The Time God Burned Up His Son — And They Rebuilt It


Top 5 Things You’ll Learn If You Read This Whole Thing:

  1. Never… ever… try to sneak a baptism in on a commune mom’s kid.
  2. Perhaps the sign we’re waiting for is our ability to do what we’re asking for a sign about.
  3. Touchdown Jesus lived near Cincinnati, Ohio.
  4. You can buy a lot of Band Aids instead of a Touchdown Jesus.
  5. If at first God gets rid of your abomination, try, try again.

As you might imagine, a kid raised on a commune isn’t going to come out with strong roots in any particular religion.

Oh, sure, we were plenty spiritual, All the Hippie Moms and Hippie Dads and Hippie Kids on our little plot of land amongst the redwoods in Northern California had a wide variety of rituals and spiritual beliefs. But they were hardly mainstream and certainly not of the “organized” variety.

One way to run afoul of the commune hierarchy, if there really was such a thing, was to try to force one of your beliefs on someone else. And I’m not just talking about spiritual beliefs. If you thought you had a better way to grow potatoes, well, you were well-served to at most hint around the edges of it to your neighbors rather than directly tell them what they should be doing.

As a general rule, commune folk will purposefully, willfully not believe whatever someone tells them they should believe.

This isn’t to say we were devoid of followers of mainstream religions on the commune over the years. We did. Lots of them. We’ve had a ton of Buddhists, as you might imagine. Some Taoists. Even an Orthodox Jew — for a few months, anyway.

The most problematic folks we had on the commune by far, though, were the Christians.

Oh, to be sure: They were nice folks. All of them. Man, woman and child. The problematic part came when they tried to live out their religion’s Great Commission.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

You see, the commune didn’t consider itself a nation and thus claimed an exemption from Jesus’ instructions to his disciples and their many, many friends through the ages.

The closest things ever got to truly careening out of control was when my friend Cloud’s Hippie Mom went down to the river that served as our northern border and saw one of the Christian newcomers, a lady by the name of Genevieve, about to dunk her son and baptize him.

She was not happy.

Thankfully, Cloud’s Hippie Mom was an avowed pacifist, so matters were settled amicably that evening over a bowl of quinoa.

As far as I was concerned, the Christians who called the commune home were just fine, if not a little bit pushy in just about everything. No matter how long they were on the commune, they never quite assimilated like the other mainstream religions’ followers did.

And every once in awhile, their beliefs would just sort of slip out at the worst times.

One year, our crops — the food that sustained us — were not doing well. I’m talking really not well. There were murmurs all over the commune about the predicament we’d be in come winter if things didn’t turn around fast. And trust me when I say this: Most, if not all the families on the commune would have rather starved to death than eat food that came from a grocery store.

Things were looking really, really bleak. That’s when, one night during our fire circle time, a big, burly Christian man named Zeke let out a “Lord, just give us a sign!”

Let me be clear: We didn’t do signs. We didn’t need signs. Signs were dangerous. The more you waited around for a sign to do something, the less time you had to do the something, whether that was to take in a stranger in search of a new start or try a different tactic to salvage your crops so you all didn’t end up dead come winter.

Everyone just sort of looked at Zeke, whose eyes remained turned toward the heavens in eager anticipation of God’s instructions. His breath was ragged and heavy, almost like a dog’s after a long walk on a summer afternoon. Eventually — and it took longer than you might think — Zeke realized that not only was God going to remain silent for the moment but that around a hundred people were staring at him like he had a second head on his shoulders.

He finally became aware of his surroundings and started eyeing all of us nervously. We just looked at him. And then, trying to sound as casual as possible, he said, “What? What did I do?”

As was our norm, we didn’t wait for Zeke’s sign. We got to work and we figured it out and we didn’t starve to death that winter. It sometimes makes you wonder if our ability to solve the problem we’re asking for a sign about is actually the sign itself.

All of this is not to suggest that God or Allah or whatever you want to call the higher power that seems to have at least some interest in what’s going on with us humans does not deliver signs. I believe he — or she or it or whatever — does.

But I’ll be damned if we humans aren’t the worst at seeing them.

Touchdown!

Take, for example, the folks from the Solid Rock Church, a 4,000-plus member mega-prayer factory near Cincinnati, Ohio.

The church sits off the side of one of this nation’s great thoroughfares, Interstate 75, which also happens to be one of this nation’s great drug-trade routes. Not saying there’s any connection between the two, but I’m not saying there’s not.

Anyway, the church became famous (infamous) in 2004 when it took a whole bunch of pieces of sculpture and assembled it into a six-plus-story statue of Jesus with his arms, much like Zeke’s eyes that one day, upward toward the heavens, full of beseeching.

Or, if you took a decidedly more secular look at the statue, you might have thought he was emphatically signaling the game-winning score in the most important Super Bowl in the history of the world.

That secular view of sculptor James Lynch’s work led to the statue being dubbed “Touchdown Jesus.”

And now you see why.

