John Bloom's picture
06.29.2008 | Comments(7)

Watch Out for That New Tim LaHaye Thrill Ride

In this year of declining theme park revenues, there are two–count ‘em, two!–Biblical theme parks vying for space around Nashville, hoping to cash in on the evangelical equivalent of ecotourism. Just in case you’re behind on your Biblical theme park history, it all started in 1960 when Gerald L.K. Smith vowed to build the biggest Christian amusement park in the world in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, but managed only to build that Christ-of-the-Ozarks statue that looks just like the one in Brazil, only creepier, and ever since then they’ve been producing The Great Passion Play more or less continuously.Jesus of the Ozarks Twenty years later, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker cashed in on Christian theme-park hunger with Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina, whose revenues shot up until Jessica Hahn was discovered to have gone down, and by the end of the eighties it was a weed-infested ruin being vacuumed by caretaker Jerry Falwell. Next into the breach was The Holy Land Experience, which called itself “a living Bible museum” at its opening in Orlando in 2001, but struggled from day one (what! You kids would rather see Goofy dancing through the park than a bloody Jesus stumbling through the park carrying his cross and crying out in agony?) and was eventually bought in 2007 by Trinity Broadcasting Network, home of all things Excessively Christian. Now TBN is thinking of expanding the Orlando park by sending some of its more popular exhibits to the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee, where it owns Trinity Music City, the former home of Conway Twitty, whose personal theme park was called Twitty City. (Aren’t you glad you asked?) But wait! A group of private Nashville developers are already planning another Christian theme park (what are the odds?) called Bible Park USA. Unfortunately, they’ve already been shot down once by the citizens of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who didn’t want a $200 million theme park in their backyard (I’m shocked! Murfreesboro is the home of the newspaper Sword of the Lord, with its giant red sword twinkling through the night), so now they’re wining and dining the politicos in Lebanon, Tennessee (another Nashville suburb, and the only Biblically named one) for the right to bring a Faux Middle East to a Frowning Middle Tennessee. So far no one has pointed out the irony of trying to shoehorn two more theme parks into the only major American city that had to shutter its theme park–Opryland USA, which closed in 1997 and is slowly reverting to bramble and bush, the way it looked when Andrew Jackson owned it. Andy was a Presbyterian who converted late in life and once said to a Nashville lawyer, “I thank God that there is such a place of torment as hell.” The lawyer replied, “Why, General Jackson, what do you want with such a place of torment as hell?” Said Jackson, “To put such damned rascals as you are in, that oppose and vilify the Christian religion.”

I Never Promised You a Thorn Garden

Thomas and Juanita

Awwwww, Juanita Bynum and Thomas Weeks, the Ike and Tina Turner of evangelism couples, won’t be getting back together after all. The settlement agreement is 14 pages long, and apparently Juanita’s appearance on Divorce Court just pushed things to a level that was beyond kissy kissy. Or maybe not. There was an awkward moment at the final divorce hearing when the judge asked about a post-separation booty call, causing the litigants at the first available break in the proceedings to furiously text-message each other. (May we see those Blackberries, please?) After they got that all straightened out, characterizing it as a temporary night of passion that may or may not have been before or after this or that or the other, Bynum headed off for her new role on the ABC series Lincoln Heights and Weeks went to update his Facebook profile and return to the wilds of evangelical dating. I don’t think this story is over. Neither one of them hit delete on those address books.

Half Naked Atheists on the Beach

Atheist Days

And the atheists will gather at the river–actually at Half Moon Beach in Strasburg, Virginia, this August, for three days of deity-denying party heat. Bring the RV, booze it up on the water by day, and while away your evenings being entertained by atheist rockers like Gonzo’s Nose and comics like Comedy Jesus and our friend Pastor Deacon Fred. It’s called “Atheist Days 2008,” subtitled “An Unbelievably Good Time” (get it? it took me a minute, but I’m slow), and among their hopes are some killer paintball games because, after all, rednecks can be atheists, too.

But If We Let Him Have One, Pontius Pilate Might Want One, Too

Golden Electric Chair

It didn’t take long–less than a week?–for the litigation to get started in South Carolina over the “I Believe” personalized Christian license plate. A Washington lobbying group got a sensitive Methodist, a concerned rabbi, and an outraged Hindu, among others, to join the list of plaintiffs. Meanwhile, we’ve been studying the design of the plate, and if we could make a suggestion: To indicate that you’re a member of a contemporary Christian congregation, you should really switch from a gilded cross to a gilded electric chair, since South Carolina is one of the remaining states where condemned prisoners are allowed to choose between lethal injection and electrocution, and if Jesus were to be killed there today, it wouldn’t make sense to make him just carry his needle up to Calvary, but it would make sense to strap an electric chair on his back and haul that thing until he broke down and we got some wranglers to pick it up and carry it the remaining few hundred yards. Plus an electric chair with those wicked straps hanging off the side would look much gnarlier on the back of your truck.


Cartoon Mohammed | 09:02 am on 6/30/2008

You forgot the other Xtian theme park, The Creation Museum in Kentucky. I think you are ride a dinosaur like Adam & Eve did.

Anonymous | 10:15 am on 6/30/2008

Don't forget about the barbed wire "crown of thorns"....same concept but just conducts electricity a bit better.

UNCLE KENNY | 11:13 am on 6/30/2008

You know everytime I see a person wearing a crucifix as jewelry, I have to hide a sly smile and a chuckle because I think of Sam Kinison's take on it.


Sam was one of the best preachers I have ever listened to, even though most church people thought Sam was either a sleazy comedian, or possibly the anti-christ. He often said that it was lame to wear that if you didn't realize it was about the same as wearing an big old electric chair around your neck. I think it was from the same routine where he talks about Jesus coming back and being rather pissed off at the church on his return, blowing through nail holes in his hands and saying, "real funny guys, I went through all that shit for you and look what you have been wasting time doing in my name. . .now I wish I had asked one of the apostles for a pair pliers if I had known you would have done all this %$#^@#$!!! and called it religion."

mountainguy | 06:53 pm on 6/30/2008

1. And what about Ned Flanders' biblical theme park?

2. If by "Half naked atheists" you mean "That hot momma Margaret Downey in bikini"... then I'll be there (those know-it all people will not find out I'm a believer until the third day)

Neil Davis - Men's Necklaces | 02:10 pm on 2/02/2009

Ah, the ironies of religion. Can't we get enough of these yet? It's pretty amusing to see/read/hear about it though. Unfortunately, religion has always been more of a agenda, rather than "saving" lives.

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