As if Memphis isn't already gaudy enough with all that Elvis-worshiping going on at Graceland, a mega-church last summer erected what some might call a blasphemy not only to Jehovah and Jesus but to America and America's goddess.
Behold, the Statue of Liberation through Christ!
It's a $260,000 ridiculous eyesore that blurs the line between church and state, some say. Others call it "a creative means of just really letting people know that God is the foundation of our nation."
Whatever you call it, it's big. Standing 72 feet tall, this confused goddess is the brainchild of World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams. It is a replica of the Statue of Liberty, bastardized with the Ten Commandments under one arm and "Jehovah" inscribed on her crown.
Instead of a torch, she holds aloft a huge gold cross.
And, a single tear is on her cheek. How touching.
In "The Meaning of the Statue of Liberation Through Christ: Reconnecting Patriotism With Christianity," the Apostle Williams explains that the teardrop is God's response to what he calls the nation's ills, including legalized abortion, a lack of prayer in schools and the country's "promotion of expressions of New Age, Wicca, secularism and humanism."
At the unveiling last July 4th, Williams proclaimed, "I decree the spirit of conviction on this intersection. This statue proves that Jesus Christ is Lord over America, he is Lord over Tennessee, he is Lord over Memphis."
Williams is a prolific and opinionated writer. In another book, he said Hurricane Katrina was retribution for New Orleans' embrace of sin.
In yet another book, Williams promotes the theory that the original Statue of Liberty was given to the U.S. by France as a symbol of the emancipation of slaves in the U.S., not as a general gesture of good will. His church is predominantly black, and he bases his non-mainstream belief on the fact that Lady Liberty has a broken shackle around one ankle.
This idea has been debated for years, and the general consensus is that it is not true. The designer of the original statue, sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (a Freemason, by the way) was commissioned to build it. He had engineering help from Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer of Paris' Eiffel Tower. The project was a joint effort between France and the United States — France built the statue, and America built the pedestal, soliciting funds from the public to pay for it. It was timed to commemorate the USA's 100th birthday in 1876.
Williams certainly thinks big, and his church certainly qualifies as mega with its 12,000 members. It has a school, a bowling alley, a roller rink, and a bookstore.
I hope the store sells paperweight replicas of the statue. One would look swell on my shelf next to my bobble-head Elvis.
New York Times article, July 4, 2006
The U.S. Park Service
Statue of Liberation through Christ | Apostle Alton Williams | World Overcomes Outreach Ministries Church | Christianity | Jesus Christ | Burning Taper | BurningTaper.com