Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lady Liberty Trades In Some Trappings - New York Times

Another example of what's wrong in American Christianity today: "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.'

The Statue of Liberation Through Christ, as she is called, stands 72 feet tall from the base of her pedestal to the tip of her cross. She was the idea of Mr. Williams, a very successful pastor whose church, World Overcomers, qualifies as mega: it has a school, a bowling alley, a roller rink, a bookstore and, he said, 12,000 members.

The pastor is not shy. His church has bought full-page advertisements in The Commercial Appeal, the Memphis daily, condemning homosexuality. At the World Overcomers' previous location, neighbors complained that trees were felled unnecessarily; Mr. Williams said it had to be done so that people could see the church from the road."


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