A political activist art group hung a 45-foot banner reading “God Bless Abortions” on the 65-foot tall Christ of the Ozarks statue that “stands as a symbol of hope” in northwest Arkansas on Thursday night.
Members of the activist art collective called Indecline disguised themselves as construction workers to sneak onto the property and used pulleys and climbing gear to hang the banner on the Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs that was erected in 1966.
Kent Butler, director of operations at The Great Passion Play, the Christian organization that manages the Christ of the Ozarks statue, told The Christian Post that he hopes the political message Indecline tried to portray will instead turn people's attention to Jesus.
“It was all about [Indecline] getting attention to expand their platform, but our pivot really is to our mission,” Butler told CP on Saturday. “This whole place exists to lift up Jesus. And at times what was intended for evil, in Genesis 50, it says ‘what was intended for evil God used for good.’ And I think it’s important that the attention be given to work that’s going on in the Passion Play rather than the political environment that they’re trying to impact.”
Butler said the activist group used the Christ of the Ozarks statue as a “vehicle for political speech” and a “publicity stunt.”
"The project, entitled ‘God Bless Abortions,’ is in direct response to the dramatic attempts being made in Arkansas and throughout the South, to ban abortion services to women in need," the art collective said Friday, Fox News reported.
Passion Play staff did not yet know the pro-abortion banner had been displayed until they were notified by a news outlet that Indecline had sent a statement.
“It’s extremely difficult when we’re doing the work of the Passion Play and we’re sharing Jesus’ story and anything that detracts or distracts from that is difficult to deal with,” Butler shared. “Every day we have between 1,000 and 1,500 people that will view the Christ statue and they’re coming to the Passion Play as a place to experience hope, love and peace and publicity stunts like that make it difficult.”
A local tree service helped remove the large banner from the seven-story statue of Jesus pro-bono.
Removing the banner from the freestanding statue not meant to be load-bearing was a dangerous feat, Butler said. It was windy the morning it was removed, and the 45-foot banner unfurled like a flag once one side was detached, putting the tree service workers’ lives at risk.
“I think that’s where [Indecline got] it wrong that everyone’s life is precious and sacred, all lives,” Butler said. “I think they were not cautious with their own lives in doing what they did.”
A statement from the activist group said they treated the statue like a billboard since it is visible from miles away. Indecline called abortion a “miracle worth celebrating,” saying it “saves lives.”
“In Arkansas, there is only one 65-foot statue of Jesus. There is also only one abortion clinic,” the activist group wrote on Instagram on Friday. “No professional sports teams. Just a bunch of angry men with no outlets, writing outrageous laws about vaginas. That, and the second highest rate (by state) of infant mortality. It’s hard to see how ‘pro-life’ can be so myopic in its vision of what life is.”
The Great Passion Play staff responded to Indecline in an email obtained by CP. The staff’s email acknowledged the “drop cloth” would be used in their mission trip program and shared with Indecline the message of Jesus and an invitation to the Passion Play performance.
The Great Passion Play said it would not accept additional donations from the Indecline organization.
“We wanted to acknowledge and give notice of the 45’ drop cloth to be used in our mission trip program (GreatPassionPlay.org/mission-trips),” the email to Indecline read. “You trespassed on our property and hung this drop cloth from the Christ of the Ozarks memorial statue and put your lives at risk as well as the people’s lives who took it down. You used our statue to further your platform, but we are thankful for the opportunity to share our mission. The Passion Play is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to lifting up the miraculous life, sacrificial death, burial, and ultimately the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
“We pray those who hung this banner are able to come and see Jesus hung on the cross in a production that has been seen by over 8 million people now,” the email continued. “Performances are on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturday nights through the end of October. Security is now stationed overnight at the Christ of the Ozarks as well. We will not accept additional donations from your organization.”
Butler said the statue now requires around-the-clock security to protect it from another incident like this from happening.
The inscription at the bottom of the seven-story statue of Jesus with His arms open wide forming the shape of a cross reads, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
Christ of the Ozarks is maintained by The Great Passion Play, which is also home to a Bible museum, art museum, history museum, a Holy Land tour, buffet restaurant and 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
More than 500,000 people visit the Christ of the Ozarks Statue overlooking Eureka Springs each year, its website said. “The Great Passion Play,” which is "America's No. 1 Attended Outdoor Drama" that creates an “epic drama of Jesus Christ's last days on earth.”
Indecline is not new to defacing Christian elements to add a pro-abortion message and has used vandalism to portray political messages in the past.
In March, the group vandalized a Christian billboard about Jesus and changed the wording to promote abortion.
The billboard originally said, “Worried? Jesus offers security,” and the group changed it to read, “Worried? Planned Parenthood offers abortions.”
The group has also vandalized other billboards to promote social messages, changing one billboard in April to read, “F*** those killer cops! Justice for George Floyd.”
The group also changed Republican and pro-Trump billboards during the 2020 election to promote a pro-Biden message.
The activist art collection founded in 2011 consists of graffiti writers, filmmakers, photographers and “full-time rebels and activists” and focuses on social, ecological and economical injustices carried out by the government.
The Indecline group is now selling T-shirts showing the Christ of the Ozarks statue holding the pro-abortion sign.
Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org