Even a summer road trip can supply a columnist with subject matter, and so via a recent trip up Interstate 75 I send you a postcard from Kentucky.
Speeding up that great highway artery stretching from Florida to Michigan, my wife and I eventually crossed into the limestone and bluegrass land of Jim Beam, Daniel Boone, John Caliperi and rebellious Cumberland County Clerk Kim Davis. Somewhere in the rural northern reaches of the commonwealth, a billboard announced the opening of Ark Encounter, a Bible theme park featuring a reproduction of Noah’s Ark.
That park, in Williamstown, Kentucky, a county-seat town of 3,900 people, wasn’t even open for business when we sped through Kentucky. A recent opening day saw admiring and curious Christians and a group of protesters at the front gate.
One struggles to stay on keel when reflecting on this venture.
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On the one hand, who doesn’t love an ark? Every toy store in the world sells wooden or plastic lifeboats with animals. Even Russell Crowe starred in the (largely panned) 2014 movie “Noah.”
The scope of Ark Encounter is of biblical proportions. At a cost of $100 million, the park features a 510-foot-long, 3-story wooden ark billed as the largest wooden structure in the world.
One has to hand it to the park’s founder for his faith, creativity, energy and determination to complete such a project.
The endeavor suffered through a lengthy lawsuit over whether Kentucky could legally offer tax incentives to a religious-themed park that required its employees to believe in the literal words of the Bible and disavow homosexuality.
Kentucky, like its leading college basketball team, eventually won this contest, and Noah’s Second Ark will pay no sales tax on ticket revenue for quite a few years. What’s good for a Kentucky bourbon museum is also good for a fantasy ark.
On the other hand, most of the Christian and scientific community has rightly scoffed or ignored this project, which touts that the world is only 6,000 years old, that children frolicked with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden, that Noah’s ark and a worldwide flood is a factual, provable story and that every single word in the King James Bible is literally true.
The Kentucky ark depicts a cage carrying a dinosaur. This theology is rejected by most of the Christian community and ignored by every reputable biologist, archaeologist, astronomer and cosmologist.
To accept its premises is to engage in a worldview that denies how God has worked in and through our very ancient world.
Though a visit to this park isn’t in my future, I salute the quixotic vigor of the originator. I can’t even build a 12-foot bridge across a narrow creek in my back yard.
P.S. According to the park’s website, admission price is about as steep as those ramps the ark would have used to transport tyrannosaurus rex. It also appears the park, strictly obedient to the Bible, breaks one of the Ten Commandments by opening on the Sabbath.
Creede Hinshaw, a retired United Methodist pastor of 36 years, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.