Touchdown Jesus (Gone)
During a storm on June 14, 2010, the giant "King of Kings" styrofoam and fiberglass Jesus statue was struck by lightning and burst into flames. The statue was destroyed (a less athletic replacement is under construction).
Before that meteorological portent, this was our visit story:
Jesus has risen near the interstate north of Cincinnati. A 62-ft. high sculpture of Christ appears to explode from the dirt behind the amphitheater at Monroe's Solid Rock Church. From the waist down, he's underground....
Enormous flea markets on both sides of highways at this exit make for large weekend traffic jams. Traders World is right next door. But Jesus faces west towards I-75 -- highly visible -- and you'd be crazy not to get off at the first off-ramp to worship and snap a photo.
The Big J. is a symbol of devotion for the congregation of 3,000 at Solid Rock, a nondenominational mega-church. Pastor Lawrence Bishop presides; his wife Darlene also founded the church and she evangelizes with her own tidy set of ministries. You can buy Darlene's new book, "Your Life Follows Your Words," or hear the Fire Choir "Worship on Fire" to get a sense of what you're missing inside.
Outside, artist James Lynch was commissioned to render a fiberglass and styrofoam over metal frame depiction of Christ after the Resurrection looming over the Baptismal Pool. The figure was completed in September 2004.
Lynch has created other larger-than-life sculpture in places such as Las Vegas (Caesar's big Neptune) and Disney World. Church leaders believe it is the World's Largest Christ (or at least the W.L. half-buried Messiah) and have submitted it for consideration for a Guinness World Record.
The pose of the statue as generated plenty of discussion. The upraised arms familiar to "praise" service attendees conjures different images for locals, who refer to the big Savior as "Touchdown Jesus," or "Drowning Jesus."
Soon after the statue's completion, tipster Lori Baker wrote us: "I found it interesting that a poll taken of locals concerning the statue of Jesus in Monroe had the following results: 25% feel that it is a 'Godsend, good for Monroe,' while 75% found that it was an 'Eyesore, bad for Monroe.'"
October 2006: The statue continues to accumulate nicknames, and is the subject of a noveltysong by comedian Heywood Banks, "Big Butter Jesus." The song reminds all to "Spread the word."
April 2005: The pond has been filled, and the landscaping completed, making the giant Jesus appear as if rising from the waters. This is a dramatic spot for Solid Rock baptisms, visible from the highway.
It may also attract passing heathens, caught in the act of "High Five"-ing the Lord. We're sure that's fine with the church -- they know their Mega-Message reaches people in many ways.