In Orlando, Florida people pin prayers to a cross. The cross stands on the grounds of the Holy Land Experience (HLE), a 15 acre “living, biblical museum” that teaches Christian themes in a themed environment 11 miles northeast of the Walt Disney World Resort. HLE is a site on the American evangelical landscape where materiality flourishes: religious history and textual ideologies are re-presented in a way that fuses Protestant commitments with the logics of immersive entertainment.
James S. Bielo
James S. Bielo is Lecturer of Anthropology at Miami University. He is the author of Words upon the Word: An Ethnography of Evangelical Bible Study (NYU Press, 2009) and Emerging Evangelicals: Faith, Modernity, and the Desire for Authenticity (NYU Press, 2011), and the editor of The Social Life of Scriptures: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Biblicism (Rutgers Press, 2009). As a teacher-scholar at Miami, Dr. Bielo primarily teaches courses in cultural and linguistic anthropology, ethnography, religion, American communities, and globalization. Read more posts at The Immanent Frame or visit his website.
Posts by James S. Bielo
Numerous tactile and sensorial elements are vital to evangelical walking prayer. The hands of pray-ers interlock with one another—trading oils and sweat—as they pray over selected street corners; perhaps the site of a car accident, some violent crime, a future business, an old apartment, or a perfect vantage point for viewing the city. Pray-ers lay hands on stone and brick buildings, to bless a food market or seek healing for a dying retail store. When churches like The Village do walking prayer, they are cast into the sensory overload that is city life. Hustle, bustle, frenzy, squealing brakes, honking horns, and passersby clash with our most readily available images and associations for prayer, in which piety and transcendence are achieved via silence. If the prayer shawls documented by Anderson Blanton are worn to “prevent distraction,” urban evangelical walking prayer seeks and confronts distraction.