Sunday, June 10, 2007

Another Bible theme park, but wait. There's more.

TBogg lists all the neat rides that might be appearing soon at a theme park to be developed in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Well, maybe. It seems the locals aren't all that happy about it.
The congregation sometimes assembles here for open-air services, said the pastor, Bryan Brooks, with the trees and pastures across Route 840 for a backdrop. But that view may change, because the land beyond the road has been proposed as the site for a theme park called Bible Park USA on over 100 acres.

The proposal has ignited fierce opposition to the project. The park, which would be in Rutherford County in an area known as Blackman, would be about 35 miles southeast of Nashville.

The focus of the park, and the fact that many in this booming Bible Belt community have not embraced the proposal, sets the dispute apart from other development clashes, intertwining deeply held religious beliefs with the humdrum of zoning, taxes and traffic.

The project has united its opponents, whose fledgling campaign to derail it erupted long before the developers intended their proposal to become public.

Oh... oops! It was supposed to be a secret.

The park, described in promotional material as “edutainment,” would cost $150 million to $200 million. With a Galilean village as its centerpiece, one side of the park would present Old Testament stories like the Exodus; the other side would have New Testament stories like Jesus’ birth and crucifixion. The only displays in writing would be excerpts from Scripture, and parts of the park would be reserved for Bible study.
A Galilean village? And you have to love the way the park will be split into Old and New Testaments. That way the conflicting dogma can be acted out by schizophrenic fundies.

Another factor was its Bible Belt location. But Mr. Bar-Tur said that was not the site’s chief attraction, and that the park would not proselytize. Rather it would simply present biblical scenes without evangelizing; no roller coaster or Ferris wheel, just a “calm, solemn park,” where visitors of any faith or denomination would feel welcome. “This is a very different sort of park,” he said.
Un huh. That'll attract people. Let's see... this, or this? Maybe it's my weakness for skeletons in tri-corn hats but.... nevermind.

Some opponents argue that any theme park would be the wrong kind of growth for the area. Some say proposed tax incentives, which would be permitted under legislation passed in the General Assembly this week, should not be extended to the developers. Some say the park will cheapen the Bible and their religion. Many hold all three views.

It is difficult to gauge the extent of the opposition, but residents agree that the park has more detractors than supporters. One state lawmaker from Murfreesboro said she had received hundreds of calls and e-mail messages, “99 percent” of them against the park.

In contrast, another developer’s recently announced plans for an “Ole South” theme park in two nearby counties has not stirred opposition, according to state lawmakers from that area.

OK, stop, stop, stop! I can't take this anymore. This is not a new idea. In fact, there's this little episode in Christian theme park history. Fort Mill, South Carolina was bigger than this proposed extravaganza and it ended, in 1989, after Jim Bakker ran, ahem, afoul of the Internal Revenue Service eventually ending up in jail. Falwell was calling him gay and Tammy Faye Bakker went all missionary with one of the park's construction directors.

It was all very biblical.

Another Christian theme park idea that fizzled was initiated by that paragon of Christian ideals, Pat Robertson. He had made a deal with Israel's Tourism Ministry to establish a bible theme park on a prime piece of real estate on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. This would not have a Galilean village inside it - it was going to be surrounded by real ones.

Alas, it was not to be. Robertson opened his big yap after Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had a stroke and suggested it was divine retribution.

You read the Bible: This is my land, and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he's going to carve it up and give it away, God says no, this is mine.
That got Robertson a clear and concise "Fuck you!" from the Israelis who now refused to do business with him or anyone who agreed with him.

So, why would anyone consider this? The Christian leadership that keeps building or planning to build these places almost always fucks it up.

Well, there's one good reason. Armon Bar-Tur. He's the power behind this whole venture and he is, if nothing else, pure business. He doesn't give a tinker's damn about literalist bible-interpreting Christians. He just wants them to spend their money at his place.

Perhaps his biggest mistake was calling Google a "one trick pony" when they went public. Beyond that however, Bar-Tur is one of the heavyweights of Wall Street. A graduate of Skidmore College, Bar-Tur is the founder and managing director of SafeHarbor Holding LLC and has been the manager of several well-known and wealthy mutual funds.

He's also into theme parks.

One of his ventures which isn't running into opposition is this one. Intended for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Hard Rock Park, under the familiar brand Hard Rock Cafe, will feature:
... six unique, custom-designed zones celebrating rock's culture, lifestyle, legends and irreverence.
I like it. Balance. And Bar-Tur ain't no bible-thumpin' pastor. He's pure business and he goes after specific markets, which is the only thing his bible theme park is all about.

The possibilities are endless.

No comments: