Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
The Righting America Blog | Righting America

Stay With Your Abusive Husband: John MacArthur and Evangelical Patriarchy

by William Trollinger 

A screenshot of Ken Ham’s post to Facebook on John McArthur’s “Truth Matters!” Conference. Image via Facebook.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone outside the Christian Right bubble is unaware of the fact that white evangelicalism in the United States is an absolute mess. 

See, for example, yesterday’s Houston Chronicle article, which details how for decades in the Southern Baptist Convention “survivors and others who reported [sexual] abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action . . . even if it meant convicted molesters continued in ministry.”

And for another example, see the recent New York Times article about a conservative pastor in Fort Smith, Arkansas who was pushed out of his pulpit because he used the acronym “BLM” in his blog, and because he refused to head down the QAnon rabbit hole with his congregants. 

One of the best sources on scandal-a-minute evangelicalism is the Roys Report. Established by investigative journalist Julie Roys, the Report “is a Christian media outlet, reporting the unvarnished truth about what’s happening in the Christian community so the church can be reformed and restored.” Determined to expose the seamy side of what she refers to as the “evangelical industrial complex,” the intrepid, persistent, and apparently fearless Roys has done remarkable work in exposing appalling truths about evangelical luminaries and institutions such as Mark Driscoll, Ravi Zacharias, Hillsong, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Liberty University, James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel, Matt Chandler and Acts 29, and Thomas White and Cedarville University (about which we also have written a great deal – here’s one example).   

But near the top of Roys’ investigative hit parade is John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and chancellor emeritus of The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS). In the past 27 months, Roys has written (I think I have the count right) 47 posts on MacArthur and his institutions (not to mention additional podcasts). In these articles she has detailed MacArthur’s claims that there is no pandemic (it’s a Satanic deception, which would be news to the families of the over 1 million Americans who have died from COVID) and his church’s and schools’ failure to report COVID cases; she has highlighted MacArthur’s huge salaries and wealth, blatant nepotism, and determination to keep financial details of his institutions a secret; and, she has reported accusations of plagiarism against the chancellor emeritus.

This spring, Roys has focused on how MacArthur and his minions, taking a page out of the Southern Baptist Convention playbook, have a history of minimizing and covering up sexual abuse. Here a few examples:

And there is more. And all of this is in keeping with what John Street, chair of the graduate program in biblical counseling at TMUS, has taught his students:

  • A Christian wife should endure abuse by a non-Christian husband in the same way that missionaries endure persecution.
  • By enduring abuse a wife may win her husband to Christ.
  • When both spouses are Christian, the wife should rely on church processes, as government authorities must be the absolute last resort.
  • Domestic violence shelters are terrible places, as they teach women to be assertive.
  • The only grounds for divorce are unrepentant adultery and abandonment.

As awful as this is, it seems par for the course in evangelical patriarchy. John MacArthur’s fellow patriarchs certainly do not seem fazed. For example, just last week Ken Ham – who has had precious little (maybe nothing) to say about spousal and sexual abuse in evangelical families, churches, and institutions – bragged about hosting John MacArthur’s “Truth Matters!” conference – yes, there are so many obvious jokes one could make about this title – at Ark Encounter (which, of course, is dedicated to commemorating the righteous divine genocide of up to 20 billion human beings). 

According to Ham, at the conference there was “great teaching on the inerrant Word.” 

Is that the inerrant Word that commands female submission, even to abuse?

I heartily applaud Julie Roys’ determination to “report the unvarnished truth about what’s happening in the Christian community,” and I hope she continues her good work. 

That said, we remain a long ways from a “reformed and restored” evangelicalism, particularly when it comes to patriarchy.

A White Creationist Evangelical Arrives at the Gates of Heaven

by Rodney Kennedy 

Rodney Kennedy has his M.Div. from New Orleans Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Louisiana State University. The pastor of 7 Southern Baptist churches over the course of 20 years, he pastored the First Baptist Church of Dayton (OH) – which is an American Baptist Church – for 13 years. He is currently professor of homiletics at Palmer Theological Seminary, and interim pastor of Emmanuel Friedens Federated Church, Schenectady, NY. And his sixth book – The Immaculate Mistake: How Evangelicals Gave Birth to Donald Trump – has just been published by Wipf and Stock (Cascades). 

