Material History of American Religion Project

Living Bible Museum

Publicity card for the Living Bible Museum

America is a landscape littered with sacred places. You wouldn't believe it to hear the critics of secularism, but the country is full of shrines for a variety of gods. Some are private, built in the corner of a bedroom as the object of one person's devotion. Others are national, designed to stimulate patriotism and dedication on the part of all Americans. Others are evangelical, designed to attract strangers and introduce them to the faith.

The Living Bible Museum of Mansfield, Ohio, fits in the last category. With easy access to the highway and a recommendation from the American Automobile Association, the Museum (a ministry of Diamond Hill Cathedral) is designed to welcome strangers, especially non-Christians, and tell them about the sacred elements of the faith. The special effects and music make the experience both entertainment and educational. The goal is to persuade visitors to become Christians. And yet with its "re-creations of favorite Old and New Testament stories," the museum also appeals to life-time Christians, giving them a chance to reencounter their beloved Bible in a more life-like way, so that it "becomes a treasured memory of the heart." For all visitors there is a snack bar, a gift shop, and a "Christian dinner theatre."

It would be easy to make fun of the museum, with its mixture of gospel, entertainment, and commerce. But the country is full of such shrines, many of which combine these various elements. Each of them provide important spiritual opportunities for devotees, and help to form a sacred landscape hiding in plain sight.

Project associate director Dan Sack found this flyer for the Living Bible Museum at a rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike.

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