Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Solid Rock and Holy Rollers

As I mentioned in the previous post, the place we got a flat tire, while on the way to Cincinnati, was about 5 miles shy of the Solid Rock Church, which is famous for its 62-foot “drowning Jesus” sculpture. It has been scaring the life out of little children trapped in the back seats of cars for many years now.
Shot taken by me, screaming up I-75, as evidenced by the image of my camera in the side mirror.  A miracle?

I put some thoughts down back in 2006 after I first saw it and I figured now would be a good time to dig it back up and kick it around again.

As Christmas season rolls up on us once again, thoughts turn to all matters holy, which leaves me pondering the perennial question, “What the hell is wrong with people?”

I’m reflecting on something I saw this summer as I was vacationing back in Ohio, and while driving to and from visiting my sister in Cincinnati, passed The Solid Rock Church on the east side of I-75 in Monroe Ohio.  Normally I don’t pay much attention to churches that I drive by, but this one had such a subtle, tasteful marketing tactic, I couldn’t help but notice. 

Actually, I believe their marketing is visible from the International Space Station. 
Picture, if you will, a sculpture of Jesus; arms lifted in praise of his Holy Father.  Now picture that same sculpture bursting forth from a lake, as if just surfacing from an underwater breath-holding contest, standing 62 feet from chest (at waterline) to the top.

This monstrosity is the erstwhile lawn jockey on a sprawling church grounds, or “campus” if you will.  (I was going to refer to it as an “estate”, but I’m a big believer in the separation of church, and estate.) 

I could tell that whatever denomination this represented, it raked in some serious cash.  Whatever patter these guys were pushing, it was apparent that it was working.  It occurred to me that while sometimes I strain for blog ideas, other times they just drop right on my head.  This was something I had to look into.  Possible alternate names for the church alone could fill a blog entry, but I decided I wanted to dig just a bit deeper on this whole thing.

Within minutes of my first Googling, I had to discard my first name idea.  It seems that many bloggers before me had beheld this sight, and committed their thoughts to cyberspace.  Worst of all, most had already referred to it as “Touchdown Jesus”, which I realize is borrowed from the Notre Dame icon, but is still quite a bit snappier than my initial idea of calling the organization, “The Church of the Converted Extra Point.”

There was a wealth of information at the church’s own website,  Turns out that these folks are evangelicals.  (I know, big surprise, huh?)  The church was founded by Lawrence and Darlene Bishop.  Their belief system covered the usual holy-roller tenets… The Holy Trinity, Son of God and literal bodily resurrection, speaking in tongues, the redemption of the saved and the damnation of the unsaved come judgment day, and of course, tithing.  In fact, they’ve even gone so far as to set up electronic “I-Tithing”, solely for our convenience of course.  We all know that shepherds can’t properly tend to their flock without an efficient method of fleecing them.  “Welcome to the Church for Those With Too Much Discretionary Income.  Praise Jesus for delivering us cyber-billing, in Pay-Pal we trust, amen”.

Being evangelicals, I’m a little surprised they have Jesus chest deep in their lake.  Shouldn’t he really be walking on top?  Instead they look like The Church of the Drowning Savior.  And shouldn’t the cross be bigger than He is?  It looks like he’s wearing it like one of those oversized Flava Flav necklaces.  “The Church of the Holy Fa-shizzle, can I get an A-mizzle?”

There were other news articles covering some intrafamilial fleecing.  It seems that Darlene Bishop’s recently deceased brother was a successful songwriter, and late in his terminal illness, signed over the executorship of his estate to her.  This included his monetary holdings as well as a song catalog, all said to be worth over a million bucks.  His children, who haven’t seen a penny yet, suggest he was coerced into signing it and accuse her of squandering the money.  According to the articles, she has admitted that she gave $40,000 to her church, $100,000 to a daughter to buy a house and denies knowing what a song catalog is, despite having recorded 5 of her late brother’s songs from said catalog, to sell on her own CDs. 

Current note: It appears Ms. Bishop somehow won this suit in 2007 due to insufficient proof, and is now being sued for the wrongful death of her brother.  It seems when he got cancer, she said that the Lord healed her of her breast cancer and counseled him to forego medical treatment.  His condition soon worsened and he died.  And it turns out she never had breast cancer.  There are several other listings of various lawsuits against these clowns on the first Google page alone.  Now back to 2006 when the outcome was unknown:

Is all of this true?  I don’t know… the trial was to have started in early December.  Do I believe it?  Absolutely.  It’s charlatans like this that prey on the weak of mind and weak of spirit.  It’s funny that however much God loves you; he still needs your money.  God needs your money, but the purveyors of the message live in mansions and work in expansive Spanish-deco “churches” paid for by the hard work of their sheep.  It disgusts me.  Was that 62 feet of Jesus built to glorify Him, or the Bishops?

Here’s a tenet from the Gospel according to Me, in other words, Bluz 3:16…  Anyone who claims to know the will of God is a fool or a con, and once the plate is passed, it’s usually the latter

Some things are destined to remain a mystery.  But there is a great amount of money to be made if you can convince people otherwise.  It’s especially sad that the most vulnerable among us are often the first to be taken in, and taken for all they’re worth.  I read some of the blog entries skeptical of this church, and judging from the resulting comments that defended it, they seemed to be using a computer at a library that couldn’t afford “spell-check.”  I was definitely tempted to take them to the Church of the Holy Roller-ball Red Pen.  

