America is a nation established on certain inalienable rights. The right to life. The right to liberty. The right to pursue happiness as one sees fit. The right, as a religious organization, to sue a government and its officials whenever you don’t get what you want.
You may not remember that last one from social studies class — and to be honest, I don’t recall Jefferson expounding upon it, either — but it is nevertheless a right the fundamentalist group Answers in Genesis and its president, Ken Ham, availed themselves of last week with the announcement of their forthcoming lawsuit against the state of Kentucky, its governor, and its tourism secretary.
The kerfuffle is over AiG’s Ark Encounter — the “creationist theme park” complete with a 510-foot wooden replica of Noah’s floating barn (except this one won’t float, plus it costs 70 million bucks) — and specifically, the $18 million in special tax incentives the Commonwealth’s tourism department had initially approved in 2011 before retracting them last year.
The goal of the incentives is to promote the construction of job-creating tourist attractions in Kentucky, and AiG’s project initially held water. What caused it to fall out of favor with the Bluegrass State was the group’s increasingly vocal insistence that it intended to: 1) require its employees to sign a statement of faith affirming, among other things, their devotion to the idea that the universe was created sometime more recently than the invention of beer by the Mesopotamians, and 2) operate the park pretty much like its Creation Museum — i.e., as evangelistic outreach.
Every so often, the young-earth groups come up with an idea that is just so plainly, utterly, obviously wrong — in every sense of the word — that it demands a response from a larger subset of believers. To do otherwise would be to make a mockery of the Christ we claim to follow — a man who was hated by the religious establishment of the day precisely because he called them out for their hypocrisy and refused to let them claim divine fiat for their immoral actions.
I'm speaking of the so-called Ark Encounter. If you're not familiar with the project, it's the latest brainchild of Ken Ham (of recent "Ham on Nye" fame) and AiG, a planned "biblical" theme park centered around a scale, wooden replica of Noah's ark, constructed according to the instructions in Genesis (except this one will be built by teams of modern-day professionals rather than a single, unskilled old man, won’t be seaworthy, and won’t hold two of every unclean animal and 14 of every clean one).
Ham and his team have been discussing these plans for years, but few outside their devoted following paid them much heed till now, probably because the project’s well-publicized funding issues led us all to believe the thing would never be built. But, according to a statement by Ham last week, enough investors are on board to “start” construction on the 510-foot-long, boat-shaped building. The cost of completing the first phase of the theme park has been estimated at more than $70 million.
Three out of 10 British children have next to no understanding of the Bible and their parents aren’t that knowledgeable, either.
A survey released Friday by the Bible Society, founded in 1804 to spread knowledge about the Scriptures, said most boys and girls aged 8 to 15 years old did not know that Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, or Jesus’ birth were rooted in the Bible.
More than a third of the 800 children surveyed did not know that David and Goliath and the story of the Good Samaritan were Bible tales.
What would the world be like if we were all more alike?
This isn’t just a philosophical question. In many ways, we live as though we wished others were more like us. We spend time with those who are similar to us and avoid those who seem to be different. We enjoy being around those who share our viewpoint and avoid those who challenge it. We accept the parts of others that make us comfortable and ignore or reject the rest.
But what about our diversity? Do we embrace it, or do we merely tolerate it?
Over time, I’ve grown to appreciate the importance of our differentness. I’ve gotten to the point where I think of this incredible diversity — within our universe, within our human family — as one of our greatest blessings.