In the beginning was the word, and never have words been so powerful than in the hands of creationist zealots whose non-negotiable stance that the Bible is the inerrant word of God has led them to construct a museum wherein saddled dinosaurs roam with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden no more than 6,000 years ago. I’ve spent the last couple of years salivating at the thought of visiting the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky on the way to our summer respite in Chautauqua, and this was my lucky year. But I fear the reality of the place leaves me only saddened and frightened.
Coincidentally, our visit in late June followed that of a group of paleontologists who, taking a break from their professional conference in nearby Cincinnati, seemed to enjoy the visit almost as much as we did. Ken Ham, leader of the Creation Museum and its parent foundation, Answers in Genesis, jokingly said the next day that he doubted any of the scientists were converted. Uncharacteristic understatement from a man who holds firmly that Noah stuffed the entire animal kingdom, two-by-two, into a boat that weathered the great flood and washed ashore somewhere in modern day Turkey. The comment was made at the beginning of a lecture that sounded, at times, like a Christian version of the intolerance dogma preached in fundamentalist Islamic madrasas across the globe. Only the identities of the infidels were changed. The lecture was to promote a new book about how young people are leaving the church in droves and what the church should do about it, but I suspect the gift shop also sells a bumper sticker that reads “My God is an honor student at Creation Elementary and He can kick your God’s Ass!” I think I saw some on the rear bumpers of minivans in the parking lot.
While the Creation Museum will continue to evolve as an irrelevant but disturbing curiosity among nonbelievers, this place should frighten even persons of faith, as should any fundamentalist mindset that discounts or subordinates the human capacity for reason to the writings in a holy book or a tea leaf or a crop circle. Ham’s contention, and that of his organization and followers, is that Christians cannot simply pick and choose from the teachings and writings in the Bible, cannot simply love Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, without compromising the actual word of God, the foundations of which are in Genesis 1-12. These chapters include the creation narrative and the great flood, both of which date back no further than 4004 B.C., according to the many high-tech visual and multi-media displays throughout the Disney-like facility. You have to buy the whole enchilada, according to the voices of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity, potentially the only growth segments inside the otherwise declining presence of the Christian church in America, according to recent polls. As we evolve away the need for supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, it seems, religion retreats to its roots, its ability to control the poor and ignorant with fairy tales of angry but benevolent gods wielding the carrot and stick of heaven and hell.
But why fix it if it ain’t broken. The Creation Museum has had over 750,000 visitors since it opened a short two years ago, and they took over $100 from me. And I’m not exactly their target demographic.