Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Modest Proposal

In the Episcopal church, a great fuss is made over how the communion wine gets consecrated for use, as though properly consecrated wine has magic powers of some sort.  If these magic powers could be verified, it would probably qualify for James Randi's million-dollar prize.  I'm sure there's room for a cool million in just about any parish budget.
I propose, therefore, that the magic powers be tested.  Several steps are involved.
Step one:  A panel of theologians (approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury, of course) shall define precisely what these magic powers are and precisely how they can be verified, and shall design the exact test procedure.
Step two:  A case of wine (twelve bottles) shall be purchased from the usual supplier.  Thirty-six canonically valid communion wine cruets shall be obtained from an approved supplier of religious products.  The cruets shall be marked numerically, and selected at random for the following step.
Step three.  Each bottle of wine shall be divided equally into three cruets.  One cruet shall be consecrated by a priest in the canonically approved fashion.  Another cruet shall have the consecration ceremony performed upon it by a lay-person, thus constituting an invalid consecration.  The third cruet shall remain unconsecrated.
Step four:  A record shall be made of which cruets were validly consecrated, which were invalidly consecrated, and which were unconsecrated.  The record shall be sealed into an envelope and delivered to a bank safe deposit box.
Step five:  Some people who did not witness the consecration ceremonies shall carry the cruets to the testing space where they will be tested by other people who did not witness the consecration ceremonies.
If the magic powers conferred by consecration are genuine, the test team should easily pick out the twelve validly consecrated cruets.  If, however, the twelve invalidly consecrated cruets also have these magic powers, we'll immediately know that an ordained priest is not needed to perform the consecration.
Now, since it will be theologians instead of scientists determining the test procedure, that should squelch any bogus excuses by theologians that theological claims are not scientifically testable.  The only thing we'll require is that the consecrated cruets be correctly identified.
And now, Dear Theologians!  Are you up to the task?  There's a cool million bucks on the table for your church budget!

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