June 5, 2011

Creation Museum

Abe was working in the Cincinnati area this week and invited me to join him overnight when I was free. We had a lovely evening on Thursday, and Friday morning he headed back to work and I headed home.

On the way there I had noticed the brown highway sign pointing to the Creation Museum. I’ve seen it in the news and kind of rolled my eyes and sighed. After I passed the exit on the way to Cincy, it struck me that I might have the time to see it. Hmm.

I joked to Abe that I could stop by on my way home. But as I was driving it didn’t seem like such a joke. I did have some time and it would be fascinating to see, if it wasn’t too far away. When Exit 11 rolled up, I rolled off the highway. The museum was about a quarter mile away, ostensibly in Petersburg, KY but not close to anything but the highway.

In the midst of scrub and woods, I drove down a rural road and there it was.

The building is new and modern, and the grounds are well kept. There are gardens, a petting zoo, and several cafes on site. There was an officer in the parking lot directing traffic, and the lot was about half full at 10:30a, only thirty minutes after it opened.

The building fa├žade is nice enough, if dull. The interior is really very good: animatronics and displays almost worthy of Disney. We started in a canyon setting and walked through an explanation of science vs. Genesis. (See those lights above? Never at Disney!)

According to founder (and former science teacher from Australia) Ken Ham, whose books are featured in the exit gift shop, one’s interpretation of today’s evidence originates in one of two views: human reason or God’s word. In the view of biblical creationists, the two cannot meet. Click on the picture to read the side-by-side comparison of the two viewpoints concerning fossils and the universe.

Biblical Creationist Theology

From the Biblical Creationist point of view, the universe is 6,000 years old. It was created in six 24-hour days. All animals that we know to have existed lived among human beings before the Flood—including dinosaurs. All animals were herbivores until sin came into the world, introduced by Adam and Eve. Until then, no animals were poisonous. Men married their sisters, but that was not prohibited because DNA was not corrupted by a bad gene pool.

The flood occurred about 4350 years ago. It was the flood that changed everything we see today: animals' bones were covered in mud; the continents shifted in geological seconds to the arrangement we see today; deep river canyons were carved in days or even hours; and all current animal life originated from the pairs off the ark. Their offspring rode rafts of dead trees from the flood to propagate on all the continents.

We enter a room in which life-size animated figures are building the ark. There are some pretty impressive small models on display too. This is the first stage, when the ark was being built.

From the time Noah landed and populated the earth, mankind has continued to stray from scripture. The museum leads us to the current times.

The condition of the world today, which apparently is nothing but terrible in their viewpoint, is due to scripture being abandoned by culture. At this point we enter a darkened black-and-red room intended to be frightening: a door has a dozen locks; graffiti is sprayed on a wall; we see videos of teenagers playing violent videos and watching porn; a church is being smashed by a giant weight as people sing inside. And on one wall is more evidence of a fallen world:

I can’t help but notice that "gay marriage" is front and center.

We move from this display to a repeat of the message we saw upon entering: science vs. scripture, using different and engaging displays of biblical characters and scientific evidence. (The duplication allows crowds to enter through either entry, crossing paths at the center area of "today’s world." It also makes its point in a visually distinct way, driving the message home twice. Well done from an educational standpoint.)

The People

Who was there to see this with me? Many were apparently home schoolers, as evidenced by clothing and family units. (Full disclosure: I home-schooled my daughter through fourth grade due to our township’s low educational standards. BTW: I was right. But it was not about religion at all in my case.) All that I saw in attendance were white middle class. There were two buses in the lot from a church in Tennessee, and a man cell-shouting next to me told his phone that it was a six-hour drive from Alabama. One young teen girl, punked out in makeup and outfit, sat sullenly on a bench in one of the rooms.

The man who started all this, Ken Ham, is in litigation in Australia for alleged financial misconduct with his former ministry there. He has been banned from the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention for disparaging public remarks about a fellow speaker, although he is a popular keynote speaker at other home school gatherings. His ministry, Answers In Genesis, is in the final stages of getting huge financing for a theme park called Ark Encounter, to be built a few miles south of the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

I’ve read plenty about this museum, none of it kind. I won’t pretend to agree with any of its premise, but I also won’t be a shrill critic as I’ve seen in so many places. I felt quite the outsider while I walked through the museum. It was filled with absolutes. I understand that the people who go here are looking for answers, and Ham gives them that. In fact, all of his books in the gift shop are under the series name Answers.

There’s that desire for certainty again. Those who feel alienated from a world they can’t grasp or control for whatever reason will be drawn to someone who gives them answers. Ham was there to give a lecture on “Genesis in Today’s World.” I didn’t stay to hear it. But it appears that he draws people to HIM and not so much to God. It’s all about what he sees in the Bible, which is not to say it’s about God's grace. When the Bible becomes a weapon, it is no longer about grace. This is a ministry based on fear.

When I look for a person who will help illuminate God, I find that it is someone who steps aside to make God visible in their words and deeds. They disappear as they teach by example. I see the inner light. They make me like who I am when I am with them. They give me peace about my relationship with God—not doubt or fear, even in the midst of questions and ambiguity. I found no peace at the Creation Museum, and I pray for those who are still looking.

Pictures so marked are from Ars Technica.


THIS IS ME....ONLINE said...

I agree. Step back and let God be God. Technicolor cannot compete.

Ur-spo said...

I fear I am shallow; my reaction to all this is to wonder what was in the gift shoppe?

Birdie said...

Ur-spo, the walls were lined with books that supported the theology of this group of Creationists. It is telling that I didn't recognize a single author or publisher. Lots of the materials were aimed at home schooling parents and their children.

The interior of this very large shop contained all the stuff you see in gift shops everywhere—with their logo stamped on it. Decent quality junk.

Anonymous said...

Looks like all those creationists pouring into the parking lot missed the bus back on 5/21 Rapture Day.

It is more than a bit disturbing to realize that we have our own version of Talibanists in our midst and that they are such ardent followers.

How can thinking people take such ridiculous notions as real? Mr. Ham seems the perfect false profit.


tornwordo said...

You are so brave! I wouldn't dare. My uncle gave me some great advice when I was young that I never forgot. Beware of anyone who believes they have the answers for you. Only you can find the answers for you, after all, that's your purpose in life - to figure it out.