So out of all the alternate names I came up with, which did I like best?  Sadly, I liked the one that Rik, my traveling partner, suggested:  The Church of the Tribute to the Movie “Platoon.” 



Miley said...

It's not just a creepy Jesus, for all the reasons why you shouldn't have a giant Jesus in front of a church but it's an UGLY Jesus.

I actually LOLed about the flava flav "trinket". You're right - the cross should be bigger. Definitely.

Although, not as big as the ones in Baton Rouge that I will have to send you via email (if I can find it). It's ridonk.

bluzdude said...

Maybe it was Special Super Fast-Growing Jesus, that just grew himself right off that cross.

Mary Ann said...

The Pizza pics are definitely more inspiring. AMEN to Miles. They can at least feed the multitudes.

bluzdude said...

Maybe that's what Giant Jesus is doing... showing everyone how big a Myles Pizza is.

Cristy said...

Man, from far away, that thing looks like it might pass for something (humongous and weird, but) elegant, but the closeup reveals it's just as ugly as the manipulating that gathered the money that put it there. So sad.

And, you're so right about how it's the most vulnerable that are entranced by this bs.

Just a note, too, here: If you're gonna' do a ridiculously large statue, why not make it of a recognizable scene? When did Jesus ever stand chest-high in water with a pimped-up cross necklace? If you're gonna' build a monstrosity, could you not do it representing him with children or like you said, walking ON the water. Maybe they couldn't figure out how to do the legs:

Engineer: Mmm, I don't know about legs. Even the Statue of Liberty has a skirt on so you don't have to support the weight separately.

Preacher Dude: Ah, yes, but surely Jesus can support any weight.

Engineer: Um, yeah, but I can't guarantee it won't topple down.

Preacher Dude: I see your point. Couldn't have Jesus falling into the water. Ok, do what you can.


Bachelor Girl said...

Bluz, I'm gonna be real honest right now:

Maybe it's a byproduct of having grown up in a Catholic church that did not have air conditioning (or heat) and in which the priest lived in his one-room rectory/office (which the secretary also occupied for eight hours a day), but I just do not and probably never will trust churches that have cushioned pews.

Personally, I think it's a good policy.

bluzdude said...

I LIKE your thinking there!

I think they could still go the Statue of Liberty route… I mean, as far as we know, JC wore a robe. I’ve never seen a picture of him wearing pants.

(Although, how funny would it be, to show Him in a pair of cargo shorts… with pockets, he could keep pulling out fish and stuff?)

OK, my theory is that they build these big scary things exactly because they WANT people to be afraid… Afraid of God (and His wrath) and by extension, afraid of them. And scared people are easier to manipulate. Just look how many of our own liberties we voluntarily gave up immediately after 9/11. A frightened public is pliable, which gives more power to those thought to have an “in” with the higher power.

Just a hypothesis…

Cuz, when is someone going to catch on to marketing a newer, hipper Jesus? I mean, besides in the movie “Dogma”?

bluzdude said...

Bachelor Girl,
Damned straight! If you’re not suffering in church, you’re not trying!

The cushions are probably for when the parishioners “catch the spirit” and start rolling about, speaking in tongues.

The Random Blogette said...

Oh sweet Touchdown Jesus! I love when my Jewish mother-in-law has to drive by it and then she calls me..."I saw that gigantic Jesus again!" I always have to laugh! Everytime the hubs and I drive by it we scream "touchdown" and throw our hands up in the air. Yeah, I already know I am going to hell...I am a Catholic and married a Jew so there you go!

bluzdude said...

Right! Ohio in the house! So you know what I'm talking about...

It's funny the MIL calls every time... does she think it's going to go somewhere? Like maybe the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters?

Unapologetically Mundane said...

I didn't get AT ALL that it was a cross in front of him in that first photo. I have a netbook, so the photo was pretty small, but I swear it was detached limbs of some sort. You can imagined how disappointed I was with the later photos.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't seem evangelical as much as charismatic, prosperity bullshit.

Churches like this feature multi-million dollar facilities and pastors in $4000 suits. Their services are an infomercial playin' on poor folks' dreams and telling them that God wants them to be rich, too. "If God can do it for me, He can do if for you." Then, they tell people to give and God will give back in return if they have faith.

Freakin' Pharisees is what they are. Jesus went out of his way to hang out with loan sharks and prostitutes so that He wouldn't have to spend time with people like this. I think that Jesus statue is praying for a rescue line.

bluzdude said...

The Lord wearing dismembered limbs around his neck? Now THAT would be a hard-core church.


“Amen” to the gentleman with the carpet bag.

Nothing like taking classic American hucksterism and polishing it up with some holy water and setting it loose on the under-educated. They’re nothing but con-men. I wonder what they have to say about that quote about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. No wait… I bet they USE it… “give your money to ME, so you can get into heaven that much easier.”