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Imagining The Holy Land: Maps, Models, And Fantasy Travels Burke O. Long. Indiana University Press, $39.95. 258 Pages ISBN 0-2533-4136-1. 2002.

Burke Long's new book, Imagining the Holy Land, is a well-researched, persuasive, and fascinating investigation of the variety of ways in which nineteenth - and twentieth - century Americans used biblical studies and scholarship to imagine the Holy Land, or the land of Palestine and Israel. In two very important ways, Long's work marks a departure from the more traditional academic examination of scholarly texts on imagining the Holy Land. First, Long uses an interdisciplinary approach to the investigation of his subject matter. Long opens his book with a theoretical reflection on how religious believers think about and use space. Invoking the ideas of theoreticians such as Edward Soja, Edward Said, and occasionally Michel Foucault, Long brings their theoretical insights to bear on biblical studies without being over pedantic or abstract.

Yet he in effect takes the disciplinary studies of the Bible beyond their customary boundaries. This is accomplished not only by theory but by where he places his focus, the second important departure of his work. Long deftly incorporates, explores, and analyzes, material culture and objects in the investigation of his thesis that the "imaginative representations of the holy land" are "inventively constructed worlds" that often serve as surrogates for the real thing. Long compiles an impressive list of artifacts used at various times by Americans to imagine their holy lands. Travel diaries, guide books, theme parks, postcards, photographs, maps, atlases, theatrical performances, videos, and academic institutions—these are just a few of the items Long employs as lenses through which to view representations of Palestine and Jerusalem. Moreover, these surrogates serve as a kind of "affective geography" that enlivens the piety, ritual life, patriotism, and even, on occasion, the scholarship of American believers.

In five richly detailed and skillfully narrated chapters, Long critically examines some of the ways in which Americans have historically imagined the Holy Land. A brief examination and discussion of three chapters will suffice to give the reader a sense of the scope and insights of Long's work. A final word will be offered regarding the pedagogical benefits of using this work in biblical studies and religion courses.

"Lakeside at Chautauqua's Holy Land," Long's initial chapter, discusses how the now historically famous nineteenth-century campground, vacation resort, and educational institution also served as a site where Christian believers both indulged their romantic fantasies about the Holy Land and cultivated a holy land consciousness. Long argues that by means of geography specially designed and constructed to resemble biblical Palestine, such as Chautaugua's Palestine Park, Valley of the Jordan, and Pyramid of Gizeh, visitors to Chautauqua were able to make a surrogate pilgrimage to the Holy Land, gazing upon and walking among the people of the ancient world. Guidebooks, models, maps, lectures from prominent academicians and political figures, special classes in biblical history, chronology, and geography, and the occasional reenactment of scenes from the Bible by professional actors—all of these enabled visitors to combine both tourism and religious piety. In fact, this is Long's larger point: the importance of a replica of the biblical world in a summer resort in New York State was not merely in its convenience, allowing American Christians with limited resources to see the Holy Land; no, the significance of Chautaugua's re-creation of the biblical world was the firsthand experience it enabled American Christians to have of the geographical biblical world, an experience that was ultimately transformative. To quote Long, the Chautaugua experience transformed visitors into "a biblical people who lived the geography and topography of the Bible narrative, what was called sacred history, as immediate Christian experience."

Long teases out the connections between imaginative reconstructions of Jerusalem and national identity in his second chapter, "Starred and Striped Holy Lands." What will interest biblical and American studies scholars alike about this chapter is the degree to which holy land representations were, more often than not, representations of America, at once an idealization of both the biblical world and the United States of America. Though the chapter looks at two different examples of Holy Lands constructed in the United States, the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904 and the Christ of the Ozarks, it is the former event that wonderfully demonstrates the energy and exuberance Americans had for such geographical imaginings of the Holy Land. Long powerfully illustrates this with a review of the 1904 World's Fair, whose organizers built a nearly full-sized reconstruction of Ottoman Jerusalem on eleven acres of land. Thus, in the midst of exhibits of American ingenuity, abundance, and achievement in industry, the fine arts, education, and social economy was the city of Jerusalem, a symbol of America's Protestant faith and the source—the Fair and its organizers seemed to suggest—from which all its blessings flowed. Unlike the Chautaugua Campgrounds, visitors to the Exposition were able to do more than walk the geography of ancient times: they were now able to take camel rides through the streets of the Fair's Jerusalem, enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, visit the Jews' Wailing Wall, or view a cyclorama of the Crucifixion.

Actors and actresses—in many instances, immigrants from the Middle East— inhabited the city as living exhibits who recreated the dress, lives, and cultures of Jews, Muslims, and Christians of the period. Yet a crucial, and somewhat exploitive, difference existed between the inhabitants of the imagined Jerusalem and visitors to the Fair. The residents of the constructed Holy Land, representatives from a mythic past, were there for the benefit, edification, and religious experience of the predominately American visitors, heirs of a future Jerusalem, eager to discover the Protestant roots ofAmerica. How American visitors to the Fair saw the inhabitants of Jerusalem washow they saw the "real"Holy Land itself, as a means to an end.

