At first blush my gut said, “bad idea”, but I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions in my assessment, so I paid a visit to their home page. Now, I consider myself a pretty fair guy, generally I’ll try to look past the junk to find the diamond in the rough, as it were. I watched the video on the front page (not the same as the one above) and, though it wasn’t easy, I managed to find some pros amongst the cons. Unfortunately though, in the end my bad feeling was largely confirmed. Below is my at-a-glance review: 2 pros and 2 cons.
1) It gives the history a visible, tangible way.
Let’s face it, sad as it is, most of us don’t get as much from the written word (comprehension-wise) as our parents and grandparents did. Thanks to digital media, our minds no longer have to work to put pictures to the story. The most effort our brains put forth these days seems to be trying to remember where we left the remote, and what time “Iron Chef” comes on. This is regrettable, but as much as you or I wish it wasn’t the case, them’s the facts. A Biblical theme park gives modern man an opportunity to get the history without having to use an atrophied imagination.
2) It provides a way to reach the unchurched with the Gospel.
Hey, everybody loves theme parks, right? I mean, I was never the biggest fan of the Incredible Hulk growing up, but did that stop me from riding his roller-coaster at Universal Studios? No it did not. By the same token, this might provide people not familiar with the Good News of God With Us, Jesus Christ, an opportunity to be evangelized that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
Of course, that would be to assume that the Gospel being preached at “Holy Land Experience” actually is the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and not something else. On that note, we turn to the cons.
1)It has the potential to communicate a foreign Gospel.
This worries me, to tell you the truth. In my opinion, this type of “Theme Park Christianity” – to coin the phrase – seems to thrive on one word: “experience”. Seriously, follow the link to the home page and watch their little video; count the number of time they say “experiencccccccce” in the 3 or so minute playtime. I gave up at 11, but I’m sure there’s more. “Experience love”, “experience peace”, “experience joy”, the message starts out. Blech. This makes me worry that the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified for you is something secondary to the whole “experience” of the theme park.
And what happens when customers (there’s a word that should never be associated with the Gospel) lose their spiritual high several weeks back from spring break? Could this create a new type of spiritual junkies who need to keep going back every vacation to get their fix? With all the emphasis on “experience”, does that not create the very problems we see with people coming out of Pentecostal and Charismatic congregations who believe that a lack of that spiritual high they’ve been told all Christians have perpetually (if they’re true Christians, say the Pentecostals) means by default that they are no longer “saved”?
Bottom line, does this place give out T-shirts with admission that say, “Remember your Baptism”? If that message is not preached (with or without the T-shirts) then this place has every chance of purveying a false gospel with the end result of making people feel insecure in their faith. Definitely a con.
2) It has the potential to communicate a foreign Gospel.
Ok, ok, I know I just said that. I considered “It has the potential to make people look for God in places other than His Word and Sacraments”, but doesn’t that equate to the same thing?
“You’ll even have the opportunity to experience Holy Communion in a setting reminiscent of the Last Supper”, the video boasts. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but Communion at a theme park borders on outright blasphemy to me. Sure, people always need the means of Grace… but is it valid when given by a non-ordained cosplayer for the price of admission? I’m pretty sure, no.
The video ends with the same “experience blank” stuff that it started with, and the last one is “experience Jesus”. Thanks but no thanks. My called and ordained servant of the Word proclaims the Law and Gospel every Sunday morning, without any price of admission because Christ already paid for it. He announces forgiveness of sins and serves the means of Grace in humility and reverence. He points me to my Baptism in which my security lies. In other words, I don’t need some theme park to give me what I already have:
Justification by Grace through Faith.
What do you think? Any pros and cons I missed?