St. Peter at the Gates of Heaven, Welcoming the Saved. Anonymous, c. 1500 CE.

Back in the 1970’s – when I was taught that door-to-door, in-your-face witnessing would save the world for Jesus – I memorized all the material in James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion. Then I went door-to-door like a brush salesman, but better, because I was zealously seeking to convert the heathen. Night after night I knocked on doors, accosting complete strangers: “Hi, my name is Rod, from Riverview Baptist Church, and if God asked you ‘Why should I let you into my heaven,’ what would you say?” 

Now, it’s 2022. I have changed, and the world has changed. 

And I had this dream about a white creationist evangelical (WCE) who died and showed up at the gates of heaven.

Peter: “Why should God let you into heaven?”

WCE: “Who are you? Where’s Jesus?”

Peter: “I’m his representative. You know, the rock on which he built the church. You have to talk to me first and I need you to answer the question: Why should God let you into heaven? Keep in mind this is ‘Final Jeopardy.’” 

WCE: “I trusted Jesus as my savior, and I know Adam and Eve were real people. No Adam, no Jesus, you know.” 

Peter: “Did you feed the hungry?” 

WCE: “Well, I opposed abortion. I happily intimidated young women who were at the abortion clinic for an abortion. I showed up for anti-abortion protests, and I attended rallies in Washington D. C. to put pressure on the Supreme Court. A leaked draft on the day of my departure from Earth indicated that the Supreme Court was going to vote to abolish abortion. Oh, how I would have loved to have been there for that glorious moment of sticking it to the liberals!” 

Peter: “Calm down. This is not really a place that’s big on a lot of excitement and loud talking. Did you give water to the thirsty?” 

WCE: What do these questions have to do with getting into heaven? Look, I upheld the honor of God by opposing gay marriage. Gays are an abomination to the Lord. And I really hammered all those radicals who didn’t understand that boys should be boys and not transgender persons. I defended the bathrooms of America with all my heart.” 

Peter: “Did you know that I once thought Gentiles were an abomination to the Lord. Then, in a dream, God said to me, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ What a jarring idea. When I went to the church council in Jerusalem, my fellow apostles and I had a real argument about this idea. And then, we decided to accept Gentiles. Do you think that applying the Jerusalem Church’s solution to inclusion could have been a good model for dealing with gays? Ok. Sorry for the rant. I have another question. Did you show hospitality to strangers?” 

WCE: “I did if they were godly people: you know, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-history, American patriots. But immigrants? No! I was part of the Minutemen who patrolled our southern border to keep all those criminals out of our country. I don’t understand this ‘snowflake’ need to pamper illegal immigrants. You have to stand up for your rights, and our rights as true Americans are threatened by these criminals – our values were endangered. So of course I didn’t show hospitality to them. As a good Christian I defended nationalist, heteronormative, sexist, ablest, racist, and classist power because that’s what God demanded.” 

Peter: “Did you clothe the naked?” 

WCE: “Is this some kind of sex question. Why do you want to talk about ‘nekkid people?’ Have you no shame? This place is not a nudist colony, is it? Are there a bunch of free-love hippies wandering the grounds? Look, I protested the way women dressed so sensuously. Disgraceful, I tell you, disgraceful.”   

Peter: “Did you care for the sick?”

WCE: “I wrote letters and signed petitions against Obamacare.” 

Peter: “Did you know that the legislation was actually called the Affordable Health Care Act. Almost everyone favors ‘affordable.’ Everyone is in favor of ‘health,’ and who would ever oppose ‘care’? Did you forget that Jesus was a healer, the ‘great physician’? Do you remember the story of the man left for dead on the Jericho Road and the stranger who paid for his emergency room, hospitalization, and rehab? Again, did you care for the sick?” 

