I Am Sad That Giant Jesus Statue Burned Down

There, I said it.

All of you sent us this story about “Touchdown Jesus” being struck by lightning and burning to the ground, probably because it’s hilarious that God or Zeus or whoever hated that thing so much he quite literally had to kill it with fire. And while it did make me laugh, it also made me a bit sad for one important reason:

I like crazy freaks and the freaky giant roadside things they create to advertize their crazy freakiness.

But don’t worry! There are other roadside saviors out there.

Touchdown Jesus may be gone now, but I’m happy that we still have the third largest Jesus in the world: Gumby Jesus, the 67-foot tall Jesus of the Ozarks, who according to local legend had to be lowered a few feet to avoid the heathen law enforcement from giving him a blinking red beacon-halo to stop planes from crashing into his noggin.

Gumby Jesus is also known as Our Milk Carton With Arms, apparently.

If Jesus isn’t really your thing, go with another miraculous cheater-of-death: Mike the Headless Chicken. The story goes that his head was chopped off but he lived for 18 months afterward by being fed with an eyedropper through the hole in his neck. You can find his statue in Fruita Colorado.

Not a meat eater? Go for the 55-foot tall Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth Minnesota. He gave the world his only begotten son so we could enjoy peas in a can.

If you’re just looking for a savior (and who isn’t), you can see a very nice Obama-approved 15-foot tall bronze Superman in Metropolis, Illinois.

The point is, as much as I love the idea of lightning striking and burning down a ridiculous giant Jesus statue, I also love ridiculous giant statues in general. So I say, more of this kind of thing! Let’s erect an atheist roadside statue. A solid bronze Flying Spaghetti Monster? A 50-foot Darwin? Christopher Hitchens’ middle finger rising from the desert along some lonesome highway? Something. I think I’m going to start a new offshoot of the atheist bus campaign.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Hi There!

    Wasn’t James Claviezel struck by lightning like 8 times during the filming of The Passion of the Christ? Why hasn’t Phelps started picketing churches with big “God Hates Jesus” signs yet. It would surely be far from the craziest thing he’s done. o_0

    Of course, we know how this will all pan out. Christians will handwave it away as just a natural weather phenomenon. If it had been the Superman statue in Illinois, well THEN a bunch of Christians would have come out of the woodwork saying “God Hates Superman”. If a porn theatre had been struck by lightning, even MORE Christians would have nodded their heads knowingly. But Jesii getting struck by lightning is really just a normal everyday weather phenomenon.

    But I wonder if any Christians will think to say: “Gee, maybe God really MEANT that “No Graven Images” thing … ” ;)

  2. America tries, but it just can’t beat the big “He’s SAFE!” Jesus on top of that mountain in Rio. That’s the one I’d like struck by lightning, even though I am quite sure it would come to life.

    I think the one in Ohio that burned is really called the “King of Kings” statue. The original Touchdown Jesus is on the Notre Dame campus, visible behind one of the end zones in their football stadium.

    But it certainly adopted TD Jesus as a nickname, along with (according to Wikipedia) 8-Ball Jesus, Big Butter Jesus, Drowning Jesus, Swamp Jesus, and (my favorite) Quicksand Jesus.

    I’m on Rebecca’s side here. The story is funny, but I love wonderfully tacky giant crap. (I go to Vegas too much to feel otherwise.)

  3. Those of us who live near it call it the “Big Butter Jesus” as it looked like it was carved out of butter. “Touchdown Jesus” is at the Notre Dame Stadium. Get it right, people!

    There’s even a Big Butter Jesus song.

  4. I’ve also heard the Jesus statue in question referred to as Great Big Drowning Jesus. That’s actually my preferred term for it. Makes that stretch of the interstate interesting. :)

  5. Zapski’s right. The most accepted name from those who live around was Butter Jesus. I’ll miss him. He was the highlight of many a drive.

  6. “I like crazy freaks and the freaky giant roadside things they create to advertize their crazy freakiness.”

    YAY! I am so happy to learn that other people appreciate this particular brand of wackiness.

    In the farming community where I grew up, there’s this one barn that’s in a valley, kind of below road level, so you can see the roof? And the entire roof is taken up with a giant ‘JESUS LIVES’. It simply kills me.

  7. Yeah, what SkepGeek said. I can’t BELIEVE that now that you live in England you have chosen to forsake the big creepy giant people in your own backyard! Granted that they are not technically statues. However, I think this is more than made up for by the fact that Touchdown Jesus did not have a 30 foot long schlong.

    Speaking of other gigantic things, does the Nazca Line Spider Monster Created By Space Aliens Because The Natives Weren’t Smart Enough To Make That Crap Shut Up Von Daniken Said So count? That might not be its technical name.

  8. How about:
    – An atom symbol-shaped gazebo
    – A statue of a high voltage traveling arc (at least it’d look good being struck by lightning)
    – A giant working model of a Galilean telescope that, at noon every Feb 15th, concentrates light onto and scorches a statue of Urban VIII

  9. Yay I love giant sized versions of regular stuff, especially food and boobs, and if god chooses to smite them all the better.

  10. I am proud to report that Mexico is not to be denied in the “ridiculously large religious statue” department. This is “El Cristo del Cubilete”. Cubilete being a small mountain (or large hill, take your choice) located a couple of houndred miles away from Mexico City.

