Seeking out the Flying Spaghetti Monster

We were actually in search of the notorious Flying Spaghetti Monster as we wheeled around the courthouse square, which we found bland and empty. My daughter, Chauncey, was disappointed, as she was the one who broke the story to me about my hometown of Crossville, TN, making national news with an appearance of said monster alongside a sculpture of Jesus on the Cross and the Statue of Liberty on the courthouse lawn.


It seems a Letter to the Editor was written expressing displeasure over the one-sided view of religion expressed on the Cumberland County Courthouse lawn in the form of large carved sculptures representing Jesus and the Apostles at The Last Supper. Why not let there be diversity of expression, why not include symbols of the Jewish or Muslim faiths, its writer asked.

In response, local CCHS art student, Ariel Safdie, whose dad I actually know from high school, created her personal rendition of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and in the spirit of Freedom of Religion and Expression, placed it alongside the other sculptures.

Our goal that day was to secure our own photo of it, but the FSM had obviously flown on.

We then headed out First Street, the better to wave at the aforementioned ‘Purple House’ and caught a glimpse of a smallish Statue of Liberty at the public library. Then alongside the road, we spotted, ensconced in natural grassy splendor, Mathew, Mark, Luke and the rest hoisting their wine glasses and gesticulating and, adjacent, Jesus, upright, dragging his authentic dogwood cross.

Just as we wheeled in and began taking photos, a jeep pulled up and deposited a sandy-haired fellow in bright red shirt, who genially welcomed us and proceeded to give us the complete tour that extended to many more sculptures behind a fence. I would say, in its way, it was as enjoyable as visiting Mdm. Tussaud’s Museum in London with my young children back in ’97, since we were able to speak with the artist himself!

John Teeple, the wood craftsman who executed the tableau, seemed a bit surprised at the controversy that ensued over the past few months, as the mayor himself approved their placement there, he said. His commentary on the details of his creations gave me much insight beyond what my eyes and camera lens might have seen. He seems a genuine fellow, who just happens to enjoy carving up old tree trunks into whatever his mind’s eye sees in the wood.

He mentioned that when he was carving Jesus’ face, a red stained pigment within the wood itself appeared, symbolic he felt of his connectedness to the subject matter. Up to that point he finished most of the sculptures naturally, allowing the graining to be a natural enhancement and patina, but has more recently, pointing out the almost-complete over-life-sized pirate, begun to incorporate multiple colored paint finishes.

John pointed with a big smile to his Surfer Girl, his current project which is sure to raise some eyebrows when parked around town. Surfer Girl, face smiling and hair blissfully blown back in the joy of the moment, (debatably swimsuit clad when viewed from the other end) is to be mounted on the top of his pickup truck, which is going to be converted to a ‘woodie’ – a retro-look paneled pick-up truck.

Many of the earliest works seem to have sprung from Biblical themes, – Jesus with the Little Children – red and yellow, black and white, Samson, a hunk of a guy in a hunk of wood, sporting only half his beard, the other half hanging in Delilah’s hand as she flourishes a razor in her other. The Three Wise Men and other components of Nativity Scenes are popular, he says, and sell from $2,000 – $12,000.

I found his most striking work, still in progress unshellacked, to be a wild haired Medusa, carved entirely from a single cherry tree. All of this was challenging fodder for photo-taking, as so much was crammed into such a small space. John told us that plans are underway to move many of the sculptures to a permanent home near the ‘biggest treehouse in town’ built by a friend of his. A visit there will be on our agenda for our next trip to the Plateau.

For more photos of individual sculptures including a guitar-playing bear with an Elvis-like sneer curved on his bearish little mouth, see my posts at: http://www.pbase.com/qwertycards/woodcarver

Rolling Stone magazine scooped this small-town story in an April issue and online, even Scientific American magazine has addressed the FSM phenomenon which began in 2005:
“An elaborate spoof on Intelligent Design, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is neither too elaborate nor too spoofy to succeed in nailing the fallacies of ID. It’s even wackier than Jonathan Swift’s suggestion that the Irish eat their children as a way to keep them from being a burden, and it may offend just as many people, but Henderson, described elsewhere as a 25-year-old “out-of-work physics major,” puts satire to the same serious use that Swift did. Oh, yes, it is very funny.”

If you are uninformed, as I was, about the FSM, you can be enlightened at: http://www.venganza.org/

A disclaimer: go there at your own risk and with an open mind!

Photos & Commentary

Copyright 2008
Laura Brookhart

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2 comments on “Seeking out the Flying Spaghetti Monster”

  1. That is awesome. I wish you had found the FSM statute!

  2. Okay… I’m starting to see the “big picture”, the one that picks up after visiting your PBase site. The pastabilities are enormous.

    Great blog!


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