Sacred Spaces, Unholy Real Estate

Two stories from opposite sides of the globe point to the problem of turning sacred spaces into holy real estate. In Tennessee, a Methodist pastor rejects a proposed Bible theme park as an encroachment on his congregation’s view of God’s creation (as shaped by a few hundred years of farming). In Australia, the Anangu people are suing the nation’s telecom giant Telstra for turning their sacred space — the rock formation known as Uluru, Australia’s most famous landmark — into virtual real estate on Second Life. At issue in the Tennessee is the physicalization of scripture, making the Bible stories of believers’ imagination into plastic displays subject to the weather. At issue in Australia is the virtualization of the physical, making the mysteries of place, ritual, tradition, and belief into so many digital 1s and 0s.