Minneapolis Star-Tribune 6/29/03
IN THE HOLY LAND
by Ray Ford
In the spring of 1996, author James Campion became a “Jesus groupie,” traveling to the Holy Land to write Trailing Jesus (Gueem Books, 585 pages, $18). Campion, raised a Roman Catholic, admits that despite becoming a man of “no faith of any kind,” he still remains a practicing “fan of Jesus.”
Readers get a detailed, but somewhat rambling, tour of the Holy Land, seen through the eyes of Campion, whose knowledge of the Bible illuminates his prose with the political, social and religious background against which Christ’s travels and ultimate end were set.
The book is an account of Campion’s traipse over most of the places of Christ’s life, including the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, the gates of Jerusalem, the Kidron Valley and Golgotha, “Place of the Skull,” but Campion shuns large, guided tours, instead doing it pretty much with an experienced guide named Avi.
Campion reveals his own struggle with his beliefs in alternate chapters that speak of an interior “nothing” that he unsuccessfully tries to define, as well as his poignant memories of growing up in New York City, attending St. Dominic’s Grammar School and, later, the evolution of his questioning of all religions.
Campion’s accounts of the geography of Jesus’ public life go from the Jordan River, scene of Christ’s baptism, to the “Via Dolorosa,” the way of his crucifixion. Campion lingers at all 14 defined points of the “Way of the Cross,” which describe Christ’s final hours and death. At one point during this journey, he breaks down into uncontrollable sobbing, which guide Avi calls entirely natural for pilgrims on this journey.
Upon leaving the Holy Land, Campion concludes his book with this: “Indeed, I found Jesus of Nazareth on this soil. He is out there still, burning as brightly as the glistening pearls along the lake of his youth.”
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