Statue of Liberation Through Christ
Green and strangely familiar, the Statue of Liberation Through Christ towers over a suburban Memphis intersection, her Christian cross held high as if repelling unseen forces of darkness. The statue, sculpted by Ryan Bessant in Alberta, Canada, weighs six tons (not counting its pedestal) and stands over seven stories high. She out-glorifies even the World Outreach Dome behind her, a megachurch that opened in 2001. The statue itself was unveiled with much fanfare on July 4, 2006.
Known familiarly as "The Lord's Lady Liberty" and "Lady Liberation," she is the brainstorm of Apostle Alton R. Williams, senior pastor of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church. Apostle Williams has written several books, filled multiple web pages, and even posted a couple of YouTube tutorials in an effort to lay out the vision and meaning behind his jaw-dropping statue.
According to Williams, the inspiration for the statue came from two sources (in addition to his faith): the nearby World's Tallest Three Crosses, which Williams would pass on the interstate, and a big Buddha statue that appeared on a nearby Memphis front lawn in 2004. Lady Liberation, wrote Williams, came together when he was thinking about these things and then saw the Statue of Liberty on a TV commercial. Bingo. Williams would build a "Christian derivative" Statue of Liberty.
When the statue was unveiled -- a giant shroud was dramatically pulled away -- a cry of protest quickly went up from a number of Statue of Liberty fans. They said that Williams was dishonoring a revered (and secular) American symbol. Williams argued that his statue and the Statue of Liberty were different -- and he had his design copyrighted and trademarked to prove his point.
Aside from the obvious Christian cross replacing the torch of enlightenment, Lady Liberation differs in several ways from Lady Liberty. Her crown is gold, it has the word "Jehovah" across its front, and each of its spikes is labeled with a different biblical "redemptive name" for God. The Statue of Liberation carries a Ten Commandments-shaped tablet. A single tear can be seen on her right cheek, symbolic, said Williams, of God's disappointment with the current state of America. Lady Liberation, unlike Lady Liberty, has visible eyeballs, and they seem sad.
The statue turned out so big that its artist, not wanting to waste space, asked Williams what he wanted in its base. Williams decided that the pedestal would make an ideal spot for a prayer chapel modeled on the Empty Tomb of Jesus. This later led to accusations that the chapel was built for people to worship the statue (it wasn't), and Williams closed the pedestal to the public.
Why use the Statue of Liberty at all? Williams says that "America belongs to God," so a hybrid of Christian and national icons was entirely appropriate. He notes that a giant statue of Moses wouldn't have been recognizable to non-Christians. He writes that he wants Lady Liberation to become a tourist attraction just like Lady Liberty, so that people who normally wouldn't go to church might stop and perhaps be saved.
The World Outreach Dome has thoughtfully provided a paved path from its capacious parking lot to the base of the statue (and souvenirs of Lady Liberation are available in the church's book shop). Our only grievance is that, despite her size, The Statue of Liberation Through Christ was never designed for people to go up to her crown -- although we accept that trying to glimpse the gas station across the street from behind the big "Jehovah" letters might not be overly inspiring.