The third episode of the new season of “Glee” was filled with the usual hilarity intertwined with teenage angst, social relevance, and the occasional well-performed song. But it also tackled a topic forbidden discussion on America’s school grounds — religion. “Glee” came at the subject from both a serious and a somewhat mocking fashion — the heart attack and near death of Kurt’s (Sean Colvin) father (Mike O’Malley) and Finn’s (Cory Monteith) revelation of Jesus on a scorched grilled cheese sandwich (“grilled cheesus,” as he refers to it). The search for spirituality and the need for teenagers (and others) to find themselves and their position in the universe aside, the show actually highlighted what has become a common theme around the world — the discovery of religious images in mundane objects and places that support or reaffirms faith in a supernatural being.
In the “Glee” episode “Grilled Cheesus,” Finn burns his lunch and sees an image of Jesus Christ burnt onto the surface of the bread. He takes it as a sign that he should be more spiritual, but he is also practical and eats the half that is without the image. He begins praying to it, just as most teens do — praying for a football win, getting to second base with his girlfriend, Rachel (Lea Michele). His faith grows stronger as each thing he prays for occurs. But after he speaks with the school counselor (Jayma Mays), his faith is shaken as she points out that all of his prayers could be explained as simple cause and effect and decision making. The episode ends with the somewhat obtuse Finn eating Grilled Cheesus after singing R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” disappointed, holding communion with his stomach.
But Finn’s character is indicative of the many who have found sacred and/or religious images in the most mundane of places. Although it isn’t a recent phenomenon, there does seem to be a greater number of images being discovered of late.
Finn’s Grilled Cheesus is a tongue-in-cheek stab at the incident where a Florida woman saw the image of the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich and was compelled to save the sandwich, even though she had taken a bite from it before seeing the image, enclosing it in a plastic bag and placing it for safe keeping within a box. She would eventually (after about ten years) place her grilled cheese Virgin Mary sandwich on eBay and auction it for $28,000.
But religious images, especially those of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, have turned up in all sorts of places over the last several years: in water stains and oil stains, rock formations, in the hair of cats and on animals, in chocolate, on griddles, in cement, in pieces of cheetos, and in window glass.
It is often said that faith is where you find it. As abstract as that may seem, the concept of finding one’s higher power manifested in a symbol or image (a “grilled cheesus”) that can be attributed to the divine workings of a omnipresent and omipotent being as a “sign” to a mortal individual and/or others that god exists is a prevalent notion. But as the writers of “Glee” so aptly illustrated, it could just be a burned piece of bread left in the griddle too long, a stain on cement that allows one to see what one wants to see, or simply one’s spiritually searching imagination.