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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Not exactly mana, but arguably from heaven.

Alert reader Jay Livingston was kind enough to mention this story to me about a gigantic statue of Jesus rising from a pool of water that has been displayed next to I-75 in Ohio.* The statue, which has been referred to as "Touchdown Jesus," is a sort of local landmark, as well as the sort of freakish roadside display that tends to stick in one's mind. And that isn't surprising when you take a gander at the thing:



Can't you just hear the king of kings shouting, "It's GOOOOODDDDD!!!!" Alas, the point of today's post is not to poke fun at questionable architectural decisions. Nor, indeed, is my point to condemn this Jesus statue and its love of the gridiron. The statue is private property, on private property and- as far as I know- built with private funds. So, it's none of my business. No, the point of the post is to mention that recently, something a tad unusual happened to said statue:

Charred remnants remained this morning, June 15, of the large Jesus statue iconic to Interstate 75 that was destroyed following an apparent lightning strike during a thunderstorm late Monday night.


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's right: Touchdown Jesus was destroyed by an act of god. And needless to say it doesn't look quite as good anymore. Now, the first thing I want to say at this point is that while there was property damage- quite a bit of it, in fact- no one was killed or injured in the lightning strike or fire. I am, needless to say, pleased with the lack of casualties, and sorry that the church has lost so much property. The second thing, however, is to note some of the reactions that people have had to this:

Church member Cassie Browning, 27, of Dayton, said she was driving north on I-75 on her way back from Tennessee when she and her family saw smoke and noticed the statue missing. “It meant so much to so many people,” Browning said. “The statue can be destroyed and gone, but Jesus can’t be.”

...

“God struck God, I like the irony. Jesus struck Jesus,” said Dawn Smith, 25, of Hamilton, who was among those standing outside the vehicles along Union Road. “I had to see it. What else are you going to do on a Monday night?”

...

Also gathered along Union Road were Franklin twins and storm chasers Levi and Seth Walsh, who said they were out in the thunderstorm when they heard about the fire through a Facebook update.

“It sent goosebumps through my whole body because I am a believer,” said Levi Walsh, 29. “Of all the things that could have been struck, I just think that that would be protected. ... It’s something that’s not supposed to happen, Jesus burning,” he said. “I had to see it with my own eyes.”


And that's pretty intriguing, because of all the people commenting, only the first seems to grasp that the statue is not the mythological figure that it represents. Of course destroying the statue isn't the same as destroying Jesus.** To think otherwise is to effectively venerate an idol or, in less religious terms, to confuse a symbol for the thing it represents. This is not a case of "god striking god," it's a case of an electrical discharge igniting a fire. And in a way we should have expected it, given that the statue was effectively a giant lightning rod surrounded by flammable material:

The statue was constructed of wood and styrofoam over a steel framework that was anchored in concrete and covered with a fiberglass mat and resin exterior, according to the church.


People will doubtless be looking for an explanation for this event, as is only human. And this is where I start wondering. See, when a tornado strikes a church during a convention about homosexuality, it's supposedly a sign that god disapproves of homosexuality. When the pro-creationism Dover school board is replaced with a pro-science school board, they're warned to expect natural disasters as god's wrath. When a gigantic earthquake strikes down Haiti it is, similarly, because they made a pact with the devil and god is pissed. And, hell, if we're willing to go beyond Christian wingnuts, we find still more craziness. When a tsunami strikes Indonesia, it's because women are sinful. Likewise, earthquakes are also a sign that women are sinful.*** Apparently, women have a lot more power than we usually think! So, given that natural events are so often invoked in the service of someone's religious prejudices, how should we interpret this one? Perhaps Zeus is finally just fed the hell up with this Jesus guy- pardon the pun- stealing all his thunder. Maybe Shiva has finally decided to bust some heads. It could be, and there's exactly as much proof for that as for any of this other crap, which is to say, none at all. We do not need to invoke the supernatural to explain natural events, but damn if people don't do it anyway. How else could we use bad luck to accuse others of being evil?

But, have no fear religious wingnuts, because out of the goodness of my heart and a careful reading of the article, I think I can propose an explanation. See, it also turns out that while the lightning DID strike the Jesus statue, it did NOT strike something nearby:

“I can’t believe Jesus was struck,” said his brother, who noted the giant Hustler Hollywood sign for the adult store across the street was untouched. “It’s the last thing I expected to happen.”


Maybe god didn't hate the statue, he just really loves porn.


* How was that for an opening sentence, kids?

** I would argue that the Romans did a more than adequate job of that over two thousand years ago, although the idea of Jesus has certainly proven to have considerable staying power.

*** Thus giving rise to boobquake.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Andy Shmushkin said...

It didn't just magically reappear three days after it burned up???

Thursday, June 24, 2010 7:37:00 AM  

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