If we had given Righting America an epitaph it would probably have been this stanza from Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now”:
My church and my country could use a little mercy now.
As they sink into a poisoned pit it’s going to take forever to climb out,
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down.
I love my church and country; they could use some mercy now.
As we began research for our book it did not take us long to realize that the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis (AiG) are not simply or even primarily about making the case for reading the first few chapters of Genesis as a literally accurate historical account. Instead, the museum and AiG are, first and foremost, Christian Right sites that are most interested in “preparing and arming crusaders for the ongoing culture war that polarizes and poisons U. S. religion and politics” (Righting, 15).
Righting America came out this spring. In July AiG opened its newest and largest Christian Right site, Ark Encounter. Ken Ham’s massive edifice is unsubtle in driving home the gruesome and genocidal argument that a righteous and angry God was justified in drowning almost 20 billion (!) human beings in Noah’s Flood (not to mention billions of animals). More than this, this watery global slaughter prefigures the fiery destruction of our wicked culture, and the eternal conscious torment of all those atheists and liberals and secularists who are busy about making American culture so dreadfully wicked.
In a fitting (and depressing) coincidence, a few days after the Ark opened its door Donald Trump was crowned the Republican nominee for president. Despite the blatantly racist and misogynistic nature of Trump’s campaign; despite his willingness to demean individuals for their disabilities and their less than model-like physiques; despite the fact that there does not seem to be anything remotely Christian about this candidate – despite all this, white evangelicals are supporting Trump over Clinton by a 71% to 22% margin.
This underscores, once and for all, that the Christian Right is much more Right than it is Christian. Ken Ham has praised Donald Trump as a leader who is “prepared to lead with authority,” who deals “with the media as he sees fit,” and who is not bogged down by political correctness; in the last few days Ham has called on Christians to keep in mind the “catastrophic” effects – specifically, the ramping up of anti-Christian persecution – if America were to elect a president who would appoint liberal judges. Such remarks seem almost coy compared to the prominent fundamentalist pastor who has enthusiastically asserted that he would vote for Trump over Jesus because the Son of God would be weak on terrorism.
Ham and his fellow Christian Right gurus are indeed responsible for carrying the faithful down into the pit of a poisonous culture war. What we wrote at the end of our final chapter says it all:
What is sad – to use one of Ken Ham’s favorite words when he is talking about “compromising” academics and church leaders – is that millions of Americans who are seeking to be good Bible-believing Christians have bought the message that AiG is selling. Such a message may satisfy some deep desire for the comfort of certainty, may offer a way to respond to what can feel like the unrelieved elitism of the academic and scientific powers-that-be, may provide a place to stand in what seems like an increasingly decadent culture, may reinforce the conviction that America really was and could again be God’s nation. But in the end, the ideological and politicized young Earth creationism of the Creation Museum and AiG has little to do with the Jesus of the Gospels. It has little to do with the Hebrew prophets. It has little to do with Christianity’s rich intellectual and social justice tradition, little to do with Augustine and Aquinas, Barth and Bonhoeffer, Day and King. It has little to do with faith and hope and love.
Sad indeed. For all of us. (Righting, 226-227)