First Paul Bunyan got one. Then came Dollywood. Now, thanks to Pat Robertson and the Israeli government, Jesus is getting a theme park of his own. Tourists apparently weren't satisfied with The Enchanted Forest and Santa's Workshop. So have fun, but remember: Don't feed the martyrs.
The Guardian reports:
The Israeli government is planning to give up a large slice of land to American Christian evangelicals to build a biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee where Jesus is said to have walked on water and fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.
A consortium of Christian groups, led by the television evangelist Pat Robertson, is in negotiation with the Israeli ministry of tourism and a deal is expected in the coming months. The project is expected to bring up to 1 million extra tourists a year but an undeclared benefit will be the cementing of a political alliance between the Israeli rightwing and the American Christian right.
Adds ABC News:
Highlights may include a Holy Bible Garden, full of plants and trees mentioned in the New Testament, and equipped with quiet sites for reflection and prayer. A Sea of Galilee Amphitheater will overlook the mouth of the Jordan River and hold 1,500-2,000 worshippers. And the park will have a Christian Experience Auditorium and a Multimedia Center.
The center would also feature an online broadcast center, which would give religious leaders an opportunity to address their followers back home, live, near the tranquil blue waters of the Sea of Galilee (which today is considered a lake).
Will there be rides or attractions? As Ed McMahon used to say, "Write your own joke." Meanwhile, that marriage of convenience between American Jewish leaders and right-wing Christians is in danger of falling apart, with Rev. Wildmon threatening Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League. Good - it was an unholy alliance from the get-go, with two groups who despise each other teaming up out of self-interest. It remains to be seen whether this theme park will repair this fraying relationship, so that the partners can continue to serve each other's political interests.
Last year saw the death of Robert Funk, the founder of the Jesus Seminar. The Seminar developed a kind of "VH1 Behind the Miracles" record of the historically verifiable Jesus. Funk may have done more than anyone to uncover the biography and teachings of Jesus the human being, and to expose the layers of politically-inspired deification embedded in the Four Gospels. What remained was the portrait of a profound spiritual and ethical teacher, deeply grounded in contemporary rabbinical thought. Prediction: There will not be a "John Funk Tilt-a-Whirl" at the new theme park.
Warning: You must be this tall to ride the Donkey.