Sure, It's Funny That Ken Ham Is Planning a Nephilim vs. Dinosaurs Exhibit, But Did You Read the Revealing Tweet-Storm That Followed?
Creationist Ken Ham is a holy hypocrite, at least as far as his claim to follow only the strict text of the Bible goes. Ham is the founder of Answers in Genesis and the brains behind the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter theme park. The last of these is a partially taxpayer-funded religious indoctrination center in the shape of a replica of Noah’s Ark. In this Ark, Ham happily twists both history and the Bible to create a Bible-adjacent pseudo-historical fantasia of what he imagines life was like before Noah’s Flood. In the latest affront to history and to reason, Ham released photos yesterday on Twitter and Facebook of a new diorama he plans to add to the Ark. It features Nephilim giants fighting humans and dinosaurs inside an amphitheater.
Note that the amphitheater is built in the cyclopean style of Mycenaean Greece, while the decorations are in the Minoan style. (The Ark already depicts other antediluvian sinners as Mycenaean Greeks or Minoans as well.) The people in the amphitheater, and the combatants, wear a mixture of styles from various ancient Near Eastern cultures. It’s laughably funny, not just in terms of what it literally depicts but also in terms of the 1960 Ray Harryhausen-style aesthetic that governs it.
There is of course no evidence for amphitheaters in the time period that Ham assigns to the “wicked” pre-Flood world. Indeed, the reference books I consulted say that the earliest amphitheater known to history is that of Pompeii, c. 70 BCE. Perhaps they were going for more of a stadium feel? It’s still hard to find these kinds of arenas prior to the Greek Archaic. I am not aware of any from the Bronze Age or earlier that match the type Ham proposes for his Nephilim-dinosaur fights.
But while the image of Nephilim battling humans and dinosaurs caused fits of outrage and laughter across the internet, few paid attention to the more serious and disturbing set of tweets which followed.
Ham has clearly been emboldened by Donald Trump. In an early morning tweet-storm yesterday, Ham parroted Trump’s Thursday attacks on the media, accusing the national and local press of a conspiracy to undermine the integrity of his operation. “Much of the media does to @AiG & @ArkEncounter & @CreationMuseum what they're doing in politics--spreading fake news to deliberately malign,” he wrote. “Many reporters in much of mainstream media don’t report but push their agenda as they do to undermine @AiG & @ArkEncounter & @CreationMuseum.” He called on the public to hold the media accountable for their attacks on Answers in Genesis and Christianity, which he conflated as one and the same. The similarity between Ham’s words and Trump’s can’t be coincidental.
This morning Ham posted an updated version of the tweets to Facebook:
He added on Twitter that “Secularists seem to have nothing better to do than sit at their computer waiting for latest tweet from me so they can show their intolerance.”
However, Ham’s brand of Christianity is more like Bible fan fiction than the Christian faith most members of mainstream churches would recognize. It is important not to let Ham define what it means to be a “real” Christian, since his version is a modern confabulation of Victorian fundamentalism and bonkers pseudo-historical speculation. As I have reported in the past, his Ark encounter features elements drawn from fringe history, including visions of Mexican-style pyramids in the antediluvian world straight out of Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis, a fictitious global snake-cult drawn from Victorian pseudo-history and Theosophy, and claims about prehistoric global mapping technology that closely parallel ancient astronaut theories. He also happily invents fake details about Noah’s life that can’t be found in the Bible or even in the apocryphal literature of the ancient world.
It’s disturbing that Ham wants to characterize criticism of his taxpayer funding gambit as an attack on religion, but entirely in keeping with the political thrust of evangelical conservatism that he would portray questions about his operation as an attack on religion.
It is high time that we all stop treating Ken Ham like he has some sort of special connection to God just because he claims to use the Bible to justify all of his prejudices and because he hates science. Instead, we need to recognize him for what he is: Just another power-hungry, cash-grabbing fringe history freak who uses appeals to the supernatural to justify his political preferences.
This isn’t merely an academic argument. We live in a country where 40% of Americans profess to believe Earth was created 10,000 years ago, but more importantly we live in a time when the current vice president, Mike Pence, has forcefully pushed for the teaching of creationism and/or intelligent design in the nation’s schools. “Only the theory of intelligent design provides even a remotely rational explanation for the known universe,” he said on the floor of Congress when serving as a U.S. representative.
The fact that Ham is echoing Donald Trump’s words and line of attack suggests that the creationist isn’t just an opportunist but intentionally trying to attach his cause to that of the Trump Administration, or at least to appeal to Trump supporters. This is doubly disturbing because Ham preaches a stringent version of Christianity that claims the Bible as absolute truth and moral arbiter, while the media strategy Donald Trump uses is based on moral relativism and contempt for facts. I suppose one might argue that since both Ham and Trump want to discredit the idea of an objectively verifiable reality in favor of an absolute faith in an authority figure (God or Trump himself), the hypocrisy is more in perception than reality.
Nevertheless, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Ham is playing a political game, not a religious one, and he wants to wield the cudgel of religion for a political agenda.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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