Great Passion Play Theme Park
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Update: The Great Passion Play theme park went bankrupt in late 2012, closing all of its staffed attractions. It was purchased by a Christian radio network, which quickly reopened all of the park's outdoor statues and monuments. The rest of the attractions reopened on May 3, 2013.
The Great Passion Play theme park is a Walt Disney World of American conservative Christianity: it caters to large groups, it offers a range of distinct attractions, and it's expensive if you want to see everything (For adults, that is. Those under 18 get in free, and you can chose individual attractions to save money).
The park began as The Sacred Projects in the mid-1960s. Years ahead of its time, it was the brainchild of Gerald L.K. Smith, an aging right-wing radio evangelist who hated blacks and especially hated Jews (He insisted that Jesus wasn't a Jew, but that Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower were). Smith wanted to build this park near his home in Southern California, but was reportedly afraid that it would be overshadowed by secular distractions.
Instead, he had it built near his summer home in comparatively remote Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a former Victorian health resort that was down on its luck and open to new ideas. By the time that Smith died in 1976, the Great Passion Play had turned Eureka Springs into the most popular tourist destination in Arkansas.
Times have changed since Smith left the scene. The racism is gone from his theme park. The town is thriving on its own, and has become popular with transplanted artists and vacationing LGBTs. Smith would not have liked that, nor would he have liked the tolerance shown by the Great Passion Play's current nondenominational management toward its townie neighbors, with each group apparently willing to give the other its own space.
The Great Passion Play theme park, circa 21st century, sees itself as a way to inspire the already-faithful, not to rewire those who aren't inclined to believe (Although it's happy to win converts, too). Unsaved visitors will find themselves in a tiny minority, surrounded by pleasant people who already know all of the details. If you're part of that pie sliver who may not be blown away by looking at an old Bible, or by visiting a replica of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, everyone else in your tour group will be. You should remember to be polite to the enthusiastic guides.
Reports on each section of the park:
- Christ Of The Ozarks: The big centerpiece statue.
- Museum Of Earth History: Science without Evolution.
- The Bible Museum: Collection of rarities.
- Sacred Arts Center: Spirtually inspired works by artists.
- New Holy Land Tour: Explore parts of the Bible in a sprawling outdoor world.
- The Great Passion Play: Daily performances every summer.