Today’s article and discussion on pilgrimage and tourism colored much of the day for me and I wouldn’t be surprised if it colored much of the trip retrospectively. We discussed an article by Tony Cartledge on Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. After reading the article, it seemed fairly clear to me that its focus was on eschatology and the Zionist eschatological beliefs of a particular group of Christian evangelicals. However, we spent the entirety of our seminar time on the set up for the eschatological portion of the paper, discussing the variety of ways in which Christian pilgrims respond to the Holy Lands. In summary, the article notes a tendency among Orthodox Christians to venerate all of the relics in the Holy Lands and to focus mainly on the churches that are present in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Cartledge paints Catholics as more contemplative in their visits to the Holy Land, still venerating certain buildings, but largely using their pilgrimage experience for entrance again into the “real world”, unlike the Orthodox Christians who see the pilgrimage primarily as a way to prepare themselves for death. The article devoted much of its space to a discussion of Protestants, and in particular Evangelicals. Cartledge notes that Protestants feel a much stronger connection to the geography of the Holy Lands rather than the holy buildings and relics and come largely to “walk where Jesus walked”. Cartledge goes on to discuss the interactions between the State of Israel and various evangelical Christian groups, making a strong case that Israel pours funds into encouraging evangelical Christians to visit Israel in hopes that it will foster or confirm Zionist ideology among these Christians and increase support for the state of Israel.
At this point during the trip we are seeing more evangelical Christians than ever before. During our time in Israel, we ran into some groups that looked that they might be Protestants, particularly at the site of the Garden Tomb which is known for being very popular among Protestants. At the Kibbutz Ginosar, where we are now staying, it seems that there are several church groups visiting, including one that looks like it may be an evangelical group from Texas. I think that there’s a lot of truth in Cartledge’s statements about the Protestant desire to “walk where Jesus walked”. As a Protestant, I find myself much more drawn to sites like the Sea of Galilee and the Mt. of the Beatitudes than the Church of the Holy Seplecher, which seemed large and dark and hectic. In spite of the truth in Cartledge’s article, I found many of the statements made during class discussion today frustrating, like “tourism and pilgrimage seem nearly identical in the contemporary world”. From a Christian perspective, it seems clear to me that pilgrimage and tourism are two very different entities. In fact, I thought that Cartledge defined the two terms quite helpfully in his article, decribing pilgrimage as moving towards the center of one’s world and tourism as moving away from the center of one’s world.
Interestingly, this trip seems to me to be neither tourism nor a pilgrimage. Certainly I enjoy the Biblical sites that we visit, but the point of visiting them in not veneration but rather to consider their archaeology and connection to contemporary politics and national identities. Perhaps pilgrimage, tourism and academic ventures all have some aspects in common, like a sense of excitement, interest, or satisfaction upon reaching and exploring particular areas. However, the “take away” of each of these three kinds of journeys seems distinct to me. To equate pilgrims to tourists seems to me disrespectful to their sense of veneration for the land. Similarly, to avoid to an archaeology course as simply toursits would disregard their substantial interest in connecting to the land historically with intellectual rigor.