by William Trollinger
We got a glimpse of Jesus in our recent visit to the Creation Museum. Or we think it was him. Hard to know for sure. The guy we saw seemed really angry.
In our last post we noted that, in our research for Righting America at the Creation Museum, we were surprised to discover that the museum has a very relaxed approach to factual accuracy. This includes the museum’s treatment of the Bible, which includes
Inconsistent use of translations and . . . creative editing; the lack of ellipses indicating where text has been removed from a passage; the failure to provide relevant context for the passages being displayed. (Righting 136)
But another surprise we discovered in our research was that – given that the museum is a tourist site ostensibly devoted to making the case for Christianity – it was so very difficult to find Jesus:
While there are a great many placards throughout the museum with quotes from the Bible, few of these placards contain a quote from Jesus. Visual representations of Jesus in the museum appear to be limited to a white statue that is usually confined to a corner . . . except, it seems, during the Christmas season when it appears in the Main Hall. (Righting 48)
The only place where we found Jesus was in The Last Adam, the fifteen-minute film that visitors could watch in The Last Adam Theater at the end of their museum tour. This film portrays the birth, life, and death of Jesus. Curiously, the filmmakers could squeeze out only thirty-two seconds for Jesus’ teachings and ministry. On the other hand, 25% of the film is devoted to the flogging and execution of Jesus, including:
Slow-motion shots of a soldier driving the nail into Jesus’ hand, a blood-orange sky, a black cross, knives and hands dripping with blood, blood all over a white garment, [and] slow-motion shots of Jesus in pain. (Righting 195)
One can still watch The Last Adam at the Creation Museum, in the Six Days Theater. But the Last Adam Theater is gone. In its place – as of last May – are three rooms entitled “Christ,” “Cross,” and “Consummation,” the last 3 of the 7 Cs – a la the 7 dispensations of dispensational premillennialism – that structure the museum’s narrative. (Righting 42-48).
With the addition of these three rooms, the days of searching for Jesus have come to an end!
These three rooms are The Last Adam writ large. There is much here on biblical prophecy predicting the Messiah. There is much here on Jesus as the blood sacrifice. And the “Consummation” room, which includes a placard devoted to “The Lake of Fire,” focuses on Jesus’ return at the end of history to preside over the Last Judgment. As described on a placard entitled “Where will You spend Eternity?”:
Those who remain in unbelief, rejecting His completed work on the Cross, sacrificial death, and Resurrection from the dead, will suffer eternally in the lake of fire.
In contrast, and also in keeping with The Last Adam, there is little in these three rooms on the teachings of Jesus. Most of what is here can be found on one placard entitled “Teachings of Jesus.” Here one finds twelve verses from the Gospels, grouped under “Instructions” and “Rebukes.” While the instructions include “love your enemies,” the remaining five are standard culture war fundamentalist fare, such as “blessed are those who are persecuted” and “beware of false prophets.” And while “no one can serve two masters” is here, the last part of the verse (Matthew 6:24) has been eliminated: “You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Include the full verse, and the instruction from Jesus looks quite different. But this is not the most dramatic example of biblical excision on the “Teachings of Jesus” placard. Under “Rebukes” one finds four statements of condemnation from Jesus, including: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)
Who exactly is being condemned here? Let’s take a look at the next five verses, which the Creation Museum neglected to quote:
“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:42-46)
Include the full biblical passage, and the meaning of Jesus’ condemnation looks very different. As we note in Righting America,
A “plain sense” reading of Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 25 would suggest that, at the very least, how one treats the thirsty, the hungry, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned will be an essential component of how one’s life will be judged. (Righting 226)
Of course, this does not fit with fundamentalist theology. So at the Creation Museum the biblical text must be massaged to get the Christian Right results.
Three rooms, and still very little Jesus.