The Ghost in the Machine (or The Jesus in the Pizza Sauce)

In a post some days ago (Migrant Mothers & Gold Diggers), I pointed to an Errol Morris essay in the Times about the nature of truth in a photograph.

Of course, there are a number of ways of affecting how an audience will understand what’s put before it. First, there’s the obvious approach of altering the image after it’s captured with the help of an application like Photoshop, or just using the old airbrush method of newspapers and government censors from years gone by. But Morris’s essay gets into the more subtle and gray areas of manipulating a photo’s meaning: styling (or tampering with) the material in front of the camera or the simple matter of the caption applied to it.

What he doesn’t discuss is the other side of the relationship between the photo and its audience. As viewers, we bring certain expectations to an image. We’re more likely to try to see in them what we expect to find there … or maybe what we hope or need to find there. And how that affects the veracity of the photo and its information is probably enough material to squeeze out a journal article of respectable length and weight.

Jesus in the Pizza SauceCase in point: the image of Jesus in this pizza sauce container. Now, I’m no academic and certainly not up to the task of wrestling with this one in a respectable journal format. And it would be unnecessarily cruel for me to make fun of either the Scranton residents who witnessed the miracle or the local paper which reported it. [“Unnecessarily cruel” because there’s not really any more I could say to get a good guffaw beyond what’s already in print.] So, I’ll just link to the original article in Scranton, PA’s own Times-Tribune and let you enjoy it on your own terms.

“Pizzeria worker sees Jesus in sauce bucket on first Friday of Lent.” The Scranton Times-Tribune. February 25, 2010

I do have to wonder how people make sense of stuff like this. If Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary in a medical waste dump, I guess it’s plausible that Jesus could appear in a tub of leftover, mass-produced pizza sauce. What’s a little industrial preservative compared with dirty wound dressings?

Okay, fine. But what path might these people take to arrive at their opinions on matters that actually affect my life? It raises some really scary questions for me, like how much wisdom there is in this idea of a popular democracy. Will these be the people who’ll decide which (if any) basic human rights I get to enjoy? How would Brown v. Board of Education have turned out if left to the wisdom of tomato-sauce worshipers?

On the brighter side: Pennsylvanians did oust Rick Santorum after a single term in the Senate.

(another find from my friend, Dennis)

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4 Responses to “The Ghost in the Machine (or The Jesus in the Pizza Sauce)”

  1. admin says:

    A number of blogs and news services picked up on the Times-Tribune story. But no one took it anywhere of interest except the incomparable Miss Cathy at CityRag. Her collage of 54 images of Jesus found in the most surprising of places makes a stale old tub of pizza sauce seem pretty mundane.

  2. [...] not another picture of Jesus seen in something, every single one we could find! “Jesus Was Here” – click the pictures to see [...]

  3. [...] not another picture of Jesus seen in something, every single one we could find! “Jesus Was Here” – click the pictures to see [...]

  4. [...] 54 Apparitions of Jesus Source [...]

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