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, www.solidrockchurch.org. 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.”