Guide books, trinkets, and souvenirs were also sold. The city of Jerusalem was not only good for religion, it was good for business. And not withstanding its attention to historical detail and authenticity, it allowed Fair goers to have Jerusalem their way, on their own terms. In the words of one organizer of exhibits and displays, "You cannot go to Jerusalem, so Jerusalem comes to you. To American energy all things are possible."

In "Landscapes of Democracy," Long more closely explores the connection between religious piety, national identity, and scholarship, offering a detailed account of how three different American scholars brought their individual values, ideals, and myths to the study of Jerusalem. William Foxwell Albright, Chester Charlton McCown, and Max Leopold Margolis are names students of biblical studies will immediately identify with the archaeological, textual, and historical study of Near Eastern culture, biblical antiquity, and Christianity. More importantly for Long's purposes is that each of these scholars was affiliated with the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, an institution that not only bred an impressive number of prominent biblical scholars but also serves to illustrate how geopiety can become encoded within scholarly activities and the construction of knowledge. Albright, McCown, and Margolis emerged during a period in American history and culture, specifically during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, when Americans were preoccupied with Palestine, Jerusalem, and the Near Eastern world and fervently believed "that Protestant American was heir to the promises of the Holy Land."

Using the scholarly discipline and science of archaeology, Albright, first a fellow at the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem and then its director in the 1920s and 30s, produced scholarship that imagined Jerusalem as the cradle of civilization and the United States as its evolutionary next step. McCown, a Methodist minister and Professor of New Testament, imagined and constructed a rough and rugged holy landscape that not only sustained a nomadic people and their ideals but, more importantly, gave birth to Jesus, whose proclamations of an "oriental realism" were the seeds from which God's Kingdom—or, as McCown called it, "the Democracy of God"— would emerge. And finally, Margolis, a respected scholar of biblical literature, editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature, and a Zionist, used his knowledge of languages, the Hebrew Bible, and Palestine to imagine the Holy Land as "a physical and ideational space of reclaimed national and spiritual identity." Long's summary of the three scholars serves as a concise statement of what he attempts with his entire book:

Three American scholars, three "holy lands." Images of the Holy Land were entangled with shared ideologies of scientific discovery and privileged American values, and embedded in the exegesis of text and artifact. Each man gave voice to learned discourse about the Holy Land and constructed spaces of moral and political imperative. Each lived his own version of a Holy Land myth, American style, inspired in part by the American School of Jerusalem, the great nurturer of Holy Land travels and enabler of fantasy realism (p. 163).

Herein lies the pedagogical benefit of the scholarship and theoretical approach Long presents in Imagining the Holy Land. For the past two years, I have used Long's book in two religion classes I teach at Bates College. One, titled City upon a Hill, is an examination of the relationship between religion and politics in America Society. The other course, Religion and American Visual Culture, explores the integral role material culture and artifacts play in the lives and worship of American religious believers whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or adherents of other religious groups. While this may not be news to many of the scholars doing such work, it is to my students. They are invariably drawn to Long's book because it lays bear the process by which religious believers construct and sustain their religious beliefs, ideals, and practices. Long demonstrates how religious belief and practice are about more than abstraction, but also include the physical objects of the world. This incorporation of the artifacts of a religious tradition challenges students to develop skills beyond textual analysis. They learn to read and analyze maps, models, postcards, photographs, videos, theatrical performances such as passion plays, videos, and websites that are a part of a larger religious discourse. Long's masterful reading of artifacts compels them to look anew at the relationship between the objects, or artifacts, of believers and what they believe.

Long reveals to scholars and students of religion alike the means by which discourses, especially ones regarding consecrated spaces such as the Holy Land, are constructed, enlivened, and given currency by artifacts and practices that might appear poor surrogates or substitutes for the "real thing," yet are no less powerful, persuasive, and long-lasting for adherents. But Long takes an even bolder step by interrogating the assumptions, beliefs, and politics of scholarly discourses as well. In fact, Long, in an expert yet subtle manner, enables scholars and students to see that scholarship and academic institutions are aggregations of artifacts and practices, encoded with national, political, social, and cultural ideals and values regarding how we see the world or at least would like to see it. These artifacts and practices, laden and inscribed with our beliefs, are the touchstones, what Long finally calls the "touch of the real," of our discourses. While contemporary scholars are certainly aware that our scholarship can be subtly influenced by our assumptions, beliefs, ideals, and traditions, Long has done us the great and inestimable service of illuminating the role of the imagination—one might say, the pious imagination—in shaping the world around us.

Marcus Bruce, Bates College, mbruce@bates.edu

Citation: Marcus Bruce, " Long's Imagining The Holy Land," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited June 2005]. Online:http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=418

 
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