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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Bethlehem Experience

Bethlehem has come to Penrith, let the lord be praised!

Tonight, Rach and I decided to have a bit of a laugh and check out the Penrith Christain Life Centre's interactive display 'The Bethlehem Experience'. Basically, it's a reconstruction of the town of Bethlehem, full of actors playing everything from beggars, and shopkeepers to angels and centurions.

We arrived and got our tickets, which were free, but necessary to keep our place in line. After getting the rundown from the ticketperson, we thought we'd check out the festivities. There was a christain youth band playing, so we thought we'd sit down and soak up the luls. They were playing a song about a sky prince that went:
Let's party with Jesus,
Jump high and touch the sky
Let's party with him,
Tell the world that he's alive!
My suggestion was to change the last word from 'alive' to 'a lie', which wouldn't even change the ingenious rhythmical structure one little bit, and would make the song much more pragmatically consistent.

After playing some games with the kiddies and getting them to dress up like a nativity scene, the band played a 'humorous' (evil) version of 'The 12 Days of Christmyth', in which 'my mother made me eat' cows tongues, chicken feet, sheeps brains, goats eyes amongst other delicious treats for the kiddies. The most disturbing thing about this was the overhead photos that were displayed, especially the slimy, bleeding sheeps brain (yum yum!),

which were meant for CHILDREN to view! If they were trying to scare the demons out of them, I think they might have just succeeded!

Soon after we had regained consciousness, our group was called out and we headed off to line up for our turn in the Bethlehem Experience.

When we entered, we had to take part in the census, which involved standing and listening to some banter between out guide and a census taker, before entering the gates of Bethlehem. We were stopped by a guard, who made snide remarks about the people in the group (obviously to reinforce the idea that the pagan romans were mean and nasty people). We were then stopped by the tax collector, who collected donations (from most people) before we could be let into the town square.

Once we entered the square, we were impressed with the amount of effort that had been put into it, there were little market stalls hawking their wares, children playing in the street and cityfolk milling around. The actors were all dressed in robes and were doing a pretty good job of impersonating ordinary folk from the past. We were led from stall to stall, and at each, our guide engaged in some friendly banter with the shopkeep

"How's your salty fish today?"
"Not bad, by the way, a baby's been born in a muck trough!"
"Oh that is interesting... goodbye"

At each stop it told you a little more about the virgin birth myth and we learned some interesting historical facts about the days of yore, like the bakers were supplied by bakers delight and the salty fish merchant was the originator of the slogan 'the fresh food people'.

We went through a house, meeting a family and then on to some more shops and a synagogue. I must admit that I was a bit distracted during the sermon, as there was a child in a cage at the next exhibit and I was trying to snap some decent pics while there was no crowd around and I could get a clear shot.

As we moved on, we were informed that we would not be able to find any lodgings as the last possible bed had been taken by a pregnant tart and her suspicious boyfriend. Apparanly the town was busy, as it was christmas, and as we all know, it's terribly difficult to find accommodation during the holiday season.

We moved along and saw some enthusiastic kids hamming it up as much as they could (seriously, those kids were really enthusiastic. It's a shame thet their talents are being focussed into something like this, really) before goinig to see the three wise men, who thought that a lightbulb had led them to the birth of the saviour.

Next was the manger and the nativity scene, which was pretty much as you would expect it. Hay all over the floor and some people who had come to visit and worship the newborn and his family, who were sat in a postcard pose.

We then went to a miracle scene, where we were told of how Jesus had healed a woman's back problem (the woman was bouncing about like a crazy person and even more enthusiastic than the kids mentioned earlier!) and a man who Jesus rubbed mud in his eyes, then he could see.

The next scene was perhaps the most shocking part of the 'Experience' as we walked through a corridor, made up to look like a jail cell, with the Passion of the Christ (an MA15+ film no less) playing at one end. How they thought it was ok to take children through with a snuff film playing in the darkness is beyond me. They are penticostals, they are nutjobs, don't take your kids!

Then was the crucufix scene, peppered with more blood and low, spooky lighting, followed by the empty tomb, with the shroud inside. A couple of weeping ladies came up to the tomb and were bawling their eyes out (ok I know what you're thinking "Isn't this meant to be the christmyth story... just the baby jesus bit? Aren't we jumping seasons now to easter? Doesn't that just seem to be an excuse to use the feel bad for Jesus argument? Isn't it just blatant prothletising, exaggerated by being so out of context? Did that even happen in Bethlehem?" but stop. Remember that we didn't come here o think, we came to get some religion in us!). An angel came by and told them not to worry, he wasn't dead or vanished, he'd just nicked off to the pub for a quick one and he'd be back soon enough (I may have misheard, it was pretty noisy).

The next scene was of some angels looking very holy, which would have been entirely dull if not for the fact that one of the children in the group began to cry and hide his head in his jumper like a turtle. Obviously it was getting to him. Again, don't take young children to this, it could be pretty unsettling.

Just to cap it off was the mother of all scary scenes. We were handed on to an evangelist, who did the "pray with me and if you haven't found Jesus, or it's been a long time since you had Jesus in your life please come and talk to one of our friendly ministers and get guilted into signing up to our church". Like I said, it was pretty scary, but we were tough and made it past without being drowned in the blood of christ and found orselves in the gift shop, where the good folks from the Koorong bookshop and Bikers for Jesus were there to see us on out way. We picked up a handfull of pamphlets including "How to know god", "The Good news story" and "what on earth am I here for?". We got some pictures with the bikie christains and said thanks to some of the staff for such a fun evening, then left, having been thoroughly entertained.

It was much more fun than a move, and the price was definately right!

It's just a shame they are selling this stuff to children.

See the full photoset here


  1. It sure was fun! I was disgusted at them playing "passion of the christ" in front of all those children. It is pure blatant scare tactics. And at the end the "Biker for Christ" offered to take a photo of us, and when holding the camera said "be careful or I might run off with your camera!" What?? Isn't your magic sky fairy watching??

  2. I pray that someday soon you will know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.

  3. @anon,

    I hope that you wake up someday.


    Yeah interestin isn't it but then he could always repent and ask forgiveness after the fact.

  4. Anonymous, I was a devout Christian for ten years and abandoned the church when I concluded that I was being lied to.

    My opinion is strong but not inflexible: the Christian god does not exist.

    The only thing that will change my mind is reasoned argument and/or evidence.

    This puts YOU in an interesting position. I see two really cool choices. Firstly, you can do something useful instead of prayer. I propose that you investigate your own reasons for believing that Jesus is your saviour, and share those reasons so we can understand them.

    Or, if you insist on praying instead of thinking, why not just pray that your god reveals himself to me, and see what happens?

    Peace and reason,