Righting America

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Ken Ham, White Evangelicals, and Fighting Racism | Righting America

by William Trollinger

At Answers in Genesis (AiG) Ken Ham has put up a post entitled “Martin Luther King Jr. Day: The Gospel is the Answer to Racism.” In this post Ham asserts that

Christians should be at the forefront of continuing to fight racism because we have the answer to racism. And that answer is found in the true history of the world and the saving gospel, as related in God’s Word, beginning in Genesis! You see, the Bible’s history is vital when we’re discussing the issue of “race.” The Bible teaches that all humans are descended from the first couple, Adam and Eve. . . When we start with the Bible’s history, we can clearly see that we’re all one family and that we’re all sinners in need of a Savior. The gospel is the answer to racism! [Emphases Ham’s]

Given the racism at the heart of much of white evangelicalism, these words from an evangelical leader are heartening.

And yet.

It turns out that AiG’s effort at “fighting racism” is quite abstract, disconnected from America’s past and present. For example, at the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter there is no reference to the millions of biblical literalists who used the Bible to argue in behalf of slavery, and then in behalf of segregation. Regarding the present, Ken Ham may argue that “the gospel is the answer to racism,” but he has been silent about the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the controversy over the Confederate flag and monuments, the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, the police shootings of African Americans, and the persistence of institutional racism in the United States. And while Ham and AiG produced an hour-long video devoted to blasting Barack Obama for advancing the  “gay marriage/homosexual agenda,” he has been silent about Donald Trump’s egregiously racist comments and policies.  

Taking Ham’s statements about “fighting racism” at face value, why is he so quiet?

The most obvious explanation is that he does not want to alienate the Trump-supporting white evangelicals who visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter and who purchase AiG materials. But more than this, Ham’s and AiG’s emphasis that there is no “race” – that we are “all shades of brown” – is very much in keeping with the Christian Right’s efforts not to see racism in America’s past and present:

The [Creation Museum’s] almost complete silence on the history of racism in the United States, notwithstanding Ken Ham’s claim that “we have a large section of our museum that is devoted to combating racism,” is part and parcel of the Right’s emphasis on a “color-blind” society in which civil rights for racial minorities have already been achieved such that there is no need any more to attend to questions of race and institutional racism. As Daniel Rodgers has noted in Age of Fracture, “in the ‘color-blind’ society project, amnesia [is] a conscious strategy, undertaken in conviction that the present’s dues to the past had already been fully paid” (Righting America 188-189).

It is unfortunate that Ham and his AiG colleagues cannot bring themselves to address the specific realities of America’s racist past and present. And as long as they remain committed to not seeing, their efforts at “fighting racism” will be of very limited effect. Which is too bad.