By Alan Sorensen
I read George Plagenz' weekly column while keyboarding it into the computer for today's Religion page. His lead read "Possible photo of Christ found."
I was momentarily enthralled by the possibility that cameras were used in Christ's time by the rich to produce photographs. Plagenz said that a Dr. Bradley Durbin, an Australian authority on the Holy Land as it was in the time of Christ, claimed in September to have discovered just such a photo and that it was of Jesus.
Durbin said the photo of Christ, along with a chalice and table cloth, were found in a trunk inside a burned out house. He didn't say whether the house was in Australia or the Holy Land.
The photograph of a dark haired man with a beard had writing on the back. It said, "The Son of Man, Light of the World."
There's only one problem with this tale, but it's a big problem for me. You see, the story about Durbin and the photo appeared in the World Weekly News, a magazine with which I am intimately familiar.
In case you may have forgotten or were unaware, I was a 37-year-old South African chicken farmer whose head had been pierced by a hatchet while he was working in his shed. The hatchet fell from the rafters and became embedded in my skull.
My name was George Raush and I refused to have the hatchet removed because I had a deathly fear of doctors. Instead, I allowed the hatchet to remain in my skull for eight years. One of the photos accompanying the article showed me reading a cereal box while eagerly spooning the popular South African breakfast food "Whole Grain Wheat Chex" into my already chomping jaw.
In that same issue were other bizarre stories, including something about a 98-year-old woman giving birth to heptuplets, a monstrous-looking vegetable alien living openly in Cleveland, and other such imaginative phenomena.
My personal history with the World Weekly News, a tabloid published somewhere in the marshes of Florida, dates to the publication of that article and photos 5 years ago.
I effectively ruined my reputation as a serious journalist with that publication, but it was good fun. I considered it just fodder for an adult funny book.
It appears now that there are intelligent people out there who take such folderol seriously.
Saturday marks the world's celebration of the birth of Christ. It may or may not mark the real date of his birth. That doesn't matter to me. What does matter is that my faith in God doesn't require proof. If it did, it wouldn't be faith.
I have witnessed and experienced too many miracles in my life to doubt the existence of a higher power. The one sure way I know to lose my faith is to place it in a tangible, touchable, viewable deity.
I fear that people whose faith requires proof are the most likely to be misled by people who pray on their gullible need for proof. Jonestown, Hale-Bopp, Branch Davidian, and Curly Thornton's throng are just a few examples of the tragically misled.
A man once likened faith in God to faith in a good meal.
In his tale, an illiterate transient and a nutritionist with a Ph.D. sat down at the same Community Christmas Dinner table (at the Eagles) to the same Community Christmas meal. They each ate the mashed potatoes and gravy, tender dark and light turkey, cranberries, vegetables and pumpkin pie.
The Ph.D. knew exactly where each of the nutrients would go once he ingested them and what they would do when they got there. The transient was completely in the dark about the values of food.
The result, regardless of each man's level of understanding, was that the food benefited each man equally.
My belief is that God, like the food, works equally in our lives, whether we know how he does it or not.
I further believe that Christ, Buddha, Lao Tse, Muhammad and others who have been deified by their followers would be upset by the emphasis placed on them rather than on their messages. My belief is that Christ would rather we emulate him than worship him.
The common dictum for that is "principles over personalities" or more appropriately, "ethos and pathos over photos."