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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Roadside religion

Religion is where you find it, some say. Timothy Beal, author of the forthcoming book Roadside Religion, finds it along the back roads of America.

Last summer the professor of biblical literature at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, packed up his family and traveled rural highways from New York to Alabama looking for "the diversity and wonderful strangeness" of Americans' religious expression.

Beal avoids ridicule as he chronicles the roadside messages of those who often say they have a divine mission. On 11 acres of Alabama farmland he discovered thousands of scrap wood crosses bearing messages such as "Hell is hot, hot, hot." In Kentucky he came upon a miniature golf fairway at the Golgotha Fun Park, where Jesus ascends to heaven on the 18th hole.

The author offers a glimpse of about 20 religious theme parks, including the Holy Land USA Nature Sanctuary in Bedford, Va., with its scaled-down version of biblical Israel.


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