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The Statue of Liberation Through Christ

This statue, outside a Memphis megachurch, is stirring up some controversy.

Photo Statue of Liberation Through Christ Rollin Riggs for The New York Times At a megachurch in Memphis, the Statue of Liberation Through Christ was consecrated Tuesday. The statue, says the church's pastor, is a way of 'letting people know that God is the foundation of our nation.'

On Independence Day, Lady Liberty was born again. As the congregation of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church looked on and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, presided, a brown shroud much like a burqa was pulled away to reveal a giant statue of the Lady, but with the Ten Commandments under one arm and “Jehovah” inscribed on her crown. And in place of a torch, she held aloft a large gold cross, as if to ward off the pawnshops, the car dealerships and the discount furniture outlets at the busy corner of Kirby Parkway and Winchester that is her home. A single tear graced her cheek.

It was not clear if she was crying because of her new home, her new identity as a symbol of religion or, as the pastor said, America’s increasing godlessness. But although big cheers went up from the few hundred onlookers at the unveiling, and some people even wore foam Lady Liberty crowns bearing Christian slogans, she was not universally welcomed.

Most of the customers at the Dixie Queen food counter near the church viewed the statue as a cheap attention grab, said Guardia Nelson, 27, who works there. “It’s a big issue,” Ms. Nelson said. “Liberty’s supposed to have a fire, not a cross.” Elena Martinez, a loan officer visiting Memphis from Houston, said her family was speechless at the sight. “The Statue of Liberty has a different meaning for the country,” Ms. Martinez said. “It doesn’t need to be used in a religious sense.” At the pizza place next door, Amanda Houston pronounced the combination of the Statue of Liberty and Christianity “ridiculous,” though her co-worker Landon Condit was far less critical: “I can’t see anything wrong with it. This is the Bible Belt.”

[…]

In “The Meaning of the Statue of Liberation Through Christ: Reconnecting Patriotism With Christianity,” [Williams] explains that the teardrop on his Lady 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.” In another book, he said Hurricane Katrina was retribution for New Orleans’s embrace of sin.

Frankly, while I find it immensely tacky, it’s not as if religious leaders don’t expropriate patriotic symbols–and secular leaders, religious ones–on a regular basis. Indeed, it’s a practice as old as the Republic.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Hyscience says:

    The Statue of Liberation Through Christ…

    While OTB finds it “immensely tacky,” I appreciate the statement that the pastor “believes” he’s making – and at the same time find it “somewhat” tacky. I say this in spite of the fact that ……

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  2. B. Minich says:

    Christian tackyness strikes again!

    Many Christians are the most tacky people I know.

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  3. This isn’t very unusual at all.

    I have seen the Statue of Liberty in Japan, Taiwan and China adorning everything from hotels to shopping malls to bus advertisements. Sometimes she is unchanged, others she has been modified to hold something or another. This figure would fit right in over there.

    One can argue it is one thing for Americans to do it and another for Asians just trying to get attention of consumers with a little Americana, bit it isn’t exactly unprecedented.

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  4. B. Minich,

    Do you also see hostage be-headings as an example of many Muslim bloodthirstiness?

    I find it ironic that they would use a simple that could arguably be traced to pagan Babylon or a pagan roman goddess for a Christian symbol.

    Just as with the BDS rants, not all free speech helps your cause. I don’t see this persuading many people who weren’t already persuaded.

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  5. Anderson says:

    The funny thing to me is, some far-left unwashed artist could’ve gotten a smaller version of this thing in the Whitney.

    It’s shorthand for a thoroughly recognizable point of view … right up there with “if English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for the schoolchildren of Texas.”

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  6. McGehee says:

    A few years back some pastor made up a flag similar to the U.S. flag but with a cross where the stars used to be. Some people reading about it in the paper went ballistic over what they saw as evidence of The Coming Theocracy™.

    In light of a recent AFP tirade about our “flag epidemic,” that memory and this story are worth a belly laugh.

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  7. floyd says:

    anyone offended by this statue has desparately NEEDED to be offended for a long-long time. their tiny little minds, shrunken by years of being “machine-washed” by the liberal establishment, can’t “cotton” to a little tolerance, which might stretch them back to a broader view point, and maybe a “dryer” sense of humor![lol]

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  8. RH says:

    Floyd is completely off base.

    The statue of LIBERTY being turned into a religious symbol for a specific religion is INtolorance not tolorance.

    I respect their right to free speach. But I also have the right to be offended and that is an offensive display. Its completely contrary to the concept of liberty. Its also amazing how ignorant this group is of history.

    Oh well. Its a group that claimed katrina was god’s revenge on New Orlens so what should we expect?

    But Floyd is still wrong. This should be offenceive to any american.

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  9. RH says:

    Just notice this, from THEIR website:

    “THE STATUE OF LIBERTY represented a chance and opportunity for them to live, work and worship as they chose

    Do these people even read what they write?

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  10. shirley says:

    The statue is located at a busy intersection. It’s a distraction that does not have people thinking about their relationship with Jesus or God and country. It does have them wondering why church leaders would spend $260,000 in such a manner and asking if this is just a ploy for attention.

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  11. tom says:

    Hundreds of other Statues of Liberty have been erected worldwide. There is a sister statue in Paris and several others in France; they exist in Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Vietnam; one existed in Hanoi during French colonial days.

    There are replicas in theme parks and resorts, replicas created as commercial advertising, and replicas erected in U.S. communities by patriotic benefactors, including no less than two hundred donated by Boy Scout troops to local communities.

    During the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, Chinese student demonstrators in Beijing built a 10 m image called the Goddess of Democracy, which sculptor Tsao Tsing-yuan said was intentionally dissimilar to the Statue of Liberty to avoid being “too openly pro-American”.

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  12. Keith says:

    I think this idea is very creative. It brings us back to the founding father’s intent for this nation: a Christian nation founded on the principles of the Bible. Somehow we have strayed away from. People are free to worship as they want just like we are free to damage our bodies with wrong foods, etc. But does that make it right? Read John 14:6
    p.s. In all your getting, get understanding.

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