Via Dawn Eden, I learned today of New York City’s winking Sacred Heart of Jesus statue.
From ABC news:
The Sacred Heart of Jesus statue is the centerpiece of a nativity scene outside the Jackson Street public housing complex in Hoboken.
Some witnesses say they saw the statue open its right eye, and turn its head toward the crowd.
Many call the event a miracle that could help rescue the neighborhood from problems like drugs and violence.
I think what makes me especially skeptical about such supposed miracles is not their improbability (a miracle is necessarily improbable) but their lack of function. Avery Cardinal Dulles articulated this point for me in a recent First Things article outlining C.S. Lewis’s apologetics:
If miracles were haphazard events, reports about them might not be credible. But the biblical miracles, generally speaking, fall into a meaningful pattern, exhibiting the beneficent designs of God. All the biblical miracles lead up to, or attest to, the Incarnation, which Lewis describes as “the great miracle.” Jesus’ mastery over life and death and over the powers of nature is convincing evidence of his divinity.
When Jesus performed a miracle, the miracle itself had a clear function: healing, raising from the dead, etc., even if its ultimate function was to bring glory to God or demonstrate Christ’s divinity.
But what’s the function of a winking statue in and of itself? Because the miracle’s immediate function is unclear, we’re free to speculate widely about its ultimate function.
“Maybe this is a sign to solve all the crime and problems of the community,” said George Morales, who lives in the housing project. “Do you know how many people who are looking at that Jesus have AIDS?”
Geisha Lopez, 13, stood before the statue hoping for a special kind of blessing. She suffers from kidney disease.
“I was praying to stop the war, stop the bombings and for my health,” she said. “I now have faith that God is going to cure me.”
Why do these onlookers think a statue’s wink suggests coming solutions for crime, war and disease? According to their hermeneutics, we should interpret a weird event as evidence of coming desirable events. I think that’s a stretch.
However, when Jesus heals or raises from the dead, the hermeneutics isn’t so freewheeling. It clearly shows his “mastery over life and death and over the powers of nature,” as Cardinal Dulles points out.