Holy Smoke

Okay, I’m home, but not quite finished with Gatlinburg. There’s a place in town called the Christ in the Smokies Museum and Garden.  I thought it would be a good excursion to blog about, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I thought, wrongly, that it would be smarmy and political and sanctimonious.  I was expecting some sort of a reprise of the Creation Museum I visited just over a year ago.  It wasn’t, not in the least.  A little cheesy, perhaps, but not political at all.

The Christ in the Smokies Museum just tells, gently, the story of Christ.  It isn’t there to proselytize, I should think it exists more as a pleasant place to enjoy ones faith and perhaps teach the children.  I’d call it more of an educational experience than a museum.

Visiting here cost me $12.29. There seems to be only 1 employee, manning both the ticket counter and the gift shop.  Since I appeared to be the only visitor, that’s enough staff.

The show starts with a 2 minute film telling you how great God is, then a set of door opens and you go down a long hall, where there are about 12 dioramas depicting different events in the life of Christ.

Begin at the beginning, manger, shepherds, Magi and all

Begin at the beginning, manger, shepherds, Magi and all

Each scene is professionally create and lit.  The rich voice of the narrator describes what you see and what the Bible says about it.  After a minute or two, the story ends, the lights go down and you stroll down the hall towards the next scene.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist

My preconception had been an overly Americanized Christ, beardless with blue eyes.  Good for them, I was wrong.  Every character, it seemed, looked appropriately Semitic.

What you would expect a man to look like in Israel 2000 years ago.

What you would expect a man to look like in Israel 2000 years ago.

The Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount

There were scenes with only 2 or 3 figures, but the creators of this place weren’t afraid to make some impressive displays.

If you're going to show the Last Supper, you might as well copy da Vinci.

If you’re going to show the Last Supper, you might as well copy da Vinci.

This isn’t journalism: there is no presumption of objectivity.  They are here to tell a story, and they want you to believe it.

Milking the scene for every last possible drop of drama.

Milking the scene for every last possible drop of drama.

Mary Magdalene at the Resurection

Mary Magdalene at the Resurection

Is Christ getting more Aryan?

Is Christ getting more Aryan?

So there were a few flaws.  Christ seemed to get more Norwegian.  In the scene from which we get “suffer the little children unto Me”, there were a lot of fair skinned, blue eyed children–not very probable, but they sell better in Tennessee.

At last, the grand finale:

Boatloads of cotton wool gave their life for this scene.

Boatloads of fluffy cotton gave their life for this scene.

The last scene gives us the Ascension  into heaven, and is the only one where there is motion. To the swelling sounds of ecclesiastical music, Christ rises into the sky.

The lights fade out, and the door open to lead you out of the exhibit, into the “gardens” of the museum.  Not really gardens, just a large room with a lot of plants.  And a hokey sculpture that they claim is “world famous”.

 

From the gardens you go into a room with what are supposed to be ancient coins that look suspiciously clean and plastic.  Posters from Biblical epics line the walls of another room, and then you are out into the gift shop, well stocked with, well, gifts.  Nothing Gail would want, but she and I are hardly the typical visitor.

The Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens is not exactly the sort of thing that I would expect to enjoy, but I thought it was well done, pleasantly presented and not the least bit political. I’ve certainly gotten less for my $12.29.

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