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Opinion

Opinion

Sometimes, believing can be seeing

June 10, 2012

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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, Fla. saw Him in a cell phone picture of her TV screen. A woman in Clermont, Fla., 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 Wal-Mart 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 Quran 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.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.

Comments

yourworstnightmare 1 year, 10 months ago

The problem with believing in things unseen is that you can't see them. Therefore, you rely on the first person testimony of others.

News flash: people lie.

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Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 10 months ago

Strange things happen once in a while. But, since they are not repeatable at will by mortals, many will never be convinced.

For instance, the Big Bang is not repeatable.

Therefore, many will not believe that ever happened.

Therefore, we do not exist, according to that train of thought.

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Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 10 months ago

Well, we were kids and we went out to the river to swim. There was a place where a tree grown out over the water and so we tied a rope onto a limp and we would swing out and let go and fall. Just close your eyes and let go. The water was about twelve feet deep, I would venture to guess and one day a boy let go a little short and hit a tree limb that had floated down the river and got stuck somehow. "Jesus!" he yelled at the top of his voice. "My boy has found the Lord," his mother yelled back and ran over from the house. When she saw what was going on, she flapped her hand and said, "Never mind, carry on." Sorry, that's all there is.

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camper 1 year, 10 months ago

I am now convinced that a lot of these right wingers are really liberals doing a sabotage job on conservatives. Trying to make em look foolish. They had me going for the longest time.

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RoeDapple 1 year, 10 months ago

I stopped hearing the voices after my first tinfoil hat was fitted.

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Armstrong 1 year, 10 months ago

This must be the portion where the left starts eating their words....but... but... but...I never said you were a racist.....Stop bringing race into it..... So much for if you disagree with Lenny you're a racist theory

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Roland Gunslinger 1 year, 10 months ago

I once told a friend that God speaks to me.

She said that was fantastic and she loved me for it.

I then told her that God speaks to me through a hair dryer.

She gave me a look as if I was crazy and said that's ridiculous.

I said I fail to see how the addition of the hairdryers make my statement anymore ridiculous than it already was.

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camper 1 year, 10 months ago

If Pitts wrote an entry on Badminton, it would surely result in an anti-Obama rant by the 1st or 2nd post.

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 10 months ago

"Faith is believin' what you know ain't so." -Mark Twain

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JackMcKee 1 year, 10 months ago

If you have mold growing in your house you might want to spend a little less time praying and a little more time fixin' and cleanin'

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observant 1 year, 10 months ago

No matter what Pitts writes, far too many refuse to even consider or looks at points he's tries to make. They simply hate Pitts almost as much as Obama.

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Mixolydian 1 year, 10 months ago

"The reader will doubtless note that these manifestations seem to concentrate in the South "

No, the readers should notice that the examples you chose came from the south.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 10 months ago

In 2008 a lot of people looked at an undistinguished first-term Senator who'd voted "present" most of the time while a state legislator and believed he'd be an effective President. Go figure.

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RoeDapple 1 year, 10 months ago

Couldn't be any stranger than what I see in my mirror every morning . . . .

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 10 months ago

Nope, it's actually Lakshmi appearing in my avatar.

Do you believe it?

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 10 months ago

"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."

Yep.

It all comes down to how you decide to believe something to be true.

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cato_the_elder 1 year, 10 months ago

For a much better-reasoned view of how traditional religion is linked with economic freedom, read this excellent new book by Father Robert A. Sirico:

http://www.amazon.com/Defending-Free-Market-Moral-Economy/dp/1596983256

Sirico was a heavily engaged far-left protester in the early '70s, later realized through extensive study that he'd made a grievous mistake, and is now one of the brightest lights on the theological horizon.

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Bob Harvey 1 year, 10 months ago

A very fine article. While I may not always agree with Mr. Pitts I find his columns thought provoking. Nice job.

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Armstrong 1 year, 10 months ago

Can't wait to hear the left rip Pitts on this. Remember if you don't agree with Lenny " you're a racist "

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 10 months ago

I bet megapastor 'Creflo Dollar' saw Jesus when he beat his daughter. "Seeing is believing" I don't 'usually' agree with racists, but Pitts is right on here.

I say, Religiousosity can 'strike' people any time, any where.

Great column Pitts.

By KATE BRUMBACK

(AP) This Friday, June 8, 2012

ATLANTA (AP) - The 15-year-old daughter of megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar told authorities her father choked and punched her, and hit her with his shoe during an argument over whether she could go to a party, according to a police report.

Dollar's 19-year-old daughter corroborated most of her sister's story, but Dollar disputed it, telling a sheriff's deputy he was trying to restrain her when she became disrespectful. When she began to hit back, he wrestled her to the floor and spanked her, according to the police report.

Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta. His World Changers Church International has 30,000 members in the Atlanta area, and the ministry has satellite churches across the U.S.

Dollar faces misdemeanor charges of simple battery and cruelty to children. He has been released from jail and his lawyer said he was expected to preach Sunday.

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