I was shocked this morning when I learned that the iconic Jesus statue in Ohio outside the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, between Dayton and Cincinnati on I-75 had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
Its official name may have been "King of Kings," but those of us who grew up in Southern Ohio knew it by many other names: Touchdown Jesus, Big Butter Jesus, Giant Statue of Jesus, Drowning Jesus, and Quicksand Jesus.
The statue was a fixture of my recent trips between Dayton (where I grew up) and Cincinnati (where my grandparents lived).
According to the AP:
"The 4,000-member, nondenominational church was founded by former horse trader Lawrence Bishop and his wife. Bishop said in 2004 he was trying to help people, not impress them, with the statue. He said his wife proposed the Jesus figure as a beacon of hope and salvation and they spent about $250,000 to finance it."
It was tall (60-plus stories 62 feet), it was tacky, and it was a landmark. Now it's gone.
Of course, anyone who knows that area well also knows that it's surrounded by some less-than-religious establishments on all sides, one of which is the Hustler store, which remained unscathed during the lightning storm.
In recent years, the statue, made of foam and fiberglass over a steel frame, had become an icon on the road with its arms raised high, "as though reaching out to catch a football," according to the AP.
It is a sad day for the area where I grew up. There is so little of interest on that long, flat stretch of road and Touchdown Jesus gave us all a little reaction every time we passed it. For me, it was a laugh. For others, maybe it offered more?
At any rate, I wonder what the church has in store for us next. Will "Touchdown Jesus" be rebuilt?
Only time will tell.
Image via Tobyotter/Flickr