The Observer got our first look at the Statue of Liberation Through Christ last weekend, and found it unsettling. It captures your attention though, and that’s the idea, we suppose. Or part of the idea, anyway.
We were at the intersection of Kirby Parkway and Winchester in Memphis. We’d been through here many times before, and we’d noticed the big church on one corner. But this time, something had been added to the church lawn.
The Statue of Liberation through Christ was unveiled on the Fourth of July. It’s a half-sized version of the Statue of Liberty with a few other significant changes. The most significant is that the new statue holds aloft in her right hand not a torch, but a cross. The tablet cradled in her left arm is inscribed not with the Roman numerals for “July 4, 1776” but with the Roman numerals I through X, representing the Ten Commandments. A tear falls from one eye. “Jehovah” is inscribed on her crown.
The statue was erected by the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church, a predominantly black congregation that claims a membership of 12,000. The idea for the statue was conceived by the church’s pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams. Williams has written that the teardrop represents God’s response to such national ills as legalized abortion, lack of prayer in schools, and the promotion of “secularism and humanism.” Surely, homosexuality belongs on the list too. Williams has condemned homosexuality in full-page ads purchased in Memphis’ daily newspaper. The purpose of the statue, he’s said, is to let people know that God is the foundation of the nation, to reconnect patriotism with Christianity.
The statue is controversial. Some people don’t believe that Christianity and patriotism should be connected. Patriotic non-Christians are among this group. The day The Observer was present, a small group of protestors circled the statue, carrying signs that warned against the worship of graven images.
The official name of the Statue of Liberty is “Liberty Enlightening the World.” The Observer thinks there’s little enlightenment to be gained from the Memphis version.
Every summer, The Observer waits alertly — well, waits anyway — for the first newspaper photograph of a zoo polar bear sitting on a block of ice or eating a popsicle or frolicking under the spray from a hose or doing anything else that suggests zoo attendants are helping the bear survive the heat. The first one we’ve seen this year was on page one of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette July 20. An AP photograph, not local, it showed a polar bear swimming in a pool while a young boy watched. The overline was “Polar opposites,” apparently a mild effort by an editor to ameliorate the triteness. Usually, these things say something like “Can you bear it?” or “Bear-ing up.”
This polar-bear-in-the-summer photo has been around as long as newspaper photography, and The Observer is of an age that we like assurance some things never change, having learned that change is often for the worse.
But the main reason we appreciate these cliched images is that they signal help is coming. The photos don’t appear until mid-July or thereabouts — in the hottest days of summer, to be sure — reminding us that bad as things are, the road to relief is downhill from now on. We are past the summer solstice; though we probably haven’t noticed yet, the days are getting shorter, the blessed end of summer is at least imaginable.
Incidentally, The Observer has never heard of a polar bear that didn’t survive the summer heat. Old people, on the other hand, drop with frequency, but nobody wants to see a geezer on a block of ice.