Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Between Us and Them | Righting America

by William Trollinger

In the final chapter of her wonderful new book, The Second Coming of the KKK, Linda Gordon provides a very helpful discussion of the ways in which the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s fit and did not fit the label “fascist.”  In this regard, she noted the KKK’s extreme emphasis on the insider/outsider binary:

All social movements generate group loyalty, of course, and all draw a border between members and outsiders . . . But not all create intense aversion to those outside the group. The Klan tried to divide people between the pure and the impure, the godly and the ungodly, patriots and traitors. Eschewing nuance, these binaries raised a particularly high wall separating the righteous and the wicked. There are resemblances here not only to fascists but also to religious believers for whom individuals outside the faith are infidels, either susceptible to conversion or damned. (202)

Picture for the book cover of "The Second Coming of the KKK" by Linda Gordon.

Cover of Linda Gordon’s “The Second Coming of the KKK” (c) 2017, W.W. Norton & Co.

One of the most popular spots inside Ark Encounter is the “Ark Door.” As imagined by Answers in Genesis (AiG), it was through this door that Noah and his family entered the Ark in order to escape the global deluge to come. And as explained on a nearby placard, the Ark Door should be a lesson for all of us:

Just as God judged the world with the Flood, He will judge it again, but the final judgment will be by fire. We have all sinned against our holy Creator and deserve the penalty of death . . . The Ark’s door reminds us that we need to go through a door to be saved. Jesus Christ is our one door to salvation, the “Ark” that saves us from God’s judgment for eternity.

Next to the Ark Door is a placard entitled “KEEPSAKE PHOTO,” which includes the urging: “Take a picture here with your family and friends to preserve this reminder of the importance of salvation.” The placard features a photo of a woman (presumably a mother) taking a picture of three young girls standing in front of the closed Ark Door. Underneath the photo is the helpful warning that “those outside of Christ will perish, but those in Christ will be rescued.”  

Every time we have gone to Ark Encounter we have seen folks – sometimes lines of folks – having their picture taken at this spot. And for good reason, given that many or most visitors are evangelicals, and given that the Ark Door is presented as a symbol of the story of salvation. As a visitor named Lisa is quoted on the Ark Encounter website, “The DOOR was awesome, only one way to our Lord” (emphases included in original).

Just under Lisa’s quote on the website is a photo of the Ark Door, which is open, with the beautiful Kentucky countryside off in the distance. But as with the photo on the placard, in our multiple visits we have never seen the door open, and this makes sense. The main point of Ark Encounter is for visitors to identify with Noah and his family, who heeded God’s warning and boarded the Ark, and who were snug and dry as the flood waters rose. Salvation for Noah and his family, and if we heed the warnings in time, salvation for us.

Of course, in AiG’s own telling of the story, just on the other side of the Ark Door the flood waters are rising. Innumerable animals are drowning. Perhaps twenty billion human beings — adults, children, and babies — are drowning.

Think about this for any time at all, and the idea of happy tourist photos in front of the closed Ark Door becomes unbearably creepy. But Ark Encounter does its very best to ensure that visitors do not think about this. As explained in the Ark, those who are drowning are simply one gigantic aggregate of the wicked who have been justly judged by a righteous God. They are not individual human beings with whom we might identify.

As Ark Encounter would have it, the Ark Door is shut, and we do not see them at all. They are not Us.