Friday, January 10, 2003

Case Western Reserve prof writes book on "roadside religion"

Beal's book will provide a glimpse of about 20 religious-themed parks or attractions around the country that he has visited or plans to see in the coming year.

These include the Holyland USA Nature Sanctuary in Virginia with its scaled-down version of biblical Israel on the site of a former government whiskey distillery; the Living Bible museum in Mansfield; the world's largest rosary collection, in Oregon; and Biblical Minigolf in Kentucky.

Beal said he had been interested in these sorts of attractions for years, and decided last year to take a personal look after spotting the partially constructed Noah's ark replica - intended not as a lifeboat for some future global flood, but rather as a conference center for evangelical Christians (Beal said the ark has run aground on the rocks of financial uncertainty).

"Your first question has to be, 'What is that?' " he said. "But that's quickly followed by 'Who did it?' And "Why?' What is driving these kind of things? What kind of demons or visions or whatever?"

Beal was impressed by the sheer scale of such efforts as "The World's Largest Ten Commandments" in giant letters laid on the side of a mountain in North Carolina, supposedly visible from outer space.

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