WCE: “Why are you telling me all this Bible stuff? What’s that got to do with heaven? I was trying to stop socialism, man.” 

Peter: “Hmmm. Well, did you visit the prisoners?” 

WCE: “I stood up for law and order, capital punishment, and long sentences for drug offenders. Lock’em up, I say. I opposed BLM, CRT, ‘wokeness,’ and all those liberal socialists in Congress. The Dems are demons, I tell you, and they are in the sex slave business with children. Ungodly.” 

Peter: “You have quite the resume. What else did you do?” 

WCE: “I was a true patriot who defended the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer in schools, ‘In God We Trust,’ and ‘one nation under God.’ I would have sent those professional ballplayers to prison for kneeling during the national anthem. I gave money to David Barton, a godly man trying to destroy the First Amendment to the Constitution. He really looks great in that red, white, and blue suit! Speaking of the glorious red, white, and blue, where’s the American flag?  Why isn’t it flying over this place?

Peter: “I should warn you that you seem to be conflating Americanism, nativism, sexism, and racism with Christianity. Is there anything else you would like to add?” 

WCE: “Well, I did my part to keep the world addicted to fossil fuels. I tried to help people to see that women must be submissive to men. And I supported all the efforts to rewrite American history to get rid of those liberal notions of systemic racism.”

Peter: “You really have quite the resume.”

WCE: “Thanks! And there’s more. I tried to help people see that God created the world in six literal days, and that evolution is a lie of the devil. And since the public schools – the devil’s playground – are infected with evolutionism, I have worked to convince parents to send their children to fundamentalist schools, where they will be taught a biblically consistent curriculum, and where they will learn the truth about six-day creation and the 6000-year-old universe.”  

Peter: What are you talking about? God gave you a brain, and this is the drivel you come up with?

WCE: “Oh, my, I forgot one of the most important of causes. I supported the Second Amendment to the Constitution. I believe in God and guns, lots and lots of guns. By the way, where are the armed guards, and why don’t you have a wall? My pastor told me that God loves walls, and that there was a huge wall in heaven, but I only see open spaces. Look, I know the line is getting long behind me, so let me sum up. God should let me into heaven because I believe in God, guns, the Bible, male superiority, and heteronormative white society. I believe in keeping America for real Americans, real patriots. I believe in the 4th of July as a Christian holiday, and the Pledge of Allegiance as the church’s creed. And I can’t wait to join the QAnon chapter here in heaven!”

Peter: “Oh my. Well, you can go through the door on the left. It’s a sort of holding pen for applicants with muddled answers. I will get back to you in a few million years with a final decision. In the interim I will register you for some remedial classes in science, history, and the Bible. Have a nice eternity. I need a break.”  

At a popular evangelical tourist site, the Ark Encounter, the image of a ‘wrathful God’ appeals to millions

By Susan Trollinger and William Trollinger

We at RightingAmerica are pleased to share below our article on Ark Encounter, which appears today over at The Conversation. Many thanks to the editors at The Conversation for their permission to re=post our work here!

Visitors walking outside a giant replica of Noah's Ark, which has stairs on either side,  in Williamstown, Kentucky.
A replica of Noah’s Ark at the Ark Encounter theme park in Williamstown, Ky. AP Photo/John Minchillo, File

The Ark Encounter, an evangelical theme park located near Williamstown, Kentucky, has welcomed between 4 million and 5 million visitors since its opening in July 2016. Hundreds of thousands more are sure to visit this summer.

This theme park boasts a re-creation of the story of Noah’s Ark from the Bible. As described in Genesis 6:14-16, God directed Noah to build this ark to spare eight humans and a male and female pair of every kind of creature from the flood that God was going to unleash on the world as a punishment for sin. 

As scholars of fundamentalism and creationism, we have visited the Ark Encounter multiple times. We have also written a book, “Righting America at the Creation Museum,” about the ark’s companion site, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.

