Right now, there’s a dead hand touring Canada.
That’s not the name of a metal band; don’t don your blacks and your eyeliner and venture to the North to bang your head. No, the dead hand is the literal hand of Saint Francis Xavier. Why is it touring? For … publicity, I guess?
The story is here. Watch the video and marvel.
Here’s a thing I’ll never understand about religion. The claim is that the hand is a “relic”, which means it contains some sort of divine power. This power is bestowed, apparently, because it’s “the hand that baptized hundreds of thousands of people.” (The rest of his body, apparently, can Fargo right off.) Great, cool, awesome. I guess if you’re the sort of person who believes baptism actually does something and is therefore a thing worth doing, I can see holding in some regard a man who had done a lot of them. Of course, there is no mention of this man, or his hand, in any holy book; its divinity is tacked-on after the fact by a bunch of dudes in robes (and only dudes, let us not forget. Whether women could come up with something so ridiculous — I imagine they couldn’t — is irrelevant, because we’re talking about the Catholic church, here). But still, no, seriously, it’s a relic. It’s holy. It has powers.
By that rationale, they could sanctify my left earlobe (after my death, of course — one presumes I’d still be using it, and they could not therefore cart it around the world touting its holy powers, while I was still attached to it) if I could sufficiently convince them that God tickled it.
(By the way, it’s the hand of a dude. It did a lot more than baptize people, is all I’m saying. Consider that for a moment, and consider, then, the fact that people are pressing overpriced medallions and cards (which you can buy at the venue!) and pictures of their loved ones to the hand for blessings. [Okay, fine, the hand is tucked safely away in a glass case. But still.])
Consider the cost of this exercise. The hand has a caretaker who presumably draws a salary (we can’t just drop the thing in UPS after all — there are laws against the 2-day shipping of dead bodies and their parts). The venues that host it have to bring in volunteers to wrangle all the faithful flocking to see it. And the faithful! Imagine dropping what you’re doing to cross the countryside (this is Canada, where I understand it’s 99% countryside and 1% silly accents) and gawk at a bit of dessicated flesh attended by men in expensive suits. Then they come away crowing that this “experience” will have a tremendous effect in their lives.
Spoiler alert: the experience of being taken for a fool only positively affects your life if you learn from it.
Pretend you’re an alien. You voyage across interstellar space and come across this pale blue dot. They’re sending out radio signals, and the planet is swarmed by satellites and rocket ships and space stations and you’re thinking to yourself, hey, maybe the people of this planet have got things figured out. You look a little closer and see, I dunno, the internet and our politics and you say well, maybe not so much.
Then you train your telescopes up toward Canada and discover that there’s a whole lot of hubbub being made over some guy’s skeletal dunkin’ hand. (And we’re not talking about Michael Jordan’s dunkin’ hand, either — that at least you might have heard about. Space Jam exists, after all.) Literal worship of a dead man’s appendage.
You’re an alien. You see humans doing this.
In what universe would you not drop your spaceship into high gear and leap away at lightspeed?