Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage

Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage

Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage

Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage

Synopsis

Since the 1950s, millions of American Christians have traveled to the Holy Land to visit places in Israel and the Palestinian territories associated with Jesus's lifeand death. Why do these pilgrims choose to journey halfway around the world? How dothey react to what they encounter, and how do they understand the trip upon return? This book places the answers to these questions into the context of broad historical trends, analyzing how the growth of mass-market evangelical and Catholic pilgrimage relates to changes in American Christian theology and culture over the last sixty years, including shifts in Jewish-Christian relations, the growth of small group spirituality, and the development of a Christian leisure industry.

Drawing on five yearsof research with pilgrims before, during and after their trips, Walking Where Jesus Walked offers a lived religion approach that explores the trip's hybrid nature for pilgrims themselves: both ordinary--tiedto their everyday role as the family's ritual specialists, and extraordinary--since they leave home in a dramatic way, often for the first time. Their experiences illuminate key tensions in contemporary US Christianity between material evidence and transcendent divinity, commoditization and religious authority, domestic relationships and global experience.

Hillary Kaell crafts the first in-depth study of the cultural and religious significance of American Holy Land pilgrimage after 1948. The result sheds light on how Christian pilgrims, especially women, make sense of their experience in Israel-Palestine, offering an important complement to top-down approaches in studies of Christian Zionism and foreign policy.

Excerpt

Dale and I are waiting for the quiche to cool. It’s her culinary specialty, brags her husband Glen laughingly. In front of me is a display on a shelf near the stove: small olive wood carvings, a miniature jug of water, a set of glass salt and pepper shakers filled with more water and sand—Holy Land souvenirs from Dale’s recent trip. She turns on the CD of Christian hymns and Israeli-style melodies that she bought after their guide played it on the bus. Music fills the small bungalow and the two dogs start barking. Though normally subdued, Dale speaks excitedly for a moment, “The dogs love it and so does Glen. I play it all the time in the car and close my eyes and you feel—you’re there.”

Dale is sixty-four years old and has been an evangelical Christian for more than thirty years. She was born the youngest of seven children in a poor Franco-American family in upstate New York. They were devoutly Catholic, but as Dale recalls it now, she always felt out of place. “I hated shrines. It was just—I always felt that we weren’t praying to the right thing…. I was the one who was a rebel. If there was something this way, I had to do it that way. It could never just be the same as they did it.” She married in her early twenties and had two daughters before the marriage fell apart. In the midst of her divorce, a friend invited her to what Dale calls a “Bible-teaching church.” She immediately felt at home; it seemed like God was guiding her to make a change. Years later, Dale met Glen through church and remarried.

Today they live in a crowded, homey bungalow in a small town close to Burlington, Vermont, near her two adult daughters and grandchildren. Other than trips to Quebec and one to Mexico, Dale had never left the United States before going to the Holy Land. Nor had she had any inclination to do so. Exotic places don’t interest her and international travel is expensive. But when her pastor organized a group to see . . .

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