Touchdown Zeus!

 By J.F. Sullivan

On Monday, June 14th, lightning struck and burned a 62-foot statue of Jesus in Monroe, Ohio.  The statue was nicknamed “Touchdown Jesus” because of its raised arms.

So is the lightning-wielding Olympian God Zeus finally getting some payback after the destruction of his own statue by Christians in the fifth century BCE?  Or, is this a statement from some other  god—unhappy with monotheistic dominance?  Perhaps the trinity isn’t as all-for-one and one-for-all as we were led to believe.  Has anyone questioned the spiritus sancti?  Suspicions are rising as apparently, this is not the first time a statue of Jesus has fallen victim to lightning.  According to the Washington Post’s Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn,

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.

Apparently Jesus is not the only target. Meacham and Quinn also report that saints, angels and the Virgin Mary have all fallen victim to lightning strikes.  Clearly something, or perhaps someone, is out to get the Christians.  It is even possible that America is to blame, since our own Lady Liberty has been struck several times herself.

Is the joke over?  Has this gone far enough?  Natural disasters and events like lightning occur all the time, but in recent years, groups and individuals of various religious traditions have been quick to blame natural disasters upon divine retribution for misbehavior and general decadence.  At last count the gays were winning hands down as the go-to cause for the world’s natural disasters.  The Aceh province tidal wave, Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, and even the Iceland volcano have all been blamed on various targets of God’s retributive justice. 


So what about ‘Touchdown Jesus’?  The pundits are conspicuously silent about this event. 

Apparently no one wants to read anything into it, but why not?  Worldwide roughly 10,000 people are killed each year by lightning; this seems a significant enough figure to warrant some blame flinging.  After all, if earthquakes, hurricanes, tidal waves, and volcanoes all get to be blamed on the actions of different groups or nations, why not lightning?  Do we really want to piss lightning off by not blaming someone for it?

What happens when we give supernatural import to natural events?  Are these different religious interpretations geared for the faithful?  I would say no.  It is no coincidence that the accused culprits are the latest target of those pointing the finger.  Now, thanks to said disaster, the individual or group can wag their finger and say “SEE!!” 

Unfortunately, this natural disaster blame game may be just another chapter in the ongoing trend of public religious individuals and institutions exchanging theological discussions for political discussions.  And as we have seen in recent years, the game of politics is not known for fairness, truth, accuracy, logic, or depth.  Therefore public political blaming by religious individuals and groups should be treated with the same skepticism and scrutiny as the politician who absolutely swears they “didn’t do it” or that email I just received from an exiled Nigerian Finance Minister.  While religious interpretation of life and the universe is an essential part of any religious institution, by substituting theological concerns for political concerns, theodicy is simply reduced to idiocy.

While it’s likely that the Monroe, Ohio Jesus statue was struck because it was a fiberglass cast built around a metal skeleton, it is far more interesting to imagine some divine retribution from the former king of the Gods.  So as long as we’re making things up and no one has yet come forward to assign religiously significant blame… I blame Zeus! 

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