Gary: This week’s item is from the Bend, Oregon, Bulletin, dateline, Zillah, Washington. “And a ‘B’ movie monster shall lead them. In West Zillah, where city starts to blend into farmland, the ten-foot-tall skeleton of a T-Rex lords over the gravel parking lot of a rambling ranch-style church.
“Below its fierce maw, gripped in one white steel claw hand, is a cross. In the other hand is a vacant placard. Godzilla, the mascot of the Church of God in Zillah, is patiently awaiting his marching orders. ‘We thought about putting service times on it,’ says the Reverend Gary Connor, referring to the empty plaque in Godzilla’s left hand. The congregation hasn’t yet decided where to plant ‘the beast that stomped Tokyo’ out front on Shane Road, or in a playground in the back.
“Undecided, too, is whether to permanently illuminate Godzilla’s beady red eyes. ‘We thought about mounting it by the road with a motion sensor,’ says Connor, ‘so that every time a car went past, it’s eyes lit up.’
“Godzilla was built and donated several months ago by a mechanic and a carpenter who attend the church, and, for the moment, only lies low in the church parking lot between parade gigs, when it’s drawn in a trailer behind the church’s drill team. After church members decide where to permanently locate the beast, they’ll consider covering the steel frame with reptilian flesh for authenticity.
“Of course, the Godzilla hubbub didn’t start with the T-Rex skeleton outside. Before the Godzilla statue, there were the popular T-shirts picturing a Godzilla clutching a golden cross in post-urban stompage. The only building left standing? The church, of course.
“’It’s Godzilla—that is, God, Zillah, squashing evil,’ says Connor. Figures Connor, ‘When God gives you a serendipitous homonym, such as The Church of God, Zillah, it’s your duty to find a way to capitalize on it. It’s brilliant, really, and it just fell in our laps,” he says.
“Connor sees Godzilla as something of an evangelist, beckoning in curious passersby, who would then hopefully stay on to hear the Word. So far, the monster has done its job, helping spread the church teachings well beyond the Zillah community. ‘As you drive past, the kids go, “I want to go to the church where Godzilla goes!”’ says Connor, who’s fifty and an admitted fan of old monster movies. He shrugs, ‘Different people use different lures to catch fish.’ Also, he thinks, the monster lets people know his church isn’t ‘made up of religious martinets who can’t take a joke.’”
Tom: Dave, I know some people are pulling their hair out over this. On the other hand, some people are thinking, Well, you know, whatever it takes to get people into church—let’s go for it! What do you think?
Dave: Tom, you can’t—you must have made this up! This isn’t really happening in the town of Zillah, Washington, is it?
Tom: It’s the Zillah Church of God.
Dave: Well, I guess it’s kind of an indication that the Bible is not enough. Jesus Christ is not enough. The truth is not enough. “Let’s get Godzilla in on this.” This reptilian critter has got a cross in one of his paws, his hand, or… Tom, I can’t take it seriously! It’s incredible that somebody would do this. Anything to get people to come to the church, and “I want to go to the church that Godzilla goes to…”
Tom, I can’t take it! I can’t believe it! And yet, I guess that’s symptomatic of the day in which we live. The Bible isn’t enough? I find the Bible the most exciting book in the world! It is fantastic! I get excited about the Bible. But now, we’ve got to get something else to draw them in? Tom, it’s just incredible.
Tom: Dave, a very wise young youth pastor—youth pastors have to deal with this [sort of] thing all the time. I mean, you have to attract kids—at least, that’s what they’re told.
Tom: And, he said (I don’t know if it was original with him,) but he said, “What brings them in keeps them in.” The idea is if they’re brought in by novelty, if they’re brought in by something exciting or bizarre, or whatever it might be, that’s what they’re looking for.
Tom: We’re in a day of advertising. We’re in a day of infomercials and all of that, but it cannot be applied to somebody who’s seeking out truth—God’s Word, God himself, I don’t think.
Dave: Well, Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” And I don’t think Godzilla is one of those who points the way to Christ! On what basis would he point the way to Christ? Godzilla is, of course, a fictitious character. An evil monster, in fact! What relationship does he have to the Bible, and why—why? This is fantasy?! Why would someone, then, on the basis of this fantasy creature, this monster, this evil critter, then come to a church, and you would expect that that would be their path into the truth and into Jesus Christ. Tom, it’s again tragically symptomatic of the day in which we live, and I’m sure most of our listeners are just shocked by this, and yet here it is! It’s happening! I thought you’d made it up!
Tom: No. He says, just to finish off the article, he says, “What’s the Church of God take on this? So far, Connor hasn’t heard any grumblings. ‘I’m not really sure the denomination likes being affiliated with the big lizard,’” said Connor, ‘but so far, they’ve been pretty cool.’”
Well, I don’t know if “cool” is the right word, but that’s the day in which we live, Dave!