by Susan Trollinger
Our last post talked about a new movie that is being featured at Ark Encounter this summer, called As in the Days of Noah. Very briefly (a fuller plot summary can be found in our previous post), the film tells the story of a young woman (Adah) who lives in New York city and writes for an online “progressive” tabloid and who is sent to Kentucky by her boss to do a negative story on Ark Encounter. To say she has profound doubts about God, thinks the whole idea of building a life-size ark is ridiculous, and desperately does not want to make the trip is an understatement. But she goes anyway, taking along her cameraman and soundman. Early in her brief visit, Adah interviews the character of Noah Zomarsh (fictional spokesman for Ark Encounter) who serves in the course of the film as a kind and gentle evangelist (as to why that is notable, see previous post) who seems to have infinite patience for Adah, which is impressive since she is not only cranky, rude, disrespectful, vain, and bossy but also announces early in the film that she is among those who are “over the God myth.”
We won’t go into the details here, but suffice it to say that Adah is quite changed in the course of the movie. In addition to the persuasive power of the kind evangelist (Noah), another chief reason she is changed appears about a third of the way into the movie when Noah takes Adah and her crew into a theater located in the belly of the ark.
What happens once they enter the theater is odd, we think, for at least three reasons.
1. It seems odd that in this short movie (25 minutes, 42 seconds), the viewer spends a quarter of it (6 minutes, 44 seconds) watching a film within it. Now and then, the viewer also sees the reactions on Adah’s and her crew’s faces as well. For the most part, the viewer spends nearly 7 minutes watching a film inside a movie.
2. Another thing that seems odd is that the film (within the movie) that Adah and her crew are watching features one man (Ray Comfort, who is a Christian evangelist and who plays himself in the film) giving a speech. For nearly the entire film (within the movie), he makes his case for a certain kind of conservative Christianity that Adah and her crew appear to reject. On the face of it, that wouldn’t seem to be the sort of film they would be interested in watching.
3. Perhaps the oddest thing in all this is that the figure of Ray Comfort is not actually Ray Comfort. As we mentioned above, he does play himself, but instead of appearing as Ray Comfort the person, he appears as Ray Comfort the hologram. When the film starts, he appears as a figure in any film: two dimensional and projected on a screen. But a few moments into the film (within the movie) he “jumps” out of the screen and becomes a hologram of himself.
Since seeing the movie, we have been scratching our heads to figure out why Ray Comfort appears as a hologram. Why not just appear as Ray Comfort? Is it to make the film within the movie more interesting? Exciting? Is it about showcasing how technologically advanced the folks behind Ark Encounter are? Is it about explaining why Adah and her crew remain in the theater to watch the film and don’t just walk out. Are they transfixed by the ghostly hologram who stands before them?
We don’t know. But one thing that stood out to us is how Ray Comfort, the hologram, reminds us of the talking animatronic figures in the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter. Just like them, he speaks but the visitors (in this case Adah and her crew) can’t interrupt him, can’t introduce any counter-arguments to his case, or even ask him a question. And that, quite simply, is because he isn’t really there. Even more, since he isn’t actually there he can’t even see them much less hear them.
Ray Comfort, the hologram, also reminds us of Bob Gillespie’s presentation at the AiG conference we attended in July 2014. As we observe in Righting America, his “rapid-fire delivery” and the fact that “no time [was] allotted for questions” meant that he got to make his case all of a piece with no interruptions or critical interventions by his audience (203-205).
By way of all three kinds of figures—talking animatronic figures at the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, Bob Gillespie during and after his presentation, and Ray Comfort the hologram—the skeptic, the critical thinker, the person who sees things otherwise, even just the person who seeks clarification is silenced.
Thus, in the presence of Ray Comfort, the hologram, Adah the cranky, mouthy, bossy, nonbeliever is rendered silent and invisible. Whatever their reasons for making Ray Comfort appear as a hologram, it’s hard not to see the scene depicted in this movie as the Christian apologist’s dream. They get to make their case in full and their critics are not only silenced; they are invisible.