Monroe, OH — The prominent, six-storey high statue of Jesus, erected by the 4000 member strong Solid Rock Church located along I-75 at Route 63 in Monroe at 904 North Union Road, burned to the ground in a fire caused by a lightning strike on Monday, 14 June 2010, at around 1115 PM. Fire fighters indicated flames quickly spread from the right hand to the body and nearby cross. No injuries were reported.
The steel-framed sculpture, which once stood 62 feet tall, sported a composite outer shell of wood and Styrofoam, covered in fiberglass and resin. These extremely flammable materials allowed the blaze to spread onto the adjoining amphitheater's roof and attic.
The statue was built in 2004 at a cost of $500,000. The estimate to rebuild the statue and amphitheater, including a ruined sound system, appears to be $700,000.
The church founder, Lawrence Bishop, stated the statue was designed as a beacon of hope. “It's a lighthouse on the troubled sea of life we all ride on.” He has made it clear it will be rebuilt.
The frame of steel was fabricated in nearby Lebanon, Ohio, and the less-than-steel body, on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida. The body was trucked to the church in pieces and assembled on-site. However, workers fitting the image found the head and arms to be too small for the chest.
The builder, James Lynch, subsequently spent three months ripping apart fiberglass to recast the arms and face. Standing 20 feet taller than originally planned, the completed figure was clad with skin so thin it bent at a finger's touch. All told, some 8,000 man-hours were consumed for development and installation.
The reflective pool of water surrounding the sculpture was dug out by backhoes and related heavy machinery, purchased by the church for the project. After the church defaulted on the loan provided by Fifth Third Bank, Steve Thompson of Thompson Auctioneers, Inc. was asked to liquidate the machinery. Thompson contacted Bill Jennings of Liberty Millwright & Rigging who transported the equipment to New Carlisle, Ohio. Thompson subsequently sold everything at auction.
Originally weighing 8 tons and having a 42-foot span between its outstretched arms, this Miami Valley icon depicted Jesus from the torso up and suffered many nicknames. It earned it's most popular moniker as the “Touchdown Jesus” by the way the arms were raised aloft, not unlike a bearded referee signaling a score at the goal line. This depiction also lent itself well to stories such as “The fish was THIS big!” Some dubbed it the “white chocolate Jesus,” by virtue of its original blanch hue. But perhaps its most memorable alias is the “Big Butter Jesus,” after comedian Heywood Banks referred to it as such and created a song about the statue, which he performed on radio’s “The Bob and Tom Show.”
Understandably stunned once the news hit, some church members attribute the statue's destruction to an act of God, literally.
“This is not right,” lamented a woman named Gifty. “We just all have to go on our faith and ask God. This cannot be a coincidence.”
“I was pretty upset,” declared Andy Caudill. “Seeing a big thing of our Lord and Savior gone.”
Ashley Morgan stated how this event was a sign, and not a good one.
Kevin Jones took it a step further describing that Christians, as a whole, we're not doing something right.
Their Pastor disagrees. Bishop felt there was nothing spiritual behind the event. “It was some metal underneath that was hit by lightning. If it was a statue of a horse or a cow it would have been the same thing,” he intoned.
Interest was high on Tuesday as gawkers driving on one of the busiest roads in the country slowly brought traffic to a crawl. By 6 PM, traffic was backed up for 15 minutes south of the church.
“You can see the problem we have,” remarked Sgt. Tracy Callahan of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Troopers positioned themselves to keep lanes flowing, at first issuing only warnings to drivers who slowed traffic. By 4 PM, they began to issue tickets, and the cost, depending on the citation, exceeds $100.
15 July 2010--
It appears the Big Butter Jesus has a new moniker, equally as official as the old one; Terminator Jesus.