Saturday, December 25, 2010

Does Jesus appear in food, and if so, why?

I've written before about the face of Jesus being 'identified' in food or other objects. It never ceases to amaze me how often others seem to find him portrayed in something edible. Here are a couple of examples, courtesy of the Village Voice:

Jesus in a burnt frying pan

Jesus on a banana (does this really have religious a-peel?)

There's more at the link, including explanations of the pictures above. Entertaining reading. There's even a book on the subject!

The Savior has also been identified in a popular snack food.

Death & Taxes examined the question more closely in a recent article.

From Christ’s 1977 cameo in a tortilla to Mary’s miraculous 2005 appearance in a pizza pan, there’s a long litany of modern instances in which the holy brood “revealed” themselves in our edibles. To the devout, these cases are nothing less than divine intervention. To others they’re nothing more than optical illusions.

Scientists refer to this phenomenon as pareidolia, in which banal images are given great significance. Whether it’s transforming a cloud into a lamb, or a piece of dry bread into Jesus, pareidolia’s considered nothing more than a mental projection.

When cloaked in the sacred, pareidolia can be called “simulacra,” or similarity, in which the viewer exports spiritual meaning onto something that, from a more secular person’s perspective, could be seen as something else entirely.

In all cases, however, people saw a face, because, as scientists contend, we humans are programmed to organize patterns into an image, most often a face. The abundance of religion in our various societies, meanwhile, often translates those “faces” into sacred celebrities. And of course Christians aren’t the only devout people who project prophets onto their edibles: Allah has also been seen in fish, bread and animals’ fur.

University of North Carolina Professor Gregory Price Grieve explains that this habit arose from an overabundance of religious imagery in our various cultures: “What you see is not always what you get. Instead, what we see depends on mediation,” he wrote in a paper called “One and Three Bhairavas: The Hypocrisy of Iconographic Mediation.”

“Because our descriptions of religious images are culturally located, our ‘naïve’ descriptions are neither innocent nor objective. Rather, all social objects are mediated by intervening socially grounded, culturally generated, and historically particular mechanisms.”

. . .

There’s likely to be no end to reports of “Jesus’ face found in X,” and as oddball as they seem to some, to others they’re reminders of religion’s miraculous nature. Regardless of where you stand, these stories, rumors and legends point to a larger cultural debate: whether science and pareidolia have the answers, or whether there are less comprehensible forces at work.

The ongoing debate over “reason versus religion” remains so universal, not even our refrigerators are off limits.

There's more at the link. It makes interesting reading.

Despite all the above, if I should detect something of seemingly religious significance on my plate, I'm far more likely to eat it than worship it! Call me curmudgeonly if you will, or overly prosaic . . . but I somehow think that Christ is more likely to speak to me through His Word and His servants than through charcoaled cuisine or strange snacks!


1 comment:

Graybeard said...

I've always wondered why the face that appears is always Jesus or Mary, and not some dude down the block, or some chick from the neighborhood. That is, when someone sees a face in their pasta (or whatever) why do they always say it's them?

I suppose that puts me in the "skeptical" box. Waiting for Jesus to appear in my cheese sandwiches....