Tuesday, November 29, 2005

AP Prays for Guidance. And Gets It.

The Associated Press has a writeup out there -- linked, most notably, by Huffington Post -- on the latest in a gazillion allegedly "unexplained" crying-statue "miracles."

The AP does its usual minimum of dropping in the obligatory "some say"s before most of the supernatural claims. But, I thought I'd give them a hand on this one and show them how their story might appear if the traditional wire-service standards (I used to work for UPI) were applied to claims of magic that happen to emanate from populous religions. My edits are in italics.

The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Carrying rosary beads and cameras, the faithful have been coming in a steady stream to a church on the outskirts of Sacramento for a glimpse of what some observers, who have neither evidence nor relevant expertise, are calling a miracle: A statue of the Virgin Mary they say has begun crying a substance that looks like blood in that it is red.

It was first noticed more than a week ago, when a priest at the Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church says he spotted a stain on the statue's face and wiped it away. Before Mass on Nov. 20, people again noticed a reddish substance near the eyes of the white concrete statue outside the small church, said Ky Truong, 56, a parishioner.

Since then, Truong said he has been at the church day and night, so emotional he can't even work, although he remains capable of discussions with reporters. He believes the tears are a sign but is unable to produce supporting evidence.

"There's a big event in the future earthquake, flood, a disease," Truong said. "We're very sad." The Associated Press has learned that earthquakes, floods and diseases have all occurred in the past and that their recurrence has already been predicted by several established scientific institutions.

On Saturday, tables in front of the fenced-in statue were jammed with potted plants, bouquets of roses and candles, in part because local organizers were sufficiently canny not to arrange for tables so large that the displays would appear small in comparison. Some people prayed silently, while others sang hymns and hugged their children. An elderly woman in a wheelchair wept near the front of the crowd. It was not immediately clear whether the hugging and weeping were routine phenomena.

A red trail could be seen from the side of the statue's left eye to about halfway down the robe of concrete.

"I think that it's incredible. It's a miracle. Why is she doing it? Is it something bothering her?" asked Maria Vasquez, 35, who drove with her parents and three children from Stockton, about 50 miles south of Sacramento. The Associated Press has since learned that the statute is, in fact, a block of concrete and, as such, possesses neither a gender nor the capacity to be bothered.

Thousands of such incidents are reported around the world each year, though many turn out to be hoaxes or natural phenomena. The other incidents, therefore, must be magic, in which case, this reporter ought to have led this story with the sentence: "The Associated Press has confirmed the existence of magic." The Associated Press regrets the error.

The Diocese of Sacramento has so far not commented on the statue, and the two priests affiliated with the church did not return a telephone message Saturday. The Associated Press had planned to grill the local shamans with such hard-hitting questions as: "How about that statue deal? Pretty freaky, right?"

The Rev. James Murphy, deacon of the diocese's mother church, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, said church leaders are always skeptical at first, a claim the Associated Press was unable to verify after a review of historical records indicating that church leaders have, in fact, eschewed skepticism in favor of accepting on faith the notion that there's a magic man in the sky.

"For people individually seeing things through the eyes of faith, something like this can be meaningful. As for whether it is supernatural or a miracle, normally these incidences are not. Miracles are possible, of course," Murphy said without being able to cite a single confirmed incident in the history of humanity. "The bishop is just waiting and seeing what happens. They will be moving very slowly."

But seeing the statue in person left no doubt for Martin Operario, 60 and therefore susceptible to believing anything that might ease his encroaching dread of mortality, who drove about 100 miles from Hayward. He took photos to show to family and friends, who were unavailable for comment.

"I don't know how to express what I'm feeling," Operario said. "Since religion is the mother of believing, then I believe." Operario added that since necessity is the mother of invention, then he invents.

Nuns Anna Bui and Rosa Hoang, members of the Salesian Sisters of San Francisco, also made the trek Saturday. Whether the weeping statue is declared a miracle or not, they said, it is already doing good by awakening people to the faith and reminding them to pray. The Associated Press has confirmed that it is also doing bad by seducing people to the faith and discouraging them from doing things other than pray that might prove more fruitful due to their closer ties to causality.

"It's a call for us to change ourselves, to love one another," Hoang said. Hoang was unable to provide evidence for his claims and the Associated Press has learned that Hoang's plans to change himself will be short-lived and that, in fact, he does not love you.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed unless Jesus says it's okay.


Anonymous said...

I think the Associated Press needs more Christians in it.

KenoshaMarj said...

These kinds of lunatic things just drive me up the wall. Why on God's green earth would the Virgin Mary use this way to send a message? She should have an inside track with the big Guy in the Sky and if she doesn't have the power to send a coherent message maybe she could ask her son to do so. Crying statues to warn about an impending crisis? Paul Revere just climbed on his horse and galloped around screaming "The British are coming, the British are coming". You would thing that "God" could send a message at least as competently.

bozo said...

It's interesting how, back in the days when there were no simple explanations for natural phenomena, God uncorked 2, 3 miracles a week, pillars of fire, burning bushes (there's an idea), marine freeways, whatever.

Now that we have scientific exlanations for fiery thingies above & below and various other terrestrial happenings, and our level of skepticism is much higher - the best The Almighty can manage is, ugh, a flippin' red stain on a wall.

Go figure.

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