Friday, August 03, 2007

Is it entertainment or church?

In some churches today, is there really a difference? Why wouldn't today's Christian consider a theme park to be like a church experience?

Jesus Christ is crucified and resurrected here six days a week. Snarling Roman soldiers whip and drag him, and somber audience members watch. Some quietly weep at a pageant bloody and cruel. It is the grand finale at the Holy Land Experience, and not the attraction most tourists envision in an Orlando vacation.

Just miles from Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld in this city's overstimulated tourist corridor, Holy Land has in its six years of operation aimed to recreate Jerusalem of Biblical times.

It is often referred to as a "Christian theme park," but the park offers lectures, not rides, making it feel more like a trip to church. Its officers prefer to call it a "living Biblical museum" and until last month, the nonprofit operation was troubled. Management changed hands, its founder left and attendance was flat. But suddenly, a savior appeared.

Trinity Broadcasting Network, a California-based Christian empire with 12,500 worldwide TV and cable affiliates, took over Holy Land and its estimated $8 million mortgage. Both are nonprofit organizations, so Trinity describes the deal as a "marriage" rather than a purchase, saying little money changed hands.


Lisa Bell, 42, husband David Bell, 50, and their 2-year-old son came from Ripley, Tenn., after seeing Holy Land on Trinity. She said they didn't consider attending the other parks.

"Oh no. Jesus was just holding him," Lisa Bell said, nodding to her sunburned son. "He knows who Jesus is."


Crouch says he thinks of Holy Land as a ministry, not a theme park.

"When I went there for the first time about six or seven months ago, I didn't go there to be entertained and I didn't see a theme park taking place. I saw people praying for each other, I saw Bible studies going on, I saw teaching going on," he said. "At the end of the day, I felt like I had gone to church, not just gone to Disneyland."
"Jesus was just holding him?" This is wrong on so many levels.

I wonder about kids who are raised with Jesus' dolls, Jesus theme parks, and Veggie Tales as their only means of entertainment. I wonder what that type of saturation does to their relationship with God. I wonder if it brings them closer to God or drives them away when they put aside the toys of their youth.