Ken Ham’s $102 million Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Ky., opens today. The official launch of this boat on dry land has led to a spate of media attention for the Australian creationist and would-be Noah.
Ham’s “ark park” was the subject of a lengthy New York Times story recently, during which Ham admitted, yet again, that the entire project has one goal: converting people to his brand of fundamentalist Christianity.
“The reason we are building the ark is not as an entertainment center,” Ham told The Times. “I mean it’s not like a Disney or Universal, just for anyone to go and have fun. It’s a religious purpose. It’s because we’re Christians and we want to get the Christian message out.”
Ken Ham's ark doesn't actually float.
Ham has also been in the spotlight lately after reports surfaced that he is requiring park employees to sign statements promising that they will abstain from sex (if they’re single).
On June 30, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn appeared on WEKU, an NPR affiliate in Richmond, Ky., alongside Ham. Since Ham accused AU of distorting the facts surrounding the aid he will receive from the state of Kentucky, it’s time to set the record straight: Yes, Ham’s park is getting help from the government.
Ham may not consider his park an entertainment venue, but Kentucky officials do. At such places, Kentucky charges a 6 percent sales tax on tickets, food and souvenirs. Venues like Ark Encounter collect the sales tax and forward it to the state. But once a year, the sales tax that Ark Encounter pays will be refunded to the park. Not only does the money not end up in the Kentucky treasury, it is turned over to Ark Encounter. Ham’s Answers in Genesis ministry estimates it will receive $18 million over 10 years through this incentive plan.
Ham insists this is not a subsidy. Anyone with sense can see that it plainly is.
But a recent story on the Christian Post website contains perhaps some of the strangest Ham musings yet. Here Ham decided to attack fellow Christians who believe in evolution, asserting that they embrace “a religion of death.”
“Christians who accept millions of years are mixing the religion of death with the religion of life – death came after sin, Jesus conquered it,” Ham asserted on his Facebook page. “Evolution requires death over millions of years, death is a ‘friend’ that produces life and death ends it all.”
The Ham-fisted rant continues: “The Bible describes death as an enemy that will one day be destroyed – through Christ’s death and resurrection we are offered life with God. Creation is a religion of life – death is a result of sin, our Creator paid the penalty for sin and offers the free gift of salvation – it’s all about life. Christianity vs. secularism is really a battle between the religion of life and the religion of death.”
So, Ham’s new theme park highlights a Bible story in which God kills every living thing on the planet save for Noah, his family and the animals on the ark – yet evolution celebrates death?
Plenty of sensible Christians understand that what Ham is offering here is a false choice. When people acknowledge the reality of evolution, they are not choosing death over life. Rather, they’re choosing education over ignorance.
The July-August issue of Church & State contains an interview with Tim Helble, one of the authors of a new book titled The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth – Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?
Eleven scientists collaborated to write this book, and several of them are evangelical Christians. Their dissection of the kind of “flood geology” offered by Ham and his fellow creationists is thorough and devastating.
In their conclusion, the authors explain how the kind of biblical literalism championed by Ham actually undermines faith.
“Imagine the effect, during the four centuries since Galileo, if every new celestial observation was forced into an Earth-centered view based on the assumption that biblical verses like Psalm 104:5 (‘He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved’) was intended for instruction on the workings of nature?” they write. “Believers would understandably become increasingly suspicious not only of natural observations, but more importantly, of God’s role in creating and sustaining His creation. Many would eventually feel compelled to leave the faith altogether in the mistaken notion that science and the Bible are hopelessly at odds. Flood geology marches its adherents inexorably down this road. Science, as described in the pages of this book, does not.”
Americans United members come in all varieties when it comes to religion – Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, humanists, agnostics, Pagans, etc. For those who are Christian, one thing should be clear: You can have an authentic and real faith even as you acknowledge that Ham’s tales are all wet.