$1,500? Jesus Christ!

Friday, August 10, 2007

From the Houston Chronicle:

A smudge of driveway sealant resembling the face of Jesus Christ [mirror image shown here --ed] has fetched more than $1,500 in an online auction.

The family that found the image on its garage floor sold it for $1,525.69 on eBay Wednesday, more than a week after the slab of concrete was put on sale.

"I really never thought I'd get any, to be honest," said Deb Serio, a high school teacher.

"It's fun to see what people say and think about it," said Serio, who has gotten hundreds of messages from around the world.

The family has hired a contractor to remove the section of concrete. The chunk will be turned over to the winner, identified only as "islandoffthecoast."

An active Lutheran, Serio considers the smudge just an odd occurrence — not a sign or miracle.

"There are some people who need this kind of thing to sort of start them on their faith journey. I don't," she said. "That's why I don't mind parting with it."
The capacity of some people for self-delusion never ceases to amaze me. The last time I heard about a "miraculous" religious image, it was when what Andrew Dalton aptly described as a "coochie-shaped stain on a concrete wall" drew pilgrims. In a sense, this one is better because it drew cold, hard cash.

But still. This one looks even less like what it's supposed to than usual. I can't even see "Shroud of Turin" Jesus here. I looked.

You know what this looks like to me, and my reaction was immediate: Butters Stotch of South Park after he gets hit in the eye with a throwing star in "Good Times with Weapons". See the below image. To aid in the comparison, I flipped the above image of "Christ" from left to right.

Is the moral of this story, "A fool and his money are soon parted"? Or is it, "Get an eBay account and start looking at the litter box creatively each morning"? Your guess is as good as mine!

-- CAV


Mike O'Risal said...

Hi... I somehow managed to wander over here and found this bit about the grease-spot Jesus. I've been following the story since it first came out and so happened to write a piece myself about why the woman who sold it was a complete and intentional con artist. Why she isn't being banned from eBay for fraud I can't say; even SHE admitted that the thing is just a smudge on her garage floor, but only after she found a buyer for it!

http://vyoma108.blogspot.com/2007/08/grease-spot-jesus-again.html if you want to see why this is so completely obvious.

Gus Van Horn said...

Not especially to defend this junk merchant, but the idea of going after this woman for fraud, while tempting in some respects, is absurd because there is no way to prove the authenticity of any allegedly divine relic.

Conversely, how would we know that this woman, upon realizing that $1500 is a paltry sum for God's Own Work, isn't just lying about it being "just a smudge" so she can offer the money back? Before anyone has any room whatsoever to claim legal protection for anything to do with religion, they need to demonstrate a few things first. That God exists would be a good place to start.

When people are willing to take things on faith (i.e., accept arbitrary claims), they are opening themselves up to such chicanery. Beyond a certain point (i.e., the objectively verifiable), the government is under no obligation to protect a citizen from his own willingness to fail to demand evidence for a claim about something he has bought.

Reason is man's tool for survival. The government does not owe someone a living if he refuses to exercise his reason in the effort top make a living. And for the same reason, the government does not owe it to someone who willfully accepts unprovable claims to make up for the losses he will necessarily suffer.

What the seller did was morally wrong, but not illegal, nor should it be. The government has no business making arbitrary laws (which is what adjudicating religious matters would require since proof is out the window) nor in regulating the religious beliefs of citizens.

Mike O'Risal said...

I didn't say anything about the government, though. My point is that she misrepresented what she thought about the smear herself, and that she was deliberately pulling a con was rather clear from the outset (if you click on the "daily jesus" label, you can find the initial post about this). If eBay is going to be consistent as to its own terms of service about misrepresentations of what's sold on their site, this should full under that domain. She knew herself it was "just a smudge" all along.

Not that I think the buyer is due a refund, either. Anyone stupid enough to swallow some line about a 2000 year old man's face appearing under a can of blacktop sealant in a garage in Virginia isn't likely to hold onto their money for long, anyhow.

Anyhow, yours was the first other blog entry I'd seen about this, so I thought I'd fill you in on some more of what was at work here. The seller's comments about people giving her "crooked looks" and her use of the word "uncanny" to describe something that appeared under a can had drawn me to this story at the outset. I found the internal dissonance such choices revealed rather interesting and, in my experience, a good way to spot a liar in general.

Gus Van Horn said...

To claim something is a divine miracle is, as Wolfgang Pauli might put it, not EVEN wrong.

Her claim that a miracle occurred made her worse than a liar from the outset.

And again, there was no way to prove or disprove what the seller said about her "work"'s authenticity before, and there is no way to prove she isn't pretending to herself that it isn't "divine" now.

If eBay should do anything, it would be to absolve itself of all legal responsibility for the "authenticity" of any product sold as an alleged religious artifact.

Gus Van Horn said...

Oops! I inadvertently rejected two comments from z, one of the regulars here.

Here they are:


(1) Can you imagine the million, upon millions and probably even BILLIONS of stains, smudges, crinkles, scrapes, and spills that occur every day in the world? Still, that is quite the most impressive half the face of jesus written in oil that I've ever seen. Congratulations to them!


(2) Wow, now that you mention it, what a good way to make some extra cash! I could sit outside one day and take pictures of clouds that look like Jesus and sell them online to people for $25. I could represent that they are just pictures of clouds, nothing more, but they are for sale to bring comfort to those who wanted to believe that it was God sending them signals through the clouds. No fraud. Just god. Nahh, I'll keep my day job.

Gus Van Horn said...

What's funny about this is how upset some people are going to get about someone being cheated out of a mere $1500 when mystics around the world get countless people all the time to basically forfeit years of their lives, golden opportunities, their full potential, and saddest of all, a chance for real happiness while they're alive.

Religion is the greatest racket of all time. This person got a relatively cheap lesson, if he can see it for what it is.

Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, looks to me more like Wolfman Jack. But what it really looks like took me a while to place--one of Barry Moser's illustrations of Dante, I think of the shade of Virgil. That's not a crown of thorns at the top, that's a laurel wreath. But there's a beard, like Wolfman Jack. Which suggests the afterlife is not as most people imagine it.

Gus Van Horn said...


You know. When they speak of the miracle of the Internet -- or (chortle) miracles in general -- this is what I'm talking about!

For a mere 1500 smackers of some sap's money, I get an easy blog for a slow news day, an impromptu caption contest, and the newfound, but strangely reassuring knowledge that yes, there is an Online Museum about Wolfman Jack!

Jim May said...

My point is that she misrepresented what she thought about the smear herself, and that she was deliberately pulling a con was rather clear from the outset

What difference does that make?

Gus Van Horn said...

That is, in a nutshell, my point.

Anonymous said...

I dont see what all the fuss is about. It barely looks like Jesus!

Gus Van Horn said...

Said it first! :-P

As for the "big fuss", you should direct your questions to two either the one who "invested" $1500 in an oil-stained piece of concrete or anyone who regards the seller -- but not those who promote religion generally -- as a fraud.

JERRYUUC said...





Gus Van Horn said...

Very funny, Jerry. But next time, I'm just goiung to reject your comment if it's ALL CAPS. That's considered rude on the Interent.