Monday, February 23, 2009
Giant Ten Commandments...Murphy, N. Carolina
The Church of God of Prophecy knew this full well when they built Fields of the Wood in 1945. Its centerpiece is the World's Largest Ten Commandments, a 300-ft wide tableaux occupying a mountainside. Though it is tucked into the extreme and obscure western corner of North Carolina, the immense tablets are visible from orbit ... and heaven.*
This surprising spectacle borders a TVA-protected lake resort area, twenty miles or so from the mountainous region in Tennessee where the 1996 Atlanta Olympics hosted whitewater races. Heading east from TN, with four miles to go, a hand-painted billboard promises we will "See Gigangic Ten Commandments."
After passing through a white archway emblazoned "Fields of the Wood," we are greeted by an array of religious landmarks spread down a little valley, with ample parking designed for church service gluts. A welcome center booth displays a map, helpfully charting everything on the property, from Golgotha to an Airplane Warning Beacon. The brochure racks are filled with religious tracts and leaflets.
Ten Commandment Mountain Mountain faces Prayer Mountain, where more fit members of the congregation can ascend a long curving stairway to the altar at the top. Along the way, there are 29 important teachings of the Bible explained on headstone-like monuments. Photographers climb here to get any a decent photo of the adjacent Ten Commandments.
Over on Ten Commandment Mountain, you can clamber up the 350 steps between the tablets (or just drive up the little service road around back). The five-foot tall letters set in the grassy hillside spell out all ten Laws of God. Pose your parents next to No. IV, your kids next to No. VI, your spouse and/or mistress next to No. VII.
At the top, a giant open Bible, called "The World's Largest Testament" supports an observation deck. You can gaze down upon the Baptismal Pool, the Star of Bethlehem, and hedges cut to read: "Jesus Died for Our Sins."
The All Nations Cross is also optimized for an angelic vantage point -- a prone display that's 115 feet wide and a 150 feet long. Sprouting on poles from the giant cruciform are flags from every nation where the Church of God is established (or at least has a beachhead).
Back at ground level, you can ponder the Golgotha memorial, or discourage children from rolling the circular stone over the entrance to the replica Tomb of Jesus. Fields of the Wood has a decent gift shop selling T-shirts, trinkets, videos, even World's Largest Ten Commandments backscratchers.