Memphis Trip, Part 1

I’ve been in Memphis for a couple hours, and here’s a preview of what I’ve seen:

StatueSmall

Your eyes are not deceived. It’s the Statue of Liberty holding a cross, property of World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church. The New York Times covered it last summer when it was unveiled.

The statue, inspired by a Memphis church that has three giant crosses, strikes [Pastor Alton R. Williams] as “a creative means of just really letting people know that God is the foundation of our nation,” he said.

What’s that? A Memphis church with three giant crosses? That would be Bellevue Baptist Church. My host, Chris Stahl, drove me past those as well:

3Crosses

I wonder which church Jesus loves more…


[tags]atheist, atheism, Memphis, Statue of Liberty, cross, World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church, New York Times, Pastor, Alton R. Williams, Bellevue Baptist Church, Chris Stahl[/tags]

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I wonder which church Jesus loves more…

    Ugh, neither…

    I think he more goes in for these kind of churches.

  • Richard Wade

    Ah yes. The Torch of Liberty replaced with an instrument of torture. How apt. Being a sculptor, when I first saw this abomination I retched. I’m glad Bartholdi didn’t live to see this. Or my agnostic dad who fought in two wars to protect liberty, for that matter.

  • Mriana

    That is bad and over the top, but I like your response to all of that:

    “I wonder which church Jesus loves more.” Priceless Hemant. :)

  • Richard Wade

    Mike, that is one amazing church under the bridge. So gritty and unpretentious. The photos of the biker types in the congregation are very cool. It makes me wonder how many more of that church’s recovery programs, food and social services programs for the people could have been funded by the money it took to build that monstrosity of a statue in Memphis.

  • Richard Wade

    You know, those three white crosses are so tall that there’s probably a lot of wind up there. If the horizontal beams were made into propellers and allowed to rotate, they could generate a heck of a lot of kilowattage. They’d look like crosses for a fraction of a second every 3 or 4 seconds, and they’d show how Baptists can be environmentally friendly too.

  • Lena

    I live right down the street from Bellevue actually. It’s a running joke with my friends that Bellevue should be called Six Flags Over God. Those crosses came about three or four years ago and since then they have been lighting up the night sky for miles around. Seriously, I can go out in my front yard any night and see the glow from those things. The statue of liberty thing I was not aware of. That is slightly disturbing. Please don’t get the wrong idea cos all of us who live in Memphis are not hardcore fundemental Christians!

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I’ve been impressed with them too Richard.

    I have some friends in Waco that attend the Church Under the Bridge there. And my wife’s parent’s church is involved helping the Church Under the Bridge in Austin, TX that spun off of this one. They do good work.

    And I like the idea of turning them in to giant windmills! Might as well get some good use out of them. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    The photos of the biker types in the congregation are very cool.

    My favorite one is of the person holding a cigarette (which was taboo in the conservative circles I grew up in) on top of an open Bible and a book titled “The Essentials of God’s Love”. Very apropos IMO.

  • http://www.everyhomeachurch.blog.co.uk Philip

    Loved the photos, depressing but funny!

  • Mitch Clayton

    Has anyone read “The Case for Christ”? Not trying to stir up any big debates, but the guy who wrote the book started out as an atheist trying to disprove God, but uncovered evidence that he found to be overwhelmingly in favor of a Creator…….Just wondering if atheist have ever seek out whether or not there is a God by investigation…..Like I said, not trying to stir up any big debates, but Jesus is so real and so important in my life that I feel like I’m doing a dis-service to Him and other people who don’t know him if I don’t say how great it is to be a follower of Jesus.

  • Siamang

    Mitch,

    You should go ask this question on the discussion boards.

    This is an old thread from last year. People aren’t likely to see and respond to your question here. Visit the discussion board.

    I’ve done investigation like you said for decades. After awhile it’s pretty clear that it’s all myth.

    I’ve read enough of Lee Strobel to know he’s not going to convince any atheists…. he’s not very good about getting both sides of the discussion… he just wants to win souls for jesus, and if he can do it better by leaving out the stronger arguments against “the Case”, then he’ll do that.

    In other words, he’s stacking the deck. I want an honest inquiry, not a sales pitch.

    But since you threw Lee Strobel out, I could ask you the opposing question, have you read the books of Bart Erhman? He is one of the most highly regarded scolarly experts on Biblical History of our time. He started out an evangelical Christian until he studied the bible and biblical history. His studies proved to him that the Bible was not inerrant… he lost his faith and became an agnostic.

    Investigation… it flows both ways, Mitch. You should investigate what you’ve been taught… and not just the easy, slow-pitch softball questions that Strobel asks.

