Wal-Mart’s new slogan: “Save money (and yourself)”

The people of South Carolina seem to have their own special consecrated Trinity. Sure, they like God and the Holy Spirit. But it’s Jesus who retains a special place in the evangelical heart.

Joining Jesus in the Palmetto State’s Transcendent Trio are two even more sacred concepts: shopping at Wal-Mart, and saving the receipt for whatever you bought there, because chances are it’ll eventually reveal itself to be a piece of crap that needs to be returned.

A young couple from the small town of Berea, S.C., must be in Heaven this week. The receipt they received in payment for the 11 photos they had developed at Wal-Mart in June appears to show the face of Jesus.

Sure, it’s a somewhat cubist rendition of the Lord and Savior, like something Picasso might have painted in his Blue Period if he only had small strips of paper to work with rather than full canvasses. Or, perhaps the distortion on the right side of the face was the result of a little-publicized ischemic stroke Christ suffered from eating too many fatty foods.

Whatever it is, the young Christians who now own a hallowed relic are beside themselves with ecstasy.

“There’s tons of people who will say, ‘Oh, they’re in the Bible Belt,’ but here’s my question to the doubters,” said Gentry Sutherland. “Who else has the power to put their face on a check-out receipt but Jesus?”

Sutherland and her boyfriend, Jacob Simmons, didn’t notice the image at first. It sat unworshipped on the kitchen counter for three days before they went to their regular Wednesday night church service at the College Park Worship Center. The theme that night: intimacy with God.

“The question they asked was ‘Would you know Jesus if you saw him?'” said Sutherland.

After the service, they returned home to watch a movie. During a break, Jacob suddenly became transfixed by an object on the counter.

“He said, ‘Look at this receipt.’ I just looked at it and it looked kind of brown. He said, ‘No, look at it,'” Sutherland reported. “So I took a second look and then I saw the face.”

Sutherland, 21, said she was initially scared of the receipt.

“I always wondered why in the Bible when someone saw an angel they were afraid, but now I know,” said the student of North Greenville University, a Southern Baptist college. “We’re human beings and we’re not used to seeing that kind of thing.”

Sutherland said she and Simmons weren’t sure yet what they were going to do with the Divine Proof of Payment.

“We’ll pray about it,” she said. “For now, we’ll just share the love and blessing with family and friends.”

As remarkable as the image is, the two young people may not yet have noticed another area of the slip that seems to contain a message from the Great Beyond. In the small bald spot just above Jesus’ left ear, there’s a distinct but upside-down message that reads simply “THANK YOU.”

“There’s not a lot in the Judeo-Christian tradition where we hear God or His Son showing appreciation for all the worship They receive and all the good things Their believers have to say about Them,” said religion professor Alan Linderman of Winthrop University. “If this Wal-Mart receipt is truly divine, it may represent the first time we’re seeing a blush of humility from Those Guys.”

Sutherland and Simmons have dismissed suggestions that they put the piece up for sale on eBay.

“A couple of the photos we had developed that day came out kind of grainy,” said Simmons. “Maybe we better hold onto the receipt for a while. We might be able to get a couple of dollars back.”

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