From the Vault: 'Touchdown Jesus' goes up in flames during storm, is resurrected 2 years later

MONROE, Ohio -- It’s been seven years since God struck down a 62-foot tall Jesus statue off Interstate 75 in Monroe.

On June 14, 2010, a lightning strike hit the styrofoam and fiberglass mascot that guarded Solid Rock Church, a Christian megachurch.

The Hustler Hollywood store across the street from the Jesus was left unscathed; the irony was immaculate.

The statue, actually named "King of Kings," got its most prominent nickname because he mimics the referee signal for a touchdown. (Not to be confused with Notre Dame Stadium’s Touchdown Jesus mural.) Another nickname was “Big Butter Jesus,” as the statue looked like a butter sculpture.

Solid Rock Church boasted the 16,000 pound statue was "the largest statue of Jesus in the world" when it was built in 2004. It came with a $250,000 price tag.

It was about 11:15 p.m. when the statue was struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm.

"I never thought this would be vulnerable, it was a real tragedy," Monroe Fire Chief Mark Neu said at the time.

 

Callers told 911 operators that Jesus’ right hand was struck by the bolt of lightning that sparked the fire.

Neu said spectators crowded the interstate as crews put out the fire. He estimated more than 30 people stopped their cars to watch the flames, take photos and video.

Neu said the original Jesus statue had lightning resistors and grounding rods.

“It should have protected (the statue), but it didn’t,” Neu said. “Just like in your homes or other buildings, lightning goes in all different places within a structure.”

After the statue burned, the church displayed the message “He’ll be back” on its electronic sign — which easily lent itself to the nickname “Terminator Jesus.”

“The first Jesus was resurrected after three days,” said Darlene Bishop, pastor of Solid Rock Church. “It’s going to take us a little longer than three days, but he will be back."

 

Discussion of the replacement statue began almost immediately.

A surprising ally joined in the rebuilding efforts: PETA. The animal rights organization agreed to help fund the construction through an “anonymous member who is a devout Christian” if the church promised to promote veganism.

Pastor Lawrence Bishop didn't take PETA up on the offer.

“They want to build a statue free if it would advertise them, which is a ridiculous idea because that statue is not to promote any agenda,” Bishop said. “And I do not agree with PETA’s agenda.”

Construction of the new Jesus began in June 2012, two years after the fire.

The new Jesus was initially named “Come Unto Me,” but the name was later changed to "Lux Mundi” (which means "Light of the World” in Latin).

 

The new statue is affectionately known as “Hug Me Jesus.” He’s standing upright with his arms outstretched; the new statue was set atop boulders to give the appearance of the statue walking on water.

For obvious reasons, the new Jesus contains a large lightning rod.

 

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