Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“Touchdown Jesus” Struck by Lightning

Possible Evidence that God has Good Taste

   They say God works in mysterious ways. On the other hand, sometimes he’s entirely obvious. In a bolt from the blue, an iconic monument of pious tackiness has been struck down by a higher power. A six-story-high statue of Jesus at the Solid Rock Church of Monroe, Ohio, was hit by lightning and burned to the ground on June 14. The 62-foot-tall Messiah, its upturned arms inspiring the nickname “Touchdown Jesus,” was made of fiberglass and Styrofoam and was located some 15 miles north of Cincinnati. Built in 2004, it was also used as a cell phone tower, making it about the only useful giant Jesus statue among the many found the world over.

   The irony of a Jesus sculpture being snuffed by lightning evokes questions about what it all means. If you’re a free market Christian of the Sarah Palin ilk, the Jesus-as-referee image suggests a regulator—enforcing rules and dishing out punishments. He had to go. Or maybe Jesus was telling a fish story (he was majorly into fish) and was exaggerating a bit too much. Or perhaps he was doing aerobics, which would suggest he was out of shape--a theological no-no! Then again, maybe he was just saying, "I wuv you dis much!" and something got lost in the translation.

   Strangely, this isn’t the first time theologians have had to grapple with such a spiritual conundrum. Back in colonial America, Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod to keep buildings safe from lightning strikes. But a number of churches refused to use it, their pastors claiming it was a human attempt to thwart the will of God. Of course, those were the churches most likely to burn down. Traditionalists preferred waving off lightning strikes by ringing the bell in the church steeple—which sometimes got the bell-ringer electrocuted. Like they say…mysterious ways.

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