What we find particularly striking about Ark Encounter is that it is a tourist site devoted to emphasizing – with great specificity – the wrathful nature of God and the eternal damnation that awaits unrepentant sinners.

What is Ark Encounter’s argument?

According to Answers in Genesis, the fundamentalist organization that launched Ark Encounter, and its CEO, Ken Ham, Ark Encounter is a centerpiece of AiG’s mission to “expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas and bedfellow: a ‘millions of years old’ earth (and even older universe).” 

So, according to AiG, when Genesis 1 says God created the Earth in six days, it literally means six 24-hour days. Similarly, when the Bible says Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day and gives details about their descendants and how long they lived, this is interpreted as recounting real history. And all of this means that, according to AiG, the Earth is “about 6,000 years old.” 

While scientists have estimated the Earth to be about 4.5 billion years old, AiG counters by claiming that radiometric dating is not reliable. Instead, they assert that the catastrophic biblical flood created all the geological formations that make the Earth look ancient.

Over the past few decades, this argument has become a doctrinal touchstone for many American evangelicals.

An enormous structure

We most recently visited the Ark Encounter on March 15, 2022. Measuring 510 feet (155 metres) long, 85 feet (25 metres) wide, and 51 feet (15 metres) high, the Ark Encounter is, to quote one visitor we overheard, “so huge!” 

After purchasing tickets that cost US $54.95 per adult, we and other visitors boarded buses and made the ascent up a long hill. Getting off the bus, we walked to the Ark, keenly aware of how small we were in relation to this ginormous structure. 

Inside the Ark, visitors walk through three enormous decks, encountering rows of clay food storage containers, burlap sacks and animal cages. They observe over 100 bays featuring placards and digital animations that, among other things, go far beyond the Bible to explain Noah’s training in shipbuilding, carpentry and blacksmithing. The same creativity applies to the various displays explaining how eight human beings on the Ark fed, watered and managed the waste of 7,000 or so creatures.

A wooden model showing a woman painting a vase and a man, standing in front of her, playing the flute.
The living quarters of Japheth (Noah’s son) and his wife, Rayneh, aboard the Ark. Susan Trollinger, CC BY

Visitors also walk through a life-size diorama of the plush living quarters of Noah’s family, where they learn about the skills, gifts and interests of Noah’s sons – details not included in Genesis. They also learn about Noah’s wife and his sons’ wives. The Bible never identifies these women by name, much less describes them. Nevertheless, the Ark gives them names, different ethnic complexions, biographies and even hobbies. 

Notwithstanding the occasional placard acknowledging that designers have taken “artistic license” with these dioramas, we couldn’t help but notice how much of what is in the Ark is not actually found in the Bible. 

But visitors to the Ark seem to embrace these dramatic additions to the biblical text. As religion scholar Paul Thomas observes in his new book, “Storytelling the Bible at the Creation Museum, Ark Encounter, and the Museum of the Bible,” the world created by the designers of the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter satisfies the evangelical longing “for a time and place governed by biblical principles, even if that idealized time and place … never really existed.”

A very angry God

AiG requires all Ark Encounter employees to affirm a 46-point faith statement. They must agree, for example, that “gender and biological sex are equivalent and cannot be separated,” modern understandings of “social justice” are “anti-biblical,” and all humans “are sinners” and “are therefore subject to God’s wrath and condemnation.” 

This emphasis on the overwhelming wrath of God is perhaps the most noteworthy feature of Ark Encounter as a tourist site.

A placard on a stone wall that shows an image of the Earth and claims that up to 20 billion people inhabited the Earth at the time of a biblical flood.
A placard inside the ark explains that, by AiG’s calculations, there were anywhere from about 150 million to 20 billion human beings at the time of the biblical flood. Susan Trollinger, CC BY

Genesis 7:16 states that, as the flood waters rose, God slammed shut the door into the Ark. Once shut, all the humans and animals on the other side of the door were doomed to drown. 

According to a placard displayed at Ark Encounter, there may have been upwards of 20 billion people on Earth at the time of the Genesis flood, a number that would have included children and infants, not to mention the unborn. 