On June 14, 2010, a storm rumbled across southwest Ohio. A big storm. An angry storm. A storm that some might say was full of the wrath of God. For at around 11 p.m. on that dark and stormy night, God poured down his heavenly judgment — in the form a lightning bolt right to the massive dome of his one and only son.

The result looked something like this:

Or, if you need some moving pictures set to Metallica music, like this:

When it was all over, Jesus looked wasn’t looking so good:

Which is actually somehow worse than how he looked after the beating he took in that Mel Gibson flick.

Or as it was so gloriously depicted by Mr. Gibson and then set to contemporary Christian music:

Yowsa. That was rough.

On that stormy spring night, God wasn’t all that subtle with his sign that maybe spending $250,000 for a graven image is a poor use of funds if you’re commanded to reach all nations with the message of Christ. No, the holy fire spread to the amphitheater surrounding the statue, leading to even more damage. In the end, the bill came in at $700,000.

Let that sink in for a second:

A church.

In Ohio.

Spent.

Seven-hundred thousand dollars.

On a statue.

A statue.

Now, let’s say for a second that the folks of Solid Rock Church near Cincinnati, Ohio, had taken a little more time to read of the words of their savior and a little less time building statues. They might have read Matthew 25:31-40 — oh-so-close to that Great Commission thing:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, “I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Matthew 25:31-40

To be sure: The leaders of the church surely had programs that reach out into the world to feed the poor, to give them something to drink, to house them, to clothe them, to heal them, to comfort them in the worst trials of their lives.

I’m just wondering how much more feeding, drinking, clothing, healing and comforting could have been done with the spare $700,000 that evidently was just laying around looking for a gaudy display of religion gone wrong.

Well, they could have bought 175,000 Big Macs for the hungry among us.

Or 384,615 bottles (2-liters!) of Diet Coke to quench their thirst.

Or more than 30 years of housing for one family or one night of housing for 11,111 families at the Red Roof Inn by the airport near Cincinnati.

46,666 Kurt Cobain fans would have been happy

Or they could have bought a new Nirvana T-shirt — ya know, the cool one with the happy face and the X’d out eyes — for 46,666 people in need of covering.

Or, to help with that whole healing thing, 8,750,951 Band Aids — not the crappy off-brand ones that fall off in five seconds, but the brand-name ones that rip your arm hair and some of the new skin off when you yank them free.

And, well, prison visits don’t cost much more than some gas and some time, but if they wanted to get the prisoner you’re visiting some chips from the vending machine, they could have done so on 933,333 consecutive visits without running out of money.

Exit Touchdown Jesus, Enter New-and-Improved Jesus

The good news is that the folks at Solid Rock Church near Cincinnati, Ohio, realized in the wake of the blaze that such ostentatious displays of religious symbolism built at the expensive of actually living out the tenets of the religion surely brought on the little zap of power from on high. They smartly took it as a sign to clean up the site of Touchdown Jesus and turned it into the Touchdown Jesus Homeless Shelter.

Or they decided to take the insurance money and rebuild it.

If you chose B, you’re right, because hell no were they going to let a little thing like a random naturally occurring electrostatic discharge during which two electrically charged regions temporarily equalize themselves, causing the instantaneous release of as much as one gigajoule of energy (that’s 1 billion joules, if you’re curious) stop them from turning their church into a roadside attraction.

So they took the $500,000 they got from the insurance company and — oh, wait, you’re wondering why they got $500,000 in insurance money for a $250,000 statue? Well, that’s what they insured it for because they factored in the value of the donated time of the sculpture’s designer, Brad Coriell.

Yes, really.

Where were we?

So they took the $500,000 they got from the insurance company and, rather than use it to buy Big Macs, Diet Cokes, Red Roof Inn stays, Band Aids or prison chips, they contacted a guy named Tom Tsuchiya and said, “Build me another one. Except this time, make it fireproof.”

Just more than two years after God expressed his mild displeasure with the first statue, the church dedicated a new one, called “Lux Mundi” but also and more hilariously called “Hug Me Jesus.”

So far, so good. God has either not figured out a way around the whole fireproof thing (though he’s got a good win percentage against such claims. See also: “Unsinkable.”) or has focused his wrath on other abominations to his glory, like Jerry Falwell Jr.

Psst. That’s not your wife, Jerry.

The good thing about Hug Me Jesus is that, unlike Touchdown Jesus, we get a better look at Jesus’ right nipple and a peek at his toesies.

Though I must say I am a bit disappointed they put him on a stone pedestal instead of going all-in and doing something that would have given him the appearance of walking on water.

Meh. There’s always next time.

Q.F. Conseco is the relative of website owner and Storyteller-in-Chief John Agliata. He lives outside Escandido, California, near the Hellhole Canyon Preserve with his wife, Flaca, and their three children, Franz, Hans and Helga. All three are homeschooled and extremely unsocial. Q.F. is a singer, songwriter and poet when he is not working as a trimmer for a large medical marijuana growing operation in Humboldt County, California. He has a small statue of the Buddha in his meditation space.


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