Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Donald and Ken: Were You There? | Righting America

by William Trollinger

When Donald Trump purchased a golf club on the Potomac River in 2009 he not only redesigned the club’s two courses. He also installed a flagpole above the river, with a plaque containing the Trump family crest and — as reported in the New York Times — this inscription:

“‘Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’”

In keeping with other Donald Trump assertions — for example, his claim that he saw live footage of thousands of Americans Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks — this one turns out to be false. Historians are adamant: there is absolutely no evidence of a Civil War battle there, and there certainly was no “River of Blood.”

In response to the historians, Trump — who says he is a “‘big history fan’” — replied: “‘How would they know that? Were they there?’”

Interestingly, Trump’s response is strikingly similar to the Answers in Genesis (AiG) campaign to teach children — as Ken Ham told “hundreds of kids” at a Baptist church in North Carolina this spring — “to respectfully ask evolutionists, ‘Were you there?’”

For Ham and AiG, this is a tried and true approach. In a 2011 blog entry Ham celebrated a nine-year-old girl — “brought up on AiG resources” — who used “were you there?” to challenge a presenter who claimed the moon rocks at a NASA display were 3.75 billion years old:

“Praise the Lord, Emma has such a strong foundation in God’s Word and won’t fall for the atheist lies in their attempts to shake their first at their Creator God.”

When it comes to anti-intellectual populism Donald Trump and Ken Ham sound strikingly similar. So perhaps it is not surprising that Ham, while he doubts that Trump “truly understands what real Christianity is,” has many good things to say about the GOP presidential nominee:

“Many people are rallying behind Donald Trump because in our sea of political correctness and liberal media . . . he is prepared to ‘call it as he sees it,’ even if it’s blunt and not politically correct. And he will deal with the media as he sees fit . . . I think the average person will respond positively to such a person . . . because many people want a leader who comes across as genuine and is prepared to lead with authority.”

(As regards to how Trump “will deal with the media as he sees fit,” see his recent responses to inquiries about gifts to charities that benefit veterans.)

Ham concludes “The Donald Trump Phenomenon” by addressing his readers: “In case you were wondering: will I vote for Donald Trump? I will judge any candidate’s beliefs against the absolute authority of God’s Word, and vote accordingly.”

Will Ham vote for Trump? Of course, we can’t say for sure.

What we can say, and as we document in Righting America, the AiG young earth creationist Word of God is used again and again as support for an arch-conservative culture war politics. So we would not be surprised in the least to see many devotees of the Christian Right line up behind Donald Trump.

In fact, the line is already forming.