Another placard asks, “Was it just for God to judge the whole world?” The answer: “Since He is the one who gave life, He has the right to take life. Secondly, God is perfectly just and must judge sin. Third, all have sinned and deserve death and judgment.” 

A wooden model showing the door of the biblical Noah's Ark.
A model of a door that God is believed to have closed as the biblical flood waters rose. Susan Trollinger, CC BY

Remarkably, Ark Encounter has placed a “keepsake photo” placard near the door that, in the Ark’s depiction, sealed the fate of all those on the other side. As we have witnessed every time we have toured Ark Encounter, happy visitors line up to have their photos taken in front of this door. 

According to AiG, this ancient divine slaughter prefigures a future divine slaughter. As the Ark Encounter website puts it, “God will judge this wicked world once again, but this time it will be by fire … God always keeps His promises – judgment will come.” According to AiG, we can escape this fate by believing in Christ, but for the billions (past and present) who have not or do not, the result is “everlasting, conscious punishment in the lake of fire (hell).”

As historian Doug Frank makes clear in his 1986 book, “A Gentler God,” this understanding of a wrathful God is alive and well in American evangelicalism. Frank’s argument is supported by a 2014 Pew Research report that revealed that 82% of American evangelicals believe in a literal hell

Millions of evangelicals visit Ark Encounter for all sorts of reasons, including, perhaps, its sheer immensity. That said, the message they get from Ark Encounter is clear and simple. 

The wrathful God has determined that those who do not accept Jesus as savior, those who are resolutely on the wrong side of culture war issues like abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, will pay for their sin eternally.

When a Jew and a Catholic Walk into Victory

by Tiffany Hunsinger

Tiffany Hunsinger is pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology at the University of Dayton.   She became a full member of the Catholic Church while an undergraduate student at Purdue University and shortly afterward realized the Church needed fewer conservative and rigid ministers, and more ministers working for an inclusive and loving community. She has worked in campus ministry and youth ministry since.  Tiffany combines her passion for Catholicism and politics in her theological work.  She finds particularly troubling the evangelical Christian nationalism creeping into Catholic circles.  

Josh Mandel (left) campaigns with Michael Flynn at Victory Christian Church in Kettering, Ohio, on Apr. 21, 2022 (photo by Tiffany Hunsinger).

This past Thursday afternoon, I had the “pleasure” of attending Josh Mandel’s Faith and Freedom Tour with Michael Flynn at Victory Christian Church in Kettering, Ohio.  With statements like “Pro-God, Pro-Gun, Pro-Trump,” and being a practicing Catholic, I assumed Mandel and I would align on rhetoric at least 33% of the time.

I walked into the church and pivoted to the smell of Bill’s donuts (a local delicacy) and good old church coffee.  The crowd talked and anticipated Mandel’s sermon with something like the customary Sunday morning cheer.  The group knew him as one of their own; as Mandel stated, they comprised his “home team.”

The Faith Coalition of Ohio, an endorser of Mandel, has led the charge in convincing churches across the state to support Mandel.  At the meeting, they boasted that just over 100 pastors had signed on, with more coming in by the day.  As the leader of the Faith Coalition stated at the rally, if you are not voting with Mandel, it is because you lack conviction.

The rally began with Dayton Right to Life’s extended reassurance of Mandel’s pro-baby ethics, as we waited thirty minutes for Mandel to appear.  When Mandel finally appeared, the crowd erupted in applause, happy to see the Christian savior of Ohio.  Mandel repeatedly evoked “Judeo-Christian” values in his promises.  He lamented the loss of God within our country and discussed the things happening in the schools that betray the nation’s constitutional values.  He cited Critical Race Theory, and talked about his friend’s daughter, “a girl in bows,” put into affinity groups based on race (the girl, being white, belonged to the “bystanders and oppressors” group).  He described gender and sexuality discussion in the schools as evidence of their corruption.  Of course, we cannot trust the media to cover these things, for, according to Mandel, media will censor the truth, especially media members from the coasts and not from the heartland of America.  So we must find “the truth” on our own, and if we have not discovered “the truth,” it is our own fault.

