by William Trollinger
On June 10 Answers in Genesis (AiG) scored a public relations coup when former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn toured the Ark Encounter construction site. As reported in the AiG article celebrating the visit, the Carters were there at the behest of “close friend and Habitat [for Humanity] colleague LeRoy Troyer of the Troyer Group, who is building the Ark along with some Amish craftsmen.”
According to Ham, “it was a thrill to have a special time of fellowship with President Carter as we chatted and walked through the Ark.” According to Carter: “The Ark is remarkable. And it’s some of the best wood-working I’ve ever seen. My friend LeRoy Troyer has done a remarkable job.”
This is Carter’s one quote in the article. Who knows what else he said while he was touring the Ark. But there would be good reason for him to have confined his comments to his friend’s carpentry achievements, given the dramatic differences between him and his hosts.
For example, contrast what Jimmy Carter told the Huffington Post in a 2012 interview with the positions held by Ken Ham and AiG (and as documented in Righting America):
On Biblical Inerrancy
Carter: “When we go to the Bible we should keep in mind that the basic principles of the Bible are taught by God, but written down by human beings deprived of modern-day knowledge. So there is some fallibility in the writings of the Bible.”
AiG: God spoke every word in the Bible and thus there are no errors (Righting, 112).
On Creation Science
Carter: When the Bible was written there “was a limitation of knowledge of the universe or physics, or astronomy . . . [but] today we have shown that the earth and the stars were created millions, even billions, of years before.”
AiG: The Bible is factually accurate in matters pertaining to history and science. Hence, the universe was created a few thousand years ago in six twenty-four hour days. (Righting, 113-114).
On Gender Equality
Carter: “I separated from the Southern Baptists when they adopted the discriminatory attitude towards women [and their role in church], because I believe what Paul taught in Galatians that there is no distinction in God’s eyes between men and women.”
AiG: There is to be male headship in the family and in the church, a hierarchical structure modeled by Jesus’ functional subordination to God the Father (Righting, 173-176).
On Gay Marriage
Carter: “Jesus never said a word about homosexuality . . . I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies . . . [And] if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine.”
AiG: Jesus clearly taught against gay marriage, the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize it is a sign of America’s rebellion against God, and churches allowing gay marriages is a sign of ever-increasing apostasy in American Christianity (Righting, 166-170, 223-224).
These differences are just the tip of the iceberg. Contrast Carter’s recent attack (reported by Laurie Goodstein) on Donald Trump’s willingness to “tap a waiting reservoir . . . of inherent racism” with Ken Ham’s good words for Trump’s “blunt and not politically correct” rhetoric.
In Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter Randall Balmer tells the story of how, in the 1980 presidential election, the evangelical Carter was rejected by an emergent Christian Right that was angered by Carter’s support for equal rights for women, gays, and lesbians. That Christian Right is still very much with us. But now one of its mainstays is the Answers in Genesis creationist juggernaut. Yes, Jimmy Carter visited the Ark. Yes, Jimmy Carter praised his friend’s woodworking. But Jimmy Carter does not belong in Ken Ham’s world. His politics are not Ham’s politics. His Christianity is not Ham’s Christianity. It could not be clearer.