Righting America

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The Murder of George Floyd, and Ken Ham’s Very Loud Silence | Righting America

by William Trollinger

Picture of George Floyd in a black and grey sweatshirt taking a selfie.
George Floyd, who died May 25th, 2020 after a white police officer knelt on his neck for at least seven minutes. Photo from Facebook via Wikimedia Commons.

So, when does silence equal racism?

As everyone knows by now, on the evening of May 25, in Minneapolis, a white police officer (with the acquiescence, or more, of three other officers) murdered a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd – who was in handcuffs – by pressing a knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. 

Five days later Ken Ham responded on Facebook: “Once again, America is looking for answers to the question of racial reconciliation.” Not surprisingly, the Answers in Genesis CEO has the answer, in the form of an article he attached to his post: “Are There Really Different Races?”

In this article, Ham begins by arguing that Charles Darwin invented the notion of “race,” and “Darwinian evolution was (and still is) inherently a racist philosophy” – and the racism we deal with today is primarily attributable to Charles Darwin. In contrast, the Bible is antiracist and antislavery, as seen by the fact that “the most ardent abolitionists during the past centuries were Bible-believing Christians.” Then the final 5 ½ pages of the article consists of making an argument that interracial marriages are fine  (as long as the two individuals  are Christians), concluding with the assertion that 

when Christians legalistically impose nonbiblical ideas, such as no interracial marriage onto their culture [?], they are helping to perpetuate prejudices that have often arisen from evolutionary influences.

Ham is to be commended for making the case to fundamentalists for the legitimacy of interracial marriage (although it says something troubling about white fundamentalism in 21st century America that this case still needs to be made). But Ham’s use of history is deeply problematic. Not only is the notion that Darwinism equals racism absurdly simplistic, but –- worse – Ham completely elides the fact that, prior to the Civil War, it was biblical literalists who led the fight for slavery. More than this, these

white Christians argued that opponents of slavery . . . were undermining the authority of the Bible with their unbiblical antislavery arguments that depended more on Christian experience, humanitarianism, and morality than on the “literal” meaning of the text (Righting 186).

But remember that Ham’s article came five days after the shooting of George Floyd (and the resultant uproar), and – according to Ham – as a response to America’s need “for answers to the question of racial reconciliation.” And yet in this Facebook post and in this article – which is essentially a recycled piece he had written years ago – there is not one word from Ham about the murder of Mr. Floyd. Nor, as far as we can tell, is there a word from Ham anywhere else.

Not one word.  

I wish I could say that I am surprised. But Ham apparently has also said nothing about Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery. Over the past few years he has said virtually nothing about Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice or the Charleston Nine or Charlottesville. He has said not a word about the Confederate flag, not a word about the rise of white supremacy in America and across the globe.

Instead, all that Ham manages to offer is that curing racism is a matter of people coming to Christ: if individuals are truly saved, then they will understand the biblical message that we are all of “one blood.” 

In stark contrast, Ham expends enormous energy fulminating against gay marriage, the LGBTQ “menace,” and violations of “biblically established” gender norms. Just in the past month he has written these posts:

And even in “Are There Really Different Races?” Ham felt compelled to slip in a section entitled “Roles in Marriage,” in which he observes that even in interracial marriages the “couple needs to understand and embrace the[ir] biblical roles,” with husband as shepherd and wife as helper.

Of course, Ham could take the same approach to gender norms as he does to racism. That is, he could describe what he understands the Bible to be teaching, and then say that the solution is for folks to come to Christ, and when they do so, then “gender confusion” would be gone. 

But Ham takes one approach when it comes to gender, and another when it comes to race.

Perhaps Ham’s apparent indifference to specific acts of racial hatred is driven by a desire not to alienate that portion of his white fundamentalist constituency who fly the Confederate flag and tilt toward (or are completely committed to) white supremacy. (Admittedly, to challenge these folks would take some courage on Ham’s part, especially since he needs to sell tickets to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter). 

Perhaps his apparent indifference to specific acts of racial hatred is driven by a desire not to say a bad word about a president he supports, a president who makes incendiary racist comments as a matter of course. 

Perhaps Ham’s apparent indifference to specific acts of racial hatred is because, when it comes down to it, he simply does not care.

I can’t say what Ham’s motives are. But I can say that silence in response to specific acts of racial violence and white supremacist organizing is quite telling.

In fact, it says it all.