In all of his rhetoric, in all of his efforts to elicit the Christian vote, though, Mandel never once mentioned his own Judaism.  I am embarrassed to admit that I did not even know this Ted Cruz-backed candidate’s Jewishness until after the rally, contrary to Flynn, who referenced Catholicism throughout his speech.  No one would have doubted that Mandel is a sincere Christian, particularly as he parades through evangelical churches throughout the state.  Perhaps his constant reference to his time as a Marine, and thus his scars, make up for any religious insincerity.  He gave the nod to Ohio’s new open carry laws as a victory for this Christian church.

Then there is Michael Flynn, the Catholic nationalist people’s general, whom Mandel strategically used as his “Pro-Trump” portion of his campaign.  While President Trump did not endorse Mandel, opting for his rival J.D Vance instead, Flynn gave his backing to Mandel.  When someone asked why Trump backed Vance despite his anti-Trump remarks in the past, the answer involved the divine mystery of the former President:  No one knows what is going on in his head.  At the end of the day, the candidate with the “Pro-Trump” campaign did not receive President Trump’s backing and had to rely on Michael Flynn instead.  Regardless, Mandel promised the crowd to dismantle the January 6th insurrection on the capital commission and instead create a November 3rd commission to take back Trump’s rightful victory.  

As stated in the rally’s opening prayer, let us hope God destroys the modern-day Pharaohs.

For more, here is Brian Kaylor’s wonderful Word and Way article – which includes photos taken by Tiffany Hunsinger – on the Mandel/Flynn rally at Victory Christian Church.

Ken Ham and the Fog that Enshrouds Ark Encounter

by William Trollinger

An image of Ark Encounter surrounded by fog. Image via arkencounter.com.

Sometimes Ken Ham’s fog machine is a bit too much. Too much obfuscation.

A few days ago Ham put out an article in which he proclaimed that “the internationally popular attractions of Answers in Genesis [AIG}, the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, are about to welcome their 10 millionth guest.” According to Ham, the immediate future is very bright: not only is the AIG “marketing campaign” (which centers around “animated giraffes” in TV ads) moving “into higher gear,” but “we saw very high attendance in March,” all of which suggests that, for Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, “this summer should be our best season ever.” According to Ham, all of this will further contribute to the dramatic economic impact Ark Enounter has had on the economy of northern Kentucky, including “the construction of several new hotels to meet guest demand” in towns north of the Ark (particularly, Dry Ridge and Florence.)

Of course, Ham reports, there have been significant challenges, such as “countering myths” perpetrated by critics. One of these is “the rumor that state money was used to build and open the Ark Encounter. Also, it has had to deal with the myth that the city of Williamstown is at risk on $62 million in Ark Bonds. In reality, individual AiG supporters were the funders of the bond offering. All bond payments have been paid on schedule and the bonds will be fully paid off this month.”

A few points about Ham’s befogging article: 

