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>> 197 Conclusion On the first day of Pastor Jim’s trip, the pilgrims emerged bleary-eyed from the Tel Aviv airport, having just arrived on an overnight flight from New York City. But Gilad’s enthusiasm was infectious. He grabbed the microphone as we settled into our seats on the bus. “Israel,” he began, “has something every other country has, yet none has: the Bible. Outside Israel, you have to open a book to read the Bible. In Israel, if you want to read it, you look out a window. You have reached the land of promises.” His greeting was poetic, and although I recognized the sentiment from a late 1970s IMOT ad campaign, I, like the pilgrims, was moved. Sitting behind me, Helen gazed out at the concrete overpasses of Ben Gurion airport and turned to Sam, “Maybe I should stay here for the rest of my life. You’d just have to come back one more time to take me back in a box so I can be [buried] with Wally.” Months later, I sat in Helen’s kitchen and we watched the birds flit over to her feeders. “Do you think you’ll go back to the Holy Land?” I asked. “Oh no,” she said. “I was so sick when we got back. My blood sugar was way out of control.” Well, if you didn’t have diabetes, I reasoned , would you return? “Nah,” she replied. “That was enough. I think about it every day and look at the photos. . . . Anyway, who’d look after Ethan if I went running around?” She stroked her two-year-old grandson ’s hair. That day, like most days, he was in her charge. As we talked, he was quietly spilling juice down his front with one hand and rolling a toy car around with the other. Helen jumped up to clean up the mess. If you ask a Christian why she went to the Holy Land, her response will often contain one of two phrases: she wanted to “make the Bible come alive” and to “walk where Jesus walked.” The first answer evokes “aliveness,” the assurance that God is really real. American Holy Land pilgrims are by no means doubters, but like all modern Western 198 > 199 What the preceding chapters have emphasized, however, is that these dualities do not abrogate meaning-making. Put differently, the Holy Land pilgrimage is not religious in spite of its commercial or touristic or global nature. It is powerful precisely because participants engage with defining characteristics of Christian modernity through the juxtaposition of these dualities: the dynamic tension between material evidence and transcendent divinity, the intersection of commoditization and religious authority, the interplay between domestic relationships and global experience. American Christians navigate these categorizations and ways of being every day, of course, but the intentional nature of “walking where Jesus walked” brings them into heightened relief. It is the extra-ordinary nature of this “trip of a lifetime” that makes it such a good experience to think with—for American Christians and for the scholars who study them. These dualities—home/away, transcendent/material, religion/commerce —constitute three broad themes in the preceding chapters, and illuminate two overlapping lines of inquiry: one explores personal experiences , like Helen’s, to which I return below; the second concerns institutional and cultural change. In this context, a few major points stand out. First, pilgrimage is one facet of a larger phenomenon that deserves more scholarly attention: the growth since the 1950s of a multibilliondollar Christian leisure industry. Leisure activities such as trips to the Holy Land are voluntary and are undertaken as a complement to regular church services and activities. As such, they are paradenominational or extradenominational, making them part of what is perhaps the most important trend in modern U.S. Christianity. Parachurch organizations, small prayer and study groups, pilgrimages and tours, retreats and shortterm missions, online chats and TV ministries, to name just a few examples , are central sites of flexible identity production and religious adherence . It is in these contexts that we see contemporary faith in action. Second, the Holy Land is the one place in the world where American Catholics and Protestants regularly encounter each other, and others, at shared worship sites that each group may claim as equally theirs.3 Thus the trip exemplifies (and for pilgrims reinforces) recent trends in ecumenism and pluralism. This is especially evident in how participants define “getting along” in their group and in the ambivalence they...


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