These days it doesn’t take much to leave me feeling dismayed and embarrassed by the public image of the faith to which I’ve tethered my hopes, fears, dreams, and abilities to pay my mortgage.
Which, is why I’m ever so grateful for the inescapable work of Ken Ham and his relentless cadre of Evangelical-evolution-denying-zealot-scientist-pastors.
From yelling into a microphone near a TV scientist about the satanic underpinnings of carbon dating and natural selection, to plundering a sacred, centuries old document in order to support a worldview more closely resembling an episode of the Flintstones than, say, the historic Christian faith, Mr. Ham does an airtight job incarnating every email forward chain your great aunt sends you from Snopes.com.
“BUT ERIC, “THEY” CAN STEAL YOUR KEYLESS ENTRY SIGNAL FROM OVER A MILE AWAY, AND HERE’S PROOF!”
Honestly, it’s hard to nail down just what I find most compelling about Mr Ham’s empire, until, that is, I happened upon a picture of the proposed “Ark Encounter” he’s currently constructing in Northern Kentucky. At its (yet to be determined) completion, the park will span about 800 acres, and the Ark itself is estimated to cost somewhere around 70 million dollars.
Now, your initial response (which, as a fallen being, is always wrong) might be to question the necessity of spending that kind of coin on a boat in a landlocked state who’s sole purpose is to, in their own words:
“…[serve] as a sign to the world that God’s Word is true and its message of salvation must be heeded (Romans 3:4, 5:12). Just as the Ark in Noah’s day was a sign of salvation, as well as judgment, an Ark rebuilt today can be a sign to point to Jesus Christ, the Ark of our salvation, and to coming judgment (2 Peter 3:5-13, John 10:9).”
but, once again, you’d be wrong, dead wrong.
In my (“obviously untrustworthy and embarrassingly liberal”) opinion, nothing says “clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and heal the sick” quite like 70 million dollars worth of Biblical inerrancy:
“Now, I know you’re unemployed and are currently being buried alive by student loan debt, but have you (for 30 dollars) been INSIDE (for 30 dollars) our 800 acre homage to the Scofield Reference Bible (for 30 dollars)?”
But, that’s just the optics from 30,000 feet! It gets so much better when you actually bother to read the foundational story from Genesis 6 upon which the “Ark Encounter” rests:
“The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth…The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created-and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground-for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”
I would argue that, much like those brutally Xenophobic murals adorning the walls of Pawnee’s City Hall, it takes a truly incredible lack of self-awareness to build a monument (one can view from space, not really, but almost!) in homage to what you believe to be the VERY LITERAL death of every person, plant, and stinkbug on earth not related to Noah at the hands of the God we all worship as an effusively loving being.
Sadly, this is a quite expensive example of the ever-widening alienation between the reality touted by American Evangelicalism and the one clung to by the rest of us. Because, unlike our earnest friends in Northern Kentucky might have us believe, the deepest reservations, questions, doubts, and skepticisms we* hold about the Biblical text and the God it describes have far less to do with the accurate conversion of cubits to square feet, or our modern hang ups about fossil records, or even what exactly WAS the proper way for folks to save ancient lounge chairs on the lido deck (I mean, seriously: tunics? towels? walking staffs? elephant feces?).
(*NOTE: I mean “we” in the “both Christian AND religiously other” sense of the word.)
I feel quite confident in saying (BECAUSE THIS IS A POORLY RESEARCHED INTERNET ARTICLE FOR WHICH I HAVE RECEIVED NO COMPENSATION OR FACEBOOK SHARES) that the collective issue for folks bringing trepidation to the pages of our sacred text isn’t the historicity of the book, but its rather straightforward divinely sanctioned brutality.
I don’t care how big the boat is, when it was built, or whether or not 248 species of amphibians made it safely on board (THIS IS AN ACTUAL ESTIMATE FROM SCIENCE!) in time for the midnight pizza buffet.
I’m a tad bit more concerned that God drowned everyone in a colossal flood, and that you felt this to be an appropriate narrative upon which to built an inordinately expensive theme park in Northern Kentucky…for the glory of God.
In my experience, us American Christians have this rather unfortunate habit of spiking the ball* when we’re up by five scores in the 4th quarter. And, by “spiking the ball” I mean, to be clear, building a 70 million dollar homage to the death of an entire world when more than 1 billion people live on less than a dollar a day, in order to remind all those not currently awaiting their demise from the roof of a flooded split-level that God will one day drown them in another lake
but this one, in true thematic flare, is made of FIRE!
However, mercifully Genesis wasn’t actually written by the fundraising arm of Ken Ham’s Inerrancy Empire™, it was penned by exiled Hebrews who didn’t speak a lick of English. And, in Hebrew “ark” is the word “tevah,” which can mean “giant boat,” or “basket,” or even, simply, “Scripture/Word” as it would for many rabbinic interpretations attempting to symbolically link Noah’s Ark with the Torah (or the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures).
In the unfolding story they were telling to the world:
Noah, at YHWH’s request, builds a tevah to escape the ancient floods of YHWH’s wrath.
Moses floats down the Nile in another tevah in order to escape another watery death at the hands of another ancient ruler, this time Pharaoh.
Meaning: for this oppressed community of ancient Israelite exiles, tevahs, rather than serving as a symbol of the universal condemnation and destruction of their enemies, instead represented YHWH’s efforts in militantly clinging to the people of Israel as the ark by which the whole earth both is and will be redeemed.
Much later, the author of John’s Gospel would go so far as to describe the appearance of Jesus in the world as the cosmic, creational “word” that has sustained and tethered humanity to God throughout the ages, and who will now bring it into a new redemptive age, together.
But this time, rather than floating inside a tevah to escape certain death, Jesus is a tevah carrying within his person, teaching, death and resurrection, the seeds for a brand new world with brand new rules, expectations, and conclusions.
None of which, I proffer, involves proving the legitimacy of a self-sacrificing God-willing to die for the lives, hearts, minds, and futures of people actively crucifying him-by erecting an ostentatious display of your niche theological positions in order to remind the world of its impending fate, were it to disagree with you.
May this ark, like that very first one, one day find itself run aground on the fresh soil of a world no longer desperate to escape the rising waters of God’s wrath.