Drive another quarter-mile up Interstate 75, past the billboards for Bristol's Strip Club and Trader's World Flea Market, and suddenly the image appears in all its full dimensions. Jesus, depicted from the waist up, is six stories tall and seems to burst from the ground, as if he might gather a tractor-trailer in his Honda-size hands and lift it to heaven.
After dark, the figure is illuminated by spotlights from below. "It sort of looms out at you, especially at night," said Aaron Andrews, a trucker from Milwaukee.
The statue, erected in 2003, was the inspiration of Lawrence and Darlene Bishop, evangelical Christian pastors of the 3,400-member Solid Rock Church here, which spent $250,000 on a project that did not go smoothly.
The image's steel frame was built in nearby Lebanon, Ohio, and the body, made of Styrofoam and fiberglass, on the beach in Jacksonville, Fla. The body was then trucked north. But when workers started installing the statue on an island in a man-made reflecting pool behind the church, they found that the head and arms were too small for the chest.
The builder, James Lynch, then spent three months ripping the fiberglass apart and recasting the outstretched arms and upturned face. The completed figure weighs 16,000 pounds and, at 62 feet, stands 20 feet taller than originally planned, though its skin is so thin that it bends to the touch of a finger...
There is also a running disagreement over the statue's name. Postcards for sale in the church's gift shop refer to it as the King of Kings. Many locals call it Touchdown Jesus, since, a bit like the famed mural at the University of Notre Dame, it resembles a robed and bearded referee signaling a score at the goal line. Others call it Super Jesus, MC 62ft Jesus (for the technomusician of a similar name) or simply Big J.
The image to me looks like Jesus is sinking in quicksand, and trying to get out.