  • While these attendance numbers are significant – which is why we should attend to these tourist sites and what they tell us about American fundamentalism in particular and American culture in general – they are less impressive than they seem, especially when it comes to Ark Encounter. And that’s because in the 2013 feasibility report Answers in Genesis presented to the little town of Williamstown to secure financial support for the building of the Ark, they projected 1.2 million as the bare minimum attendance for the first year of operation, with an average annual attendance of 7% for the next decade. Not only has the Ark has fallen far short of such projections, it has never reached the bare minimum 1.2 million attendance mark in any one year.   
  • Ham’s reference to high attendance numbers in March 2022 – in a March 26 tweet he referred to them as “record numbers” – is simply not true, at least as regards Ark Encounter. Thanks to the precise numbers provided by the City of Williamstown, and shared with us by Dan Phelps, last month’s attendance of 59,428 fell short of the 70,466 attendees in March 2019 and the 62,251 visitors in March 2018. What record has been broken?
Screenshot of Ken Ham’s March 2022 tweet reporting “record numbers” at the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.
  • While Ham hates any suggestion that government contributed to the building and opening of Ark Encounter, the fog machine can not obscure the reality that 
    • a Kentucky state sales tax rebate program provides the Ark with $1.8m annually.
    • a county industrial authority provided the Ark $175,000 to assist in the purchase of land.
    • local officials “sold” Ark Encounter 100 acres for $1.
  • Most important in this regard, and as we have repeatedly pointed out, the town of Williamstown floated $62m in junk bonds to enable the building of the Ark. In contrast with Ham’s false and obfuscating assertion, which he makes again and again, we have never said that Williamstown was at risk in the bond offering. Instead, what we have said is that 75% of what Ark Encounter would have paid in property taxes instead goes to paying off the bonds that made the Ark possible. Quite obviously, this is a government subsidy.
  • Of course, Williamstown gave Ark Encounter this very sweet deal in the hopes that this mammoth tourist site would have a great economic impact on the little and economically precarious town. But as anyone who drives through Williamstown can see, and as was made very clear in the wonderful documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs, the Ark has not produced the hoped-for economic benefits. How does Ham explain this failure? While Williamstown is indeed very close to the Ark, the problem is that it is on the other side of the interstate . . . a point Ham and company failed to mention to the good folks of Williamstown when they sold them on the bond deal.
  • And here’s a question. If the bonds will be fully paid off this month, does that mean that, after nine years of this very generous local government subsidy, Ark Encounter will finally begin to pay its fair share of property taxes? 

Think of this post as a stiff breeze, blowing the fog away so that we can see Ark Encounter more clearly. But please don’t think I am naïve. I know that clearing the fog away is merely temporary. 

Even now, I can see it starting to roll in.

Six Years Later, A Creationist Theme Park Is Not Paying Off For Kentucky

by Rob Boston, Senior Adviser for Americans United and Editor, Church & State

Exterior of Ark Encounter. Image by Susan L. Trollinger (March 15, 2022).

Editor’s Note: Today we share an article that appeared earlier this week at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Our thanks to Rob Boston and the editors of Americans United for their permission to re-post Rob’s article here at Righting America.

As we’ve noted many times on this blog, Australian creationist Ken Ham built “Ark Encounter,” a theme park in Grant County, Ky., based on a replica of what Ham believes Noah’s Ark looked like, with a plethora of taxpayer support.

Ham gets mad when Americans United points this out, but it’s true. Bloggers Hemant Mehta and William Trollinger have, on several occasions, listed the various forms of public support Ham’s religious project received.

Americans United never opposed Ham’s building of Ark Encounter, but we did stand against taxpayers being compelled to support what is clearly an evangelistic enterprise. We believe Ham and his Answers in Genesis (AiG) ministry should have relied on voluntary contributions from his co-religionists.

Ham justified the raid on the public purse by asserting that Ark Encounter would be a great boon to the nearby town of Williamstown, whose leaders agreed to float $62 million in junk bonds to get the project going. Town officials clearly believed the attraction would benefit the area economically.

Has it? Trollinger wrote last week that while Ark Encounter is far from sinking, it hasn’t attracted the large number of visitors Ham projected in 2013.

“It has never reached even the minimum number of visitors for its first year of operation,” Trollinger wrote. “And with every passing year the tourist site falls farther short of what AiG promised.”

Trollinger and his wife Susan have visited the ark several times, most recently last month. He writes, “After our March visit to the Ark we drove through Williamstown. Six years after the tourist site was constructed, and as documented by the wonderful film, We Believe in Dinosaurs, Ark Encounter has had little noticeable economic impact on the small town that provided the tourist site with such gifts.”

What about all those jobs Ham promised? Apparently, local residents either don’t want them or don’t qualify for them. (Ark Encounter employees must sign a statement of faith saying they agree with AiG’s fundamentalist religious views.)  Dan Phelps, president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, keeps a close eye and Ham’s doings and pointed out recently that Ham has proposed hiring students from nearby Christian colleges and is raