09/25/2012 01:20 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

"Hug Me Jesus" Resurrects But What Does It Mean?

In Monroe, Ohio at Solid Rock Church there was a giant statue of Jesus with arms wide open toward Interstate-75. That was until 2010, in what some could consider divine comedy, the statue was struck by lighting and promptly burst into flames, leaving nothing but it's skeletal remains behind. Although safely situated in New York, and San Francisco now, I can look back and laugh at the absurdity of these giant sculptures, there is a real seriousness around them. As the election debates increasingly circle around issues of religious dogma, mostly surrounding women's and queer rights, these statues are not to be ignored or laughed off. Living near a 100-foot cross myself was not exactly perceived as a symbol of warmth and embracement, but rather a missionary imposition. To my small circle of artsy friends, these statues felt like demands for us to change our beliefs and to conform, with an underlying threat of eternal damnation. These are powerful symbols that are being thrust onto a public with different beliefs and traditions.

... the point has become conversion and subsequent salvation, certainly a type of theology I cannot get behind, and one that makes me feel very uncomfortable.
Now, two years later, the church has re-installed another large statue of Jesus to once again become a beacon of their religion, a giant icon planting itself into the highway goers' landscape. Having grown up only an hour drive from this statue, I have friends who live nearby and I have even driven by it several times on my way to Cincinnati, Ohio. I wish I could say passing the statue felt foreign, but drivers passing through my own hometown in Richmond, Indiana on Interstate-70 will see a 100-foot tall white cross marking, amongst other things, a rehabilitation center for youths with drug problems or youths who are 'struggling' with homosexuality.