Jesus, according to John 15:1, once described himself as “the true vine.”

I doubt he had in mind the “kudzu Jesus” that’s been making waves in Kinston, N.C.

Superstitious folk have seen Jesus through the years in everything from wood grain to grilled cheese. In the South, it’s not unexpected that the Lord would show up in the ubiquitous kudzu, a vine that was imported from Japan to combat soil erosion and ended up eating entire forests.

Some folks near Kinston think that a vine growing up a utility pole and creeping onto wires on either side looks like Jesus on the cross. At least one woman speculated that it was a sign that Jesus was watching over the area. If nothing else, it should bring the blessing of more business to the nearby Ma’s Hotdog Stand.

Anyone who travels the south has no doubt seen all kinds of kudzu shapes, because the vine will cover anything that’s not moving faster than it grows — which can be up to a foot per day. I’ve seen abandoned houses, the walls of burned buildings, or entire stands of trees covered with the stuff, leading to a wonderland of shapes that would be pretty if it weren’t so pesky. 

So, as you might expect, this is not even the first time a kudzu Jesus has been spotted: two years ago folks near downtown Raleigh got excited about a similar image, though I think it looked more like a green ghost than the crucifixion. Do a Google search for “kudzu Jesus,” then click “Images,” and you’ll see even more.

Whether the kudzu cross in Kinston is di-vine, I can’t say — but I do like the notion of seeing Jesus in unexpected places — especially in the faces of people who love him.

[First photo from Associated Press, the second by Josh Shaffer McClatchy-Tribune News Service.]

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