Thursday, April 26, 2018
Opinion

Seeing is believing

Chyanna Richards saw Jesus in her bathroom.

A few days ago, Richards, who lives near Houston, told a local TV news station she saw the image of Christ in a splotch of green mold on the wall above her tub. "People say, 'Your house is blessed' " Richards said.

Not that there is anything unique about what she saw. To the contrary, the son of God seems to pop up in some very odd places.

A woman in Port St. Lucie saw him in a cellphone picture of her TV screen. A woman in Clermont saw him in a power meter. A Tampa Bay area man saw him in a bathroom door. In Sullivan's Island, S.C., a woman saw him on the back of a dead stingray. In McLean, Va., a family saw him in a tree in their front yard. A couple in Anderson County, S.C., saw him on a Walmart receipt.

The reader will doubtless note that these manifestations seem to concentrate in the South — the Bible Belt. They are not exclusive to that region but presumably, when people in relatively irreligious Philadelphia or Seattle see what appears to be a face on a banana peel, they are more apt to shrug it off.

When I was a boy in Los Angeles, people said they saw the image of a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26) in the beveled window of a church two doors down from my house. For days, we had news crews, traffic jams and lines of people crowding our street. I dutifully took my turn at the window, but all I saw was the sun glancing through the glass.

That doesn't mean those people didn't see what they said they saw. It only means that I didn't. Sometimes, in faith as in other aspects of life, one sees what one needs to see and there is no shame in that. "Whatever gets you through the night, it's all right," said John Lennon. Or as Father Ray, the conflicted priest on the short-lived TV series Nothing Sacred once asked: Which man is truly crazy, the one who hears thunder and thinks it the voice of God, or the one who hears the voice of God and thinks it only thunder?

In a world that is often angry, hateful and confused, these sightings seem to reflect a need among people of faith to be affirmed by God. To see Jesus in a household appliance is, perhaps, to feel singled out, seen, reassured that there is, indeed a plan, and that things will be better, by and by. This is a human need shared by the boy in Sunday school, the man on his knees facing Mecca, the mourners saying Kaddish.

People of faith seek to be affirmed by God, but might not the world be a little less angry, hateful and confused, a little less violent, if people of faith more often also sought ways in which God could be affirmed by us? If we gave the help we sought?

After all, the Koran says, "Who so saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved all mankind."

The Talmud says, "Whosoever saves one life, saves the world entire."

And Jesus of Nazareth said to turn the other cheek. To make peace with your brother. To bear insults and lies with gladness. To offer your coat to the person who demands your shirt. To take care of one another. To love one another.

Chyanna Richards thinks Jesus looks like an image in the mold of her bathroom wall. Maybe he does. Or maybe he looks like a hungry child having his first meal in two days. Maybe he looks like a sick and indigent woman being cared for by tender hands. Maybe he looks like someone passing the time of day with the old man no one ever visits. Maybe he looks like anonymous charity and activist love.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to ridicule Richards, to make fun of all those people, concentrated in the poorest, most rural part of the country, who see Jesus in their cheese sandwiches and tire treads. But John Lennon was right and Father Ray had a good point.

Seeing is believing, but believing is also seeing.

And sometimes, there is no difference between the two.

© 2012 Miami Herald

Comments
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 12 hours ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18