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Ark in Kentucky

I could not help it when I saw the headline, “”A Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, Dinosaurs Included.”  When I began reading Laurie Goodstein’s article, I was not sure what to expect.  But I figured it would be entertaining.  I assumed it was about the Noah’s ark story in Genesis and I was right.  I recently spent some time in Kentucky and saw signs to a Creation Museum in northern Kentucky and wondered whether it would somehow be about that.

It turns out to be related.  Creationism is a particular kind of Christian fundamentalism about which I know a little.  It believes in the literal truth of the Bible.  With respect to God’s creation, narrated in the earliest chapters of Genesis, the creationist believes that God literally created our world in six 24-hour days.  And our world is literally about 6,000 years old.  Of course, evolution is wrong.  This is a way of seeing our universe that does not square with my own theology.  I understand it, but don’t agree with it.

Ken Ham, originally from Australia, is the person behind the Creation Museum.  And now he has another project being built in Kentucky that is nearing completion.  The “Ark Encounter” is a chance for people of all walks of life to see first-hand what kind of ship Noah built at God’s behest to withstand the destruction of the Flood which Genesis says, wipes out the rest of the human race.

The story is well known.  Because of the moral degradation of humanity, God decides, in effect, to start all over.  Because of Noah’s uprightness, God chooses him to be a kind of “new Adam.”  Ham is concerned that humanity has not done much better than our ancestors who were killed in the Flood.  The story of Noah is effectively a story Ham uses to suggest we shape up or we will face the same destructive result.

Soon we will be able to visit the ark.  There will be the requisite animals on board, but they will be stuffed.  As one who grew up on a farm with animals, there is much to be said for stuffed animals.  It will cut down on the messes made!  Clearly, Ham sees this “encounter” as a chance to proselytize those who come to visit.  I am sure Ham sees his perspective as the truth and the Noah encounter will give him a chance to straighten out the large majority of folks---Christians and non-Christians alike---who believe some other version of the faith…or no version at all.

I think it is cool that there will be drawings on Noah and the seven family members who were on board the original ark.  This is certainly an exercise in imagination, since this is obviously long before there were iPhones to record the experience.  However, I do appreciate human imagination and what it can conjure.  So I look forward to visiting the Ark Encounter some time when again I am in Kentucky.

But before that happens, I would like to add a little spiritual commentary on this story.  If there is any inspiration in what I write today, it can only begin at this point.  The most obvious thing to state is to say that I have the same Christian Bible that Ken Ham has.  We both share the same Genesis text and the same creation story (well, actually two creation stories: see Genesis, chapters 1-2).  So the differences between Ham and myself come with interpretation of the same text.

Basically, Ken Ham is a literalist and I do not take all texts literally.  I think ancient writers used the same kinds of figures of speech as we do today.  For example, if I said someone ran so fast, it was a hundred miles-an-hour, no one would literally believe that.  Of course, I am not God, so that can be dismissed as a figure of speech.  I am indeed not God, but I think the biblical writers whom God did inspire also used figures of speech.

An example of this is my own belief that God “speaks” to people.  I feel like God has “spoken” many times to me.  I did not hear literal words.  The “voice” in my head was literally “real,” but figuratively it was as “real” as any literal voice I ever heard.  In fact, that voice was so real, I made major moves in my life’s path.  In effect, I bet my whole life on the truth of that reality.

I close with a story from Christian history with respect to Noah and the ark.  The Church used the ark as a symbol of salvation.  For many the ark symbolized the church.  To come to belief and to join the church is, effectively, to jump on the ark.  I like that kind of interpretation.  But it leaves open some interesting judgments to be made.  Let me suggest a couple.

Whoever gets on the ark of salvation depends on God.  I believe God is originally and ultimately a loving God who wants nothing more than loving relationships with all people.  And I think God is merciful God who will be patient enough and merciful enough to bring us all back into that loving relationship.  My beliefs here have implications.  It suggests I think finally everyone gets on the ark.  If so, it is going to have to be a much bigger ark than the one being built in Kentucky!

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