Tasteful and educated people, above all, want their physical, suburban world to stay just where it is. They want religion (like everything else) to be tidy and organized. Uncorrupted bodies, angels, and supernatural fragrances are wild cards. They are too zany and unpredictable for those who want their religion cut-and-dried.

I like the miraculous because it smells authentic. What good is religion if it doesn't upset our assumptions and make us think again? Wherever religion is fervent, it allows for the miraculous. Wherever religion is real, it allows for the miraculous. Miracles don't prove a religion's validity or truth, but they do indicate some kind of transaction between the material and the spiritual worlds.

Miracles are also authentic because they attract ordinary folks. I am suspicious of any religion that is the refuge of only the educated and affluent. A religion that excludes ordinary people is more like a set of table manners than a religion.

Finally, I like the kooky end of religion because it reveals a God of surprises. When a body is uncorrupted or people smell flowers when they should smell putrefaction, it's kind of like a divine joke. I think God likes practical jokes. He likes the effect of tricks. He likes upsetting our smug, preconceived mindset about the nature of the physical world. Maybe miracles are given not to prove anything, but simply to remind us that the physical world is not so solid and real and dependable as we think. It's all much more rubbery than that--and more unexpected.