    I’m glad that you’re happy with being a follower of Jesus. I’m happy being an atheist. Do you know WHY I’m happy? Because I don’t have to be a salesman about it. I don’t have to prove it to anyone. I don’t have to be pushing something like an Amway salesman.

    Because I can live my life, just being a human being. And there’s some tranquility in that that I think Christians will never ever truely know.

    Peace man… may you find what you seek.

  • Mitch C

    Siamang,

    I want to thank you for your comment and non-attacking nature. It’s good to have discussion without anger…..I appreciate the information you included about Bart Erhman. Any books in particular that I should consider? I’m sure there are always two sides to every story and will consider reading some of his work to gain insight….Regarding the “salesman” techniques used by many Christians, I personally think we are all just trying to get it right. We know that we are supposed to tell others about Christ, because that what is instructed in the Bible (The Great Commission), but many people do it in a not so productive way. It’s kind of like having a new salesman on the job who is so enthusiastic and energetic, but has no idea what he is selling. It just comes across as pushy and uninformed….The fact is, Jesus doesn’t need us to “sell” him. He doesn’t need us at all…….Just curious if you’ve ever read any books by C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity, in my view, takes a harder look at the questions everyone must ask about their faith, and it is a really interesting book even if someone is not “looking for God.” It may be more substantive than the books written by Strobel.

  • Siamang

    CS Lewis, again softball questions. I’ve not read more than a few passages, but when I’ve asked people to present what they think are Lewis’ strongest arguments they’re things that do not stand up to the simplest logical tests.

    Mere Christianity is nothing but softballs, as far as I can tell. He doesn’t ask the questions that an atheist would ask, or at least no atheist I know! It’s the Christian’s image of what ideas might convince someone, but he’s unable mentally to put himself in the shoes of another. I think he’s “preaching to the converted” there, and not making any coherant sense to the unconverted. No atheist I know has gone to Christianity by the arguments in Mere Christianity… and none are likely to. The arguments might sound strong to you because they confirm what you believe, (and they are written passionately and with a sweeping and poetic prose style), but they are lightweight to atheists. We’ve gone way deeper and with more probing questions than Lewis asks.

    I actually have heard of at least one former Christian who read “Mere Christianity” and came away an atheist, because the arguments were so bad that they started to think about their own faith more critically. So maybe I’d warn you away from that one!

    If you wanted to talk about them, can you give me for example what you feel is the strongest argument in Mere Christianity?

    I’ve never read any of Bart Erhman’s works, but I have heard a fascinating lecture by him that he teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that was about the Gnostics and some of the history of the formation and authentication of Christianity in the first century.

    Here’s a list of his books on Amazon. Some are straight historical books about the Bible, especially the New Testament… they don’t address God per se… he talks about it as any other historical timeframe.

    Here is a link to part one of a ten-part lecture by Ehrman at Stanford. The subsequent parts can be viewed from there on youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cK3Ry_icJo

    Oh, and on the Bart Ehrman stuff… listen, you don’t need to read it. As I’ve said, I didn’t read his stuff, and I’m not trying to sell you on anything. If you’re happy and fulfilled as a Christian, then I’m happy for you. It’s just that you mentioned “The Case for Christ”, and so I thought that if that area interested you, you might check out Ehrman. Regardless of who is “correct” between the two of them, Ehrman’s level of scholarship is much, much higher, here’s his brief CV:

    Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has been teaching for over 15 years. He completed his undergraduate work at Wheaton College and received his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Prior to taking his position at UNC, Professor Ehrman taught at Rutgers University.

    Professor Ehrman has published dozens of book reviews and scholarly articles for academic journals. He has authored or edited 17 books, including the New York Times bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, and After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity. He has served as President of the Society of Biblical Literature, Southeast Region; book review editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature; and editor of the Scholar’s Press Monograph Series The New Testament in the Greek Fathers.

    The history of early Christianity isn’t my deal, but if it’s yours, then there’s some fascinating material there.

    It’s good to have discussion without anger.

    Why would I be angry with you?? What have you ever done to me? :-)

    I’m just a happy guy. I’ve got a lot of Christian friends, and a lot of non-believer friends. Until recently I was even blogging the atheist point of view for a Christian ministry. It’s cool. I just believe something different than you believe.

  • Richard Wade

    Siamang, sorry to interrupt.

    Until recently I was even blogging the atheist point of view for a Christian ministry.

    “Until recently?” You’ve stopped? Say it aint so! I love reading your stuff.

  • Siamang

    Yeah… haven’t announced it yet. But work is about to get scary busy on me… and I just can’t justify the regular time investment. I’ll still be around.

  • Siamang

    Here’s a recent interview with Ehrman for NPR about his latest book.


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