    The thing has songs written about it, one of the by one of mexico´s most beloved composers. Here… listen to it:

    It has a church where you can see all the riches being deposited there by all sort of wealthy characters who range from the successful businessman, to the corrupt politician to drugords.

  11. One wonders why a huge Jebus statue wouldn’t have a lightning rod or two, such as the ones on churches…Wait, what? Showing a disturbing lack of faith, you say? ;-)

  12. I always thought that there was a certain irony in the fact that this was directly on my way to Ikea. In my quest for minimalist, modern, European style I had to pass the gauntlet of the giant, agonized Butter Jesus.

    @Zapski: And there’s an ukulele version of that song, performed at the site itself by a friend of mine (the gal in the middle):

  13. When Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod (according to Isaac Asimov, the 1st time in history that scientific principles and research were used to create a useful invention, woot!), churches refused to install them because it would be showing a lack of faith in god, so for a long time after, barns, houses, town halls, bordellos, etc. were all protected but churches, which due to the steeples were usually the tallest structures around, continued get zapped by Zeus. Don’t know if it is true or not, but it’s a good story anyway.

  14. Born and raised in west Ohio, and I always heard him called Touchdown Jesus. Butter Jesus didn’t hit my radar until a year or so ago. Love the lightning story, love giant statues, but not sure that Darwin would be a great atheist road statue? Sure, he’s known for evolution, but he had some pretty strong pull toward religion as well, I thought? I’ll put my vote on the bronze FSM.

  15. @lkregula: I’d never heard our Jesus referred to as “Touchdown” until today. Is it an East/West side thing do you think? You know how wacky Cincinnatian’s are about that….

    (I’m East, btw – Mt Lookout, near Zip’s Burger. mmmmmmm…. Zip’s Burger…… may have to go get one now.)

  16. I never knew that there was so much of this stuff.

    @MathMike: My sympathy. That thing is really ugly and not just because it is a set of praying hands. Why do these things always have to be so ugly?

    @Bjornar: I love that the locals call it a flasher. What a waste of 200 tons of corten steel. If they were looking to keep the steel mill busy, they should have commissioned something from Richard Serra. His stuff may be ridiculously heavy and expensive but at least it looks nice.

  17. So they’re going to replace it, huh? Yes, because there’s certainly nothing better that $300,000 could be spent on. Helping those in need? Nah, we need a big friggin Jesus. Churches: man’s best invention for pissing away money.

  18. My home province has two “giant things” which I think are varying degrees of awesome (i.e.: one is NOT).

    A giant Pysanka (easter egg) in Vegreville: quote”The Pysanka is really an immense jigsaw puzzle containing 524 star patterns, 1,108 equilateral triangles, 3,512 visible facets, 6,978 nuts and bolts, and 177 internal struts. ” from
    (I love this, it’s beautiful (see it in summer!), it’s 27 ft long… and math-y… super awesome)

    And the UFO Landing Pad (paid for with a government grant! because Canadians sure know how to celebrate our nation’s centennial!). Seriously. Because aliens want to visit Northern Alberta?

  19. Fear not for the advertisement of their crazy. They’re rebuilding the fucking thing.

    Although, since the god of lightning destroyed the last one, shouldn’t they put up a statue of Tlaloc. That would look cool six stories tall by the road.

  20. Zapski- It might be east/west. I lived in the west (on the I-75 corridor, north) until a couple years ago. Then we moved east (Hint: Go Flashes!), and after a while I started hearing Butter Jesus. Those Cincinnatians are odd (husband’s family is from near Dayton/Cincy)…

  21. The Superman statue is about twenty miles from me. Because I live in southern Illinois, I find the city of Metropolis to be a weekly source of face-palming embarrassment. They take the Superman thing WAY too far.
    And also, not far from me is the Bald Knob Cross, which no one has mentioned yet. I have never been able to decide why Jesus would be happy with a giant version of the thing he was executed with. Silly Christians.

  22. @phlebas: “America tries, but it just can’t beat the big “He’s SAFE!” Jesus on top of that mountain in Rio. That’s the one I’d like struck by lightning, even though I am quite sure it would come to life.” – COTW!

  23. For some more sciency-themed giant statues/structures, there’s the 102m (~330ft) high Iron crystal molecule in Brussels called “the Atomium“.

    The inside is used as museum space, and there’s even a restaurant in the top atom.

  24. @Jparenti: The yellow doubledecker bus in front kinda helps as a size reference.

    The vertical connecting rods house an elevator, the lower 6 connectors each contain a long escalator.

    The 3 unsupported upper atoms are accessible, but not for the public, as they’re not capable of bearing the load (I’ve been inside one of them once, when I accidentally walked through a door that was supposed to be locked, and followed the staircase into it). Unlike the lower three, they look like what you’d expect the inside of an aluminum-clad steel structure to look like. Like the Statue of Liberty for example.

  25. For those who grew up on Long Island there is the Big Duck, in Flanders. I’ve been by it a few times and even went in as a kid when they were still selling poultry-related products. Interestingly, it has moved 4 times, but is now back at its original location just outside of the town of Riverhead.

    I love it, but many people have complained about it over the years.

  26. My theory is that god struck down that particular Jesus on aesthetic grounds. As can clearly be seen from the “before” and “after” pictures, the metal frame that remained afterwards was clearly the superior work of art.

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