If Jesus wanted to reveal Himself to you, how do you suppose He’d do it? A South Carolina couple is convinced that Jesus is blessing them by mysteriously superimposing His fuzzy image onto a Walmart receipt. If this is the best Jesus can do, the photographic equipment at the right hand of the Father leaves a bit to be desired.
It’s easy to make fun of people such as this — and I’m not discouraging that in this case — but there’s a more interesting point to be made. Most of the time, people see what they want (or need) to see. It’s a well-known phenomenon, although it goes by different names. (This article by Michael Shermer is a good overview of the science behind it, although I have to caution that I think Shermer has a history of being too quick to dismiss everything he can’t explain.)
I’ve seen this in my own life when somebody saw Jesus’ face in a door at a local hospital. (More about that in a moment.)
This tendency to find simplistic explanations for random events affects most people. When folks just see Jesus on their Walmart receipt, it’s not a big deal. But what about cases in which people start seeing irrational things in economics (“Imports are bad!”) and then insist that society be reordered to fit their prejudices? It can lead to the idiocy of the modern state’s economic policies. What about when people see conspiracies by racial or ethnic groups (“The Jews are out to get us!”) and start trying to destroy those people? It can lead to Nazi death camps.