Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 24, 2005, with the headline: “Super-sized Savior. Middletown, Ohio. Nicknamed ‘Super Savior,’ the 62-foot tall statue of Christ looms over land reclaimed from a cornfield. It dominates a once deadly stretch of Interstate 75 in southwestern Ohio that slices through some of the state’s fastest growing counties. There is even a new urban legend being created. Not long after a church had the road-side statue erected last summer, the highway suddenly became safe. ‘There were a lot of folks when I was growing up who used to have St. Christopher on the dashboard,’ said Butler County commissioner Mike Fox. ‘Maybe having a large statue of Jesus kind of takes care of the whole flow of traffic as it goes through.’ The safer street story is the latest twist involving the monolith whose upraised arms have been compared to a football referee signaling a score, earning it another nickname, ‘Touchdown Jesus.’ Those hands and arms, by the way, could hold a dump truck. In internet chatrooms, debate has been fierce between those with an affinity for the sculpted divinity, and those who question its purpose. Some of the more orthodox have protested that it violates a commandment against graven images. Others say it promotes idolatry. Mike Rundel, who drives past the statue every work day, says he was initially fascinated, but now is pretty much bored with the Lord. ‘Only, I still wonder,’ Rundel said, ‘why did the church spend that money that way?’ After 14 people were killed on that stretch of highway in 2000 and 2001, the state spent 1.1 million dollars to install a cable that runs down the median. The cable barrier is designed to stop vehicles from crossing into on-coming traffic. J. Hamilton, the highway agency engineer who designed the barrier, is not willing to give the giant Jesus the credit for ending the carnage. ‘I honestly think that Jesus can perform miracles. But I don’t think the statue was the miracle out there,’ he said. ‘It was the barrier.’”
Tom: Dave, I grew up in Ohio, and the largest thing to ever come out of Milton, Ohio was Jerry Lucas, the basketball player who was a Buckeye when I was a Buckeye. However, this new item, “Super Savior,” 62 ft. tall, to—what? To attract people to a church? Is this an item of religious significance? You know, it reminds me also nearby South Bend, Indiana—well, not too close, but not too far away—“Touchdown Jesus,” a mosaic on the wall of one of the buildings. What about these things? Do they have any religious significance? Are they an abomination? It’s certainly not Jesus, and don’t represent Him in any way that would be authentic.
Dave: They couldn’t possibly represent Jesus, because He certainly does not look like that. Furthermore, if this is intended to represent Jesus, as one of the men who was quoted here says, that’s idolatry. You’re forbidden to make any statue [or] image of God, and Jesus is God manifest in the flesh. But He now is in a resurrected, glorified body that doesn’t look at all like what they imagine He looked when He walked the dusty roads of Galilee. Tom, it is an abomination. What is the point? Is this supposed to draw people to Jesus?
Tom: I wonder.
Dave: Drawing them to this? This Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. Furthermore, it has nothing to do with the fact that He died for our sins, paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, that He is our Savior, and so forth. It is a form of idolatry if anybody worships it. If not, what is the point? As Rundel said, why did the church spend the money that way? And I’d like to know what church it was—it doesn’t tell us what church it was.
I noticed that one of the people, the Butler County commissioner Mike Fox says, “Well, when he was growing up, people used to have St. Christopher on the dashboard.” And you know about St. Christopher: he’s been discredited! There never was such a guy as St. Christopher except, I guess, millions of Catholics credited him, that statue, with saving their lives or keeping them safe on the highway. St. Christopher is gone. Now we’ve got “Super Savior.” That this would have anything to do with cutting down traffic deaths, Tom, that’s…
Tom: Well, here’s where it works its way into superstition, Dave. You know, it is an abomination, it is contrary to what the Word of God teaches, and if somebody said, “Oh, well, why are you making such an issue of this?” Look, at best, it’s a false representation. So you start with that. And out of that, not only in its disobedience to what the Word of God says, develop all kinds of superstitions. And that is the religion of man; that’s folk religion. That’s not biblical truth at all.
Dave: Tom, it’s a form of occultism, actually. See, if there is some power that comes from this statue that has cut down the deaths, the traffic accidents on that stretch of highway, it is not from God, because He does not honor idols. So it would have to be some other power. Would Satan somehow stop accidents along there or cut them down? Now, Satan has a lot of power. He took Jesus up on a mountain. He took Him up on a pinnacle of the temple. He showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Now, this is only if God allows this power. Satan has tremendous power. Maybe he could cut it down. Why would Satan want to cut it down? To cause people to believe in statues of Jesus instead of the real Jesus.
But, Tom, let’s get a little closer home: what about pictures of Jesus that people have on their walls? We’ve talked about it in the past, and people think I’m a fanatic about that. This is not Jesus, and people have all kinds of different pictures. They don’t even look like one another! I once made a study of the pictures of Jesus, portraits of Jesus by the greatest artists in history. None of them look like one another. Now, if they don’t look like Jesus, what is the point? And to whatever extent some picture you have on the wall at home influences your thinking about Jesus, and it is not accurate, you’ve been led astray. Furthermore, you’re being taken away from the true Jesus of the Bible and putting your trust in some representation, a misrepresentation of Him. The Bible has no pictures of Jesus. God could have given us a picture of Jesus if that was what we needed. No, the Bible is written in words. He is the Living Word of God. We’re born again by the Word of God that lives and abides forever. And this is the Word, Peter tells us, which by the gospel is preached unto you. And this statue, or pictures of Jesus, inhibit the gospel. They turn people away from the truth. And I would say that Satan would love to do that, and is doing that in many ways.