September 02, 2007

Jesus and Mary Remind You: Change Your Oil Every 3000 Miles

Why is it that biblical figures seem to hang around garages so much? A few weeks ago, it was grease-spot Jesus on Deb Serio's garage floor in Forest, VA. Now it's his mom on a garage door in Minersville, PA. Are they lining up early for a prophesied worlwide rapturous garage sale that we mere mortals don't yet know about? I'd imagine there will be lots of garage sales around rapture-time, no? Just think of the bargains...

On a Minersville garage door, an image of the Virgin Mary?

...Each day, about 400 people in this Schuylkill County town of 4,500 come to see a mysterious image that appears on a garage door in an alley.

To some, it's an image of the Virgin Mary that has appeared at 6 p.m. each day since Aug. 15 -- the day of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary...

Today, the image appeared at 6:16 p.m. on a door of the three-car garage, and the crowd of nearly 400 people gathered in a tight semicircle on Lewis Street near Front Street to see for themselves.

Most carried still and video cameras, while others brought rosary beads, pictures of the Virgin Mary, flowers and crosses, ready to share in what some believe to be a religious experience...

"Yeah, we're waiting for Jesus," Evan Ponter, an 11th-grader at Minersville High School, told someone who had called him on his cell phone.

Ponter said he and his friends came out to see for themselves if what they were hearing about was real -- or just a tall tale from those who want to believe.

"I think that people are digging into it a little bit too much," he said...

Hundreds more stood in the street, closing it to traffic while drivers on side streets slowed down to try to figure out was going on.

"There she is!" shouted Tim Heckman, founder of the Coal Region Ghost Hunters, who's doing his first investigation in Minersville.

He said he detected spikes in electromagnetic fields and energy that spirits use to manifest themselves.

He said the coal region is a hot spot of paranormal activity because of the tragedies that befell coal miners decades ago...

As the evening wore on, the image climbed higher on the door. Dozens touched it with their hands, with their rosaries, with crosses.

Others prayed, snapped photos and shot videotape...

"It makes you think about your faith," said Joan Bettinger, who said she's seen the image twice.

When asked if it could be the real thing, she said, "It could be. Anything's possible today. It does look like her."

"There has to be a reason," said Yolanda Demcher of Minersville, who was surprised to see so many young people in the crowd. "There has to be a reason."

She speculated that the purpose of the appearance might be to draw young people back to their faith, to church and to prayer...
First and foremost, I'd like to congratulate Evan Ponter on having a lot more sense about him than a lot of other people. Yes, Evan, people are "digging into it" too much and turning a little spot of sunshine on a garage door into something personally meaningful. People see these things nearly every day because they desperately want to see them. They crave evidence to support their belief, and that's simply human nature, despite all protestations to the contrary by many religious people who insist on unsupported faith for so long as the evidence doesn't support what they already believe is true. Honesty demands that we consider both, but religion and honesty don't often go hand-in-glove. I think faith tends to be more about selective acceptance of evidence (whatever someone considers to be evidence) rather than not needing evidence at all.

I take some particular delight in having a "ghost hunter" show up to investigate this one. The Aquarians have beaten out the Catholics this time around in having their man on the scene, unlike the recent "unusual" episode in Laredo that drew attention from the "depths of the diocese." This time around, the primary investigator comes to us from the depths of woo. Ghost hunters are some of my favorite pseudo-scientists; I don't get to write about them nearly enough. They're the dispensers of such utter nonsense, debunked so many times over, with their electromagnetic spikes and orbs of light and their machines that go ping for no good reason at all. You'd think with so many hunters out there they would have actually caught a ghost by now. If our Paleolithic ancestors had the kind of success in hunting animals that ghost hunters have had in hunting ghosts, they'd have all starved to death and none of us would be here today — clear evidence of the Anthropic Principle in action if there ever was any!

For Joan "anything is possible today" Bettinger, I'm sorry to say that you've made the ultimate statement of personal credulity for the convenience of justifying your pre-existent belief. If you honestly thought that anything was possible, you wouldn't attribute a particular meaning to this bit of sunshine. It could just as well be an image of a 15th century walrus as the Virgin Mary is anything was indeed possible in your mind. Empirically speaking, there are a great many things that are possible and a great many more that aren't. This being a manifestation of a 2000 year old Middle Eastern woman who was impregnated by a spirit from the sky falls into the latter category. If anything, it's more likely that the image really is a 15th century walrus, since we are quite certain that there were walruses and there was a 15th century. The probability is still so tremendously miniscule, however, that I'm quite willing to discount my walrus hypothesis as well. Still, anyone who truly believes that "anything is possible" is welcome to offer evidence to back up that statement or simply to offer some criterion by which it can be falsified. Otherwise, I have no reason to think it anything more than credulous nonsense existing only to allow for outrageous foolishness.

Yolanda Demcher goes even further than Bettinger; not only has she decided on what the patch of light is, she's ascribed purpose to it. To her mind, it's there to get young people to go to church because, I would guess, sunshine on a garage door has more of an impact on the youth of Minersville, PA than do all the parents, preachers and politicians to whom they are exposed combined. This wouldn't explain why good ol' Sunday schoolmarm Mary didn't decide to show up bearing a large sign reading, "Hey kids! Go to church or my son will kill your dog!" or something similar. Let's face it: if one believes that there are supernatural forces here capable of material manifestation across the bounds of time and space, one would expect them to deliver a clear message. Copping out with "oh but that wouldn't encourage faith" is nonsense if one is already asserting that the alleged icon has shown up to provide evidence for the supernatural in the first place. This principle applies to religious figures, ghosts and dear departed Great-Grandma Elizabelle equally.

In fact, here's a hypothesis (that I don't believe in) every bit as good as Ms. Demcher's: the reason that both Jesus and the Virgin Mary have shown up in and around garages lately is because they don't want people going to church, they want them to remember to take their cars in for scheduled maintenance. It's a sign, I tell you, that you're not getting your oil changed and your timing belts adjusted frequently enough, O Ye Faithful. Let us now sing from Psalm 69, "Jesus Built My Hotrod." Anyone wishing to argue against my hypothesis must either provide better evidence or else ding-a-dang-ding my dang-along-ling-long.

LL has offered an equally plausible hypothesis, however, assuming that these really are divine manifestations. Maybe Jesus and Mary just need a lift. In that case, I think it's rather rude for everyone to go running off to church and leaving them there. Surely, they'll all burn in Gehenna for not letting the girlfriend of Jehovah ride shotgun.

Sphere: Related Content