by William Trollinger
Given that so many people – including many Christians – find fundamentalism and creationism bewildering and bizarre, who is the audience for contemporary fundamentalist leaders and organizations?
When Bill spoke last Sunday at Westminster Presbyterian Church here in Dayton one person observed that, in her experience, evangelicals were primarily interested in the Bible for their personal devotions and for discussion in Bible study groups, and were much less interested in the particulars of biblical inerrancy or in making strident arguments in behalf of claims that the Bible has no errors and is factually accurate in all that it has to say.
This is an astute observation. Anyone who has grown up in evangelicalism knows this to be the case. In fact, it is very much in keeping with what scholars such as James Bielo have noted about evangelicals and the Bible and Bible study groups.
But it is not enough to simply say that evangelicals approach the Bible as a resource for day-to-day living. Whether or not they can make an argument in behalf of biblical inerrancy, many or most of these warm-hearted evangelicals would affirm that the Bible is without error or contradiction, and the final authority on whatever it teaches. Put another way, for many or most American evangelicals biblical inerrancy is simply a given.
And it is precisely these folks whom Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG) understand as their audience. It is not non-evangelical Christians, many of whom – as we have been discovering in speaking at mainline churches – are bewildered by fundamentalism. It is certainly not those who are not Christians; not to put too fine a point on it, it is almost inconceivable that someone from outside Christianity would be converted to fundamentalism by a visit to the Creation Museum.
Instead, Ham and company focus their attention on evangelicals, making what has proven to be a compelling argument that – if one believes that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God – then one must also hold to young Earth creationism, one must also be virulently opposed to gay rights, one must also join the battle to save America from the secular and atheist forces seeking to destroy the biblical foundations of this once-Christian nation. In short, the goal of fundamentalist leaders like Ham is to constitute evangelicals – even warm-hearted evangelicals more interested in piety than propositions and argument – as culture warriors.
This is how we put it in Righting America:
The Creation Museum and AiG are Christian Right sites that relentlessly and aggressively promote a highly ideological and radically politicized young Earth creationism as true Christianity. 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 . . . [despite the fact that] ideological and politicized young Earth creationism of the Creation Museum and AiG has little to do with the Jesus of the Gospels. (226-227)