Opinion: The lightning strike that shocked

Lisa Robertson

Inspiration can strike like a bolt of lightning. In my case for this, my first column of the summer, a literal bolt of lightning has provided the topic.

Some of you many have seen news reports about the destruction, via a lightning strike and subsequent fire, of a statue of Jesus Christ in Monroe, Ohio on June 14. But this was not just any statue of Jesus. Built in 2004 by the Solid Rock Church, it was massive, standing 62-feet-tall and weighing around 16,000 pounds. It depicted Jesus from the chest up, with his arms open and outstretched, gazing toward the sky.

The statue was named the “King of Kings,” but was known by several nicknames. Two of the most well-known were “Touchdown Jesus,” as the extension of his arms to the heavens looked like a goalpost; and “Big Butter Jesus,” a nickname coined by comedian Heywood Banks, who immortalized the statue in song for its butter-tinged coloring.

What makes the destruction of the statue relevant to me is that it stood so close to my hometown of Middletown, Ohio — about a 10-minute drive, to be exact. Whenever I would talk about my hometown, I would inevitably name the statue as a reference point for where I lived. There were usually only one or two people who recognized it, and I would always share a chuckle with them about such an amusing, at least to our eyes, work of religious iconography.

I was definitely shocked when I heard about the statue’s destruction, especially when I discovered it was caused by a lightning strike. In a case for the power of social media spreading breaking news, I first found out about it as my friends posted one incredulous post after another on Facebook.

To be completely honest, the statue has always given me mixed feelings. I found it strange to see such a large representation of Christ constructed at a Protestant church, as I was under the impression that Protestantism did not build such figures. And though I do not know how much the statue actually cost to construct or where the money came from to build it, every time I drive by it all I ever think about is how many people could have been helped if the money for its construction had been given to a charitable cause.

At the same time, I appreciate that in this country the freedom of religion exists, and that a congregation can share and showcase their beliefs any way they choose. Which means, I suppose, that if a local church wishes to spend its money to build a giant statue of Jesus, so be it.

What sticks out in my mind most about this story is an ironic detail not talked about a lot in the coverage of the statue’s destruction. You see, on the other side of the highway there is a store of a particular nature, one that you would expect to be hit by lightning in an act of divine judgment way before a statue of Jesus. That store is one of Larry Flynt’s Hustler Hollywood establishments, which for those of you who might not know is an adult-themed business.

So: divine judgment or a natural accident? I’ll leave you to contemplate that question.

Lisa Robertson is a journalism and mass communication graduate student and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].