Holy Land Experience, the ministry or theme-park, seems to be gaining some ground in Orlando, even with its ticket prizes rivaling those of nearby Disneyworld. Read the entire clip here.
ORLANDO, Fla. - 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.[...snip]
The park has a "scriptorium," an opulent-looking building with an enormous collection of rare Bibles and artifacts. Powell said it is the largest of its kind outside the Vatican.
Other stops include a scale model of Jerusalem, an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls and a model of the garden tomb where Christ was supposedly buried.
Vendors and actors wear head coverings and billowing cotton rags, and gift shops sell Bibles and other Christian items. Among them are a genealogical map linking Adam to Jesus, handbags, necklaces and T-shirts. It also sells yarmulkes and menorahs - a nod to its founder.[...snip]
Holy Land's offerings change regularly, many of them outdoor shows. Recent performances range from The Ministry of Jesus, a 15-minute act where Christ heals a blind man and inspires a tax collector, to a 30-minute Southern gospel concert and the resurrection itself.
Audience members are encouraged to participate. Jesus walked among them with a wireless microphone, calling children and picking one up. Excited parents with digital and disposable cameras crept forward as their kids fidgeted and kicked at sand.[...snip]
The park relies heavily on donations from benefactors, foundations and visitors slipping money into boxes scattered around the park. Ticket sales doesn't cover costs. Admission prices have risen from less than $20 originally to $35 to $40 today.
Powell said not all visitors are Christian, and some have never even been to church before. Fourteen Hindu monks passed through the other day, he said.
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."
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