Ohio's Jesus statue is latest religious statue to be struck by lightning

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A six-story-tall statue of Jesus Christ with his arms raised along a highway was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm Monday night and burned to the ground, police said. It was one of southwest Ohio's most familiar landmarks. (June 15)

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By Monica Hesse and Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It appears God has sacrificed his only son. Again.

A bolt struck a 62-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ on Monday outside a church in Monroe, Ohio, and the statue erupted in flames. All that remains is a charred steel skeleton, its spindly arms stretched toward heaven, a gesture that once earned it the nickname "Touchdown Jesus."

Darlene Bishop, co-pastor of Solid Rock Church, says she's simply relieved that the lightning hit Jesus and not the home for at-risk women next door.

"I told them, 'It looks like Jesus took a hit for you last night,' " she says.

Act of God? Act of nature?

In 2008, lightning singed the fingers and eyebrows of Christ the Redeemer, the 130-foot Jesus statue that stands over Rio de Janeiro. In 2007, a bolt blasted the 33-foot Jesus statue at Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colo. One of Jesus's arms fell off.

The saints and angels are not safe either. The Notre Dame de Chicago's Virgin Mary burst into flames from her perch atop the church's dome in 1978; the Engineering News Record covered the construction of a new, lightning-resistant statue with the headline: "Burned once, dome reMaryed."

A bolt that struck St. Joan of Arc's statue in New Orleans sliced her brandished staff in half. Statues of the Angel Moroni, which frequently top Mormon churches, have been hit by lightning with such frequency -- Moroni's horn is particularly susceptible -- that the Salt Lake Tribune once fretted over their safety in a front-page story.

(Side note: Actor James Caviezel was struck by lightning in 2003 while filming Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." He was playing Jesus.)

Believer or not, we can always count on lightning to energize the what-does-it-mean lobes of our brain.

Ancient Romans equated statues being struck by lightning with bad omens, such as chickens beginning to talk and blood raining from the sky. Presumably, the latter two were less-frequent events.

To find some modern-day meaning in Touchdown Jesus, we turned to Pat Robertson, host of "The 700 Club," who has divined meaning from Hurricane Katrina (abortionists?) and the Haitian earthquake (historic pact with the Devil?). Alas, he declined through a publicist to interpret the significance of the lightning strike.


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