(RNS) Controversial televangelist Morris Cerullo, who once tried to salvage Jim Baker’s famously bankrupt South Carolina resort in the 1980s, is jumping back into Christian tourism.
This time, the 84-year-old proclaimer of miraculous healings, wants to revive a failed San Diego resort — purchased foreclosure four years ago — by turning it into a Christian-themed wonderland that would compete for vacationers with fabled attractions like the San Diego Zoo
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the hotel and attraction complex will feature a vast welcome center, a Biblical museum, underground tunnels recalling the catacombs, an international marketplace, a high tech theater, a mission training center, a replica of Jerusalem’s Western Wall and the headquarters of his evangelism operation.
“He’s 84 and has got to be thinking about how many more years do I have and what happens to this ministry I poured my life into?” said Lynn Hodge, CEO of Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, told the paper.
Project leaders for Cerullo told the Union Tribune that the $125 million project, which still needs the approval of the San Diego City Council, could draw 400,000 visitors a year. The business plan is for the hotel operations to sustain the theme park.
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However, Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider, told the San Diego paper, “History has shown with these kinds of projects that they don’t really break out beyond the evangelical Christian market. People’s fear of proselytizing overrides whatever technology they can throw at you. If you feel there may even be a mild sell, they won’t come.”
“Mild sell” is not what Cerullo is known for. He has had a long run of controversies as he built his ministry into an international behemoth. In England in 2014, the Independent ran an expose of the Pentecostal pastor’s faith healing events leading to tragic results.
Still, his website’s “healing room” shares testimonies from people describing recovery from scores of different ailments and conditions through his healing ministry. And it touts his “Miracle Crusades in which the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the Gospel is preached have reached up to 500,000 people in one service.”
Video courtesy of Vincent Mudd via YouTube