isn’t 6,000 years old?
Watch this statement by Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen (R).
What is amazing is that her statement that the Earth is 6,000 years old is said so casually during a discussion of environmental concerns over uranium mining, as if it was the most commonplace fact in the world and not at all something idiotic and controversial. These people live in their own bubble world.