June 29, 2008

Drippy Painting in Mumbai Draws True Believers

Strictly speaking, the Daily Jesus refers to incidents of pareidolia. That is, a spontaneously occurring pattern is seen by one or more observers to be an image of some recognizable human form or face connected with Biblical lore. It's usually Jesus himself, but we get Mary every so often and occasionally Joseph, too.

Today's Daily Jesus is a little different but still great fun. It comes to us from St. Michael's, a Catholic church in Mumbai, India. A painting of Jesus there is exuding a red substance that Indian True-Believers think is a miraculous occurrence. Even a local priest's contention that it's nothing more than some of the painting's pigments dissolved in water isn't dissuading throngs of the faithful from thronging the place for the chance to touch the plastic wrap that's been put in place to protect the painting. True-Believers say that the blood is coming from the heart of Jesus, but the location of the red stain on the painting is not where a heart is located in a human body.

The Times of India has the story, but I'm enjoying some of the comments even more than.

Christ 'bleeds', but church says it's only moisture

The Bleedin' Jesus of Mumbai by Times of IndiaMUMBAI: Thousands of Mumbaikars queued up outside the St Michael's Church in Mahim on Saturday to catch a glimpse of the framed picture of Jesus Christ with a red stain on his heart, being considered by devotees a miracle.

On Friday, reports of a portion of the picture around the heart of Jesus darkening had crowds flocking in till about 1am. The Catholic Church, however, said it is not regarding this as a miracle...

Fr Donat D'Souza of St Michael parish said the darkening of the stain was noticed soon after the last service in the Church on Friday at around 8.45 pm. "It could be caused by moisture," he said.

Several people, acting as ushers at the church, were convinced it was a miracle. Sandeep Piedade said "I think it is a miracle, what else can it be," he said. P Moses another usher exclaimed," Can it be anything except a miracle."
Well, yes, P. Moses. It could be old paint and humidity. Not only could it be, it almost certainly is.

From the photo, it's easy enough to see that the "bloodstain" isn't anywhere near the heart but is on the lower right abdomen, at or just above the waist. If an organ has been nicked at all, it'd have to be some part of the large or small intestine. "The bleeding intestine of Jesus" doesn't have the same sort of allure as a coronary puncture, though.

The comments to the story on the Times of India website range from the credulous to the skeptical to the downright comical, of course. Aside from the quite rational response of Father D'Souza, here's an example of each.

The skeptical:
This is a publicity stunt. Do any body believe in miracles of this sort? If it is in any other religion, it will be called superstition. Height of hypocrisy!

— Babuchandra, India

The credulous:
As mentioned in this article "Christ bleeds", its not from the heart, Jesus was pierced by a sword in the side while on the cross, its about that location that the bleeding is noticed (in the picture)

— DJ, New Zealand

The downright comical:
Jesus Christ is alive,you have to pray,belive to see the miracle of the Bleeding love of our Lord

— Cecil Lancelot, Nagpur

I hope that Babuchandra will consider moving to the USA. Yes, people still believe in this sort of thing, and having him here would swing the proportion of those who don't leap to conclusions of supernatural intervention by one more person willing to think. A few thousand people like him settling in Louisiana, Texas or Mississippi might well do some good.

DJ reveals himself a true believer when he (correctly) notices that the stain on the painting is nowhere near the heart, but doesn't then proceed to the next simple step in logic. The Biblical passage mentioning Christ getting stuck with Longinus' spear is John 19:34 (the other gospels don't mention it at all):
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
The passage gives no indication of which side was stabbed nor how high on the body the stabbing occurred. It could have been on the left or the right and it could have been from the armpit to the hip, even if we assume it happened at all (and 3 out of 4 allegedly authoritative sources give it a complete miss). DJ is seeing what he wants to see in the stain. He makes the leap to asserting that the stain is in the proper location, but there's no way of knowing that, not even from the Bible itself. That's True-Belief in action for you.

Still, Cecil Lancelot's comment is my personal favorite here. I don't want to behold the "bleeding love" of your lord. I don't care to see anybody's bleeding love, thank you. Some things are best kept private.

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