Since ancient times, travelers have journeyed to sites of religious significance in order to deepen their faith. But I’ve never been much of a pilgrim. I was raised a Pentecostal, and in one regard our brand of faith was very modern: unlike most premodern people, we did not recognize any “sacred places.” For us, all places were alike to God because God had created them all. All places were sacred to humanity because God could be experienced anywhere.
I was 45 when I first visited Jerusalem, the Holy City, where centuries of history vital to our faith occurred, culminating in our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. The city was a huge disappointment. The holy sites struck me as inauthentic in two ways. First, it was often doubtful that the events in Jesus’ life had actually happened at those sites. Pious legend rather than historical evidence linked events in the life of Jesus with the sites.