View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What about Bathtub Marys?

I’ve been doing some summer reading. One of the lighter books is one called Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith, by Timothy K. Beal.

Beal is a professor of religion at Case Western. He packed his family into a motor home and traveled to some of these sites. Among them were Holy Land USA in Virginia, The Holy Land Experience in Florida, biblical mini-golf courses in Kentucky, Noah’s ark (under construction) in Maryland, the world’s largest Ten Commandments in North Carolina, a rosary collection in Washington, the Precious Moments Chapel in Missouri, and a cross garden in Alabama..

Some of the sites are examples of “outsider art” (sometimes called folk art). I happen to like outsider art – expressions of artistic creation by self-taught, untrained artists, many of whom are poor, uneducated, or on the edge of society.

Beal seemed to appreciate the efforts of the genuinely inspired (the cross garden of Bill Rice, for example). He was also critical of the more imperial or slick creations (the Holy Land Experience, for example).

Besides, who wouldn’t find something inspiring in thousands of crosses scattered over 11 acres? Or a depiction of the Upper Room in a building that used to be a still (talk about being moved by the “spirits”!)

I like the fact that Beal shows respect for the people who have created these sites – especially the people who seem genuinely inspired to create.

I recommend the book. It’s amusing, yet also raises some questions about faith.


Blogger Julie D. said...

I have seen this book mentioned in a lot of places (including our local Dallas Morning News) but you are the first person who is actually READING it to talk about it. I'm waiting for the library to get it in (they are glacially slow) and am happy to see that you like it ... so maybe it's worth the wait.

1:22 PM  

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