Consecutive Days Riding: 125 Days Blogged: 107
New Mileage: 4 Total Trip Mileage: 890
It’s Valentine’s Day and I would like to wish all of my blog readers a happy holiday. It is always good to be joyful about and give thanks for our relationships. Of course it can be said that we shouldn’t need to have a holiday to remind us of how special some people are in our lives. We shouldn’t depend upon a once a year box of candy, flowers and card to remind a person how important they are to us, every day these people are gifts in our lives. If you do not have a Valentine in your life then today is a good day to ask yourself what you need to be doing to find such a relationship. Remember these words of wisdom: “Relationships may be made in heaven, but you got to do your own maintenance.” But then isn’t that the whole idea behind this holiday?
Today’s blog is not about Valentine’s Day. Today we are visiting our third pilgrimage site in as many days. The Orlando Florida area is what you might call a site rich environment. Most people who visit this area know about the monster resort and theme park known as Disney World. The site we are visiting today represents a spiritual theme park unlike any that I have found on my pilgrimage search. It is called The Holy Land Experience it is part of the Trinity Broadcast Network it advertises itself as an experience of the holy land in particular during the time of Christ’s life.
The site has the Scriptorium a Museum/archive filled with relevant archaeological manuscripts, and areas like: the Jerusalem Street Marketplace; the Great Temple designed in the style of that that would’ve existed at Jerusalem in the 1st century; also the Wilderness Tabernacle site with the Arc of the Covenant like that the Jews would have used as they wandered the wilderness; and Calvary’s Garden Tomb with a replica of Christ’s tomb and the three crosses. Obviously anyone visiting this site needs to be prepared for the fact that this is an evangelical Christian site. From what I could see only cursory mention is made of the Jewish faith and I saw no indications of the significance of Jerusalem to the Islam faith.
I entitled this blog one third of the holy land experience because Jerusalem, and the surrounding area, the holy land, is a major pilgrimage site for the all three of the monotheisms. For the Jews the Wailing Wall is arguably their faith’s major pilgrimage site, and for Islam the Dome of the Rock is often listed as the third most important pilgrimage site. This bias is to be expected and of course it is the Trinity Broadcast Network’s right to advance their viewpoints. I suspect it is also indicative of this group’s exclusionary approach to viewing religious truth. They believe they, meaning their faith, has truth and other faiths do not!
As a pluralist it saddens me that an opportunity to educate people of all three faiths to the beliefs and contributions of the other faiths has been missed. Yesterday we visited a Buddhist temple that included replicas of shrines that exists in India and Nepal. I noted that these replicas serve the same function as visiting the actual location if the followers approached them with a sense of reverence. I suspected that this theme park can serve as a pilgrimage site for Christians. Personally, I wonder if it’s not a little too commercial!
I read reviews where people talk about the long lines and waits, and the plays that are conducted using Roman soldiers wearing Adidas tennis shoes. I suspect most of the actors look an awful lot like the visitors, more European than of Middle Eastern. I wonder what it’s like to watch an reenactment on the Great Temple steps while you’re eating a corn dog are sucking down a Coke, or standing next to fidgety children in the hot Floridian sun?
Many people visit Orlando and its numerous amusement parks to escape into a fantasy world of loveable characters, goofy Pirates and fairy tale princesses. Some people would say the Holy Land Experience may be promoting the same escape experience, this time into a “world of old” that is as much “imagined” as it is factual. But then again, I guess one person’s Theme Park distraction may be another person’s profound pilgrimage experience into the past. I guess waiting in line to catch a glimpse of Christ’s tomb may be an opportunity for soul-searching exploration of one’s beliefs. If a walk along the river wrapped in the solitude of nature can connect me with the divine, then it’s likely that watching an enactment of Christ’s crucifixion can and does reconnect some Christian to their God.
One final note, I mentioned to Susan how interesting it might be to have a pluralistic theme park featuring rides, restaurants and attractions representing all of the world religions. Perhaps we could call it The Holy World Experience. I started to create some rides and restaurant ideas, however Susan warned me that I might be venturing into the area where terms such as sacrilegious, blasphemy, and heresy are likely to be thrown around. While I am never one to shy away from a good parody, there are some topics that are too sensitive to be treated so lightly.
Stay tuned as we will visit two more pilgrimage sites in the next three day. Have a wonderful St. Valentine Day!
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