"Falzon’s accessible and jokey paraphrasing, complete with footnotes that alternate between informative and comedic (though sometimes both) makes the Bible's inglorious parts impossible to ignore." -- The Front Page Online
Last month in Manilla, two million very spiritual Filipinos herded around a statue of a black Jesus, attempting to touch it in the hope that it will cure random ailments.
Well, actually, looking at the statue, it seemed to me to be less a statue of a black Jesus and more a black statue of a white Jesus. It had no facial features that resembled an African; its hair was even wavy! So it was your typical honky Jesus, dipped in black paint. This, apparently, makes it more miraculous.
The statue is dressed, as the real Jesus always was, in the garb of Richard the Lion Heart.
The people were literally climbing over each other in an attempt to touch the statue, but with a couple of million people, most missed out. So they started throwing cloths at the people on the float, who would wipe the statue and throw the cloth back. Yes! Miracles are contagious! You didn't know?
Some people knew well in advance that they weren't going to get a touch, so they ingeniously brought their own statue to the blindly fervent event. This begs the question: Why would they bother going outside if they have their own special Afro-Jesus at home? Perhaps it's another of those special Christian Mysteries.
There are 90 million people in poverty in the eighty-percent-Catholic Philippines, despite centuries of prayer to Afro-Jesus. In other parts of the Christian world, poverty and disasters continue unabated under the watchful eye of White Jesus, Rainbow Jesus and Buddy Christ. But Christians never seem to think, "oh, wow, maybe this statue isn't actually doing anything." Is humanity still that stupid?
Yes. Yes we are. Right now, people in the United States who are otherwise quite reasonable, actually believe that “End Times” are upon us, announced by the mass-deaths of animals that have occurred in the last month. 3,000 avians in Arkansas, 40,000 crabs in Kent, 300 fowl in Faenza, and so on.
Sure, why not! I mean, religious types have identified pretty much every bad event in history as portents of End Times. Just because they were wrong about the 2004 tsunami, Adolf Hitler being the Antichrist, Jesus of Nazareth returning in 1914 and every single End-Times prediction in the last 2,000 years, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily wrong this time! So just like the faithful did in 999 when the Church announced the imminent return of the Anointed One, and in 1844 when William Miller tried the same trick, you should totally sell all your possessions and give them to a church of your choice.
But I digress.
So the Afro-Jesus Parade — I think that’s its official name — caused two deaths and 50 injuries in 2008 on this special day of healing and miracles. This year, there don’t seem to have been any deaths (score one for Jesus) but the number of injuries came uncomfortably close to 600, including fractures caused by the adulatory crush of the crowd.
When Katrina hit New Orleans, Christian survivors reported an increased faith in Yahweh, Jesus and the other guy, presumably because they prayed for their lives and lived. (The people who prayed for their lives and died anyway were not available for comment on whether their faith increased.)
I suppose, going on Katrina-based faith, the 1.99 million Filipinos who weren’t injured can praise the Black Guy in the Sky for their continued good health.
Originally posted at Times Union.