It seems that Jesus has popped up again—this time in Great Britain, and this time revealing Himself in the laundry.
I really don’t like to criticize someone’s earnest faith experience; but the Laundry Softener Jesus or Chicago’s greasy Our Lady of the Underpass don’t really build faith, so much as they make a laughing stock of Christian belief. Guys like the unbelievers over at Patheos’ atheist portal read stories like this, and they mistakenly paint all Christians with the same broad brush of absurdity and superstition.
The most recent incident involves Britain’s Martin Andrews, who claimed he was left “stunned” after the Son of God, arms outstretched, appeared when he spilled fabric softener on his t-shirt. Andrews concedes that he had to turn the shirt upside down to see the ‘miracle’. “When the t-shirt’s the right way up it doesn’t really look like anything,” Andrews said. “But when you look at it the other way up, it’s really Him!”
Andrews photographed the image; but not content to only share the photo with his friends in the office, he posted it on-line. The International Business Times picked up the story, and soon it was trending on social media websites.
The unfortunate story gives skeptics plenty of material to work with—which bothers me because I, a Catholic, find plenty of logical reasons to believe, and I fear that efforts at evangelization are hampered by news of such an imaginative but unlikely manifestation of God.
Pope Benedict XVI presented a series of talks in 2012 in which he explained that faith is inherently reasonable, and it leads to a joy-filled life.
Speaking to an audience of thousands gathered in the Paul VI Hall for his General Audience on Wednesday, November 21, 2012, Pope Benedict explained,
“The Catholic faith is reasonable and also nurtures trust in human reason. It’s crucial for people to open up to faith and know God and his plan of salvation in Jesus Christ.”
He went on to describe the fruitful link between understanding and believing, which is rooted in the harmonious relationship between science and faith. Scientific research, he explained, leads to knowledge of the truth about man and the cosmos.
Pope Benedict spoke about two aspects of faith: authentic knowledge of God, and love of God. Regarding knowledge, he noted:
“Faith enables an authentic knowledge of God that involves the whole person: it is a knowledge that gives a new taste to life, a joyful way of being in the world. It’s expressed in the gift of self for others in fraternity that makes solidarity.”
And speaking of the fruit of this knowledge of God, Pope Benedict said:
“It allows us to know the whole of reality, beyond the narrow perspectives of individualism and subjectivism which disorientate consciences.
“God isn’t absurd, if anything He is a mystery. The mystery isn’t irrational but an overabundance of a sense of meaning and truth.”
The profound yet accessible truth of God’s existence, expressed simply by Pope-emeritus Benedict, is at risk of being rejected, tossed out like the proverbial baby with the bathwater, when stories emerge in which Jesus purportedly reveals Himself in a greasy streak on a pane of glass, or a gnarly knob on a tree trunk, or in the burned image on a slice of whole wheat toast.
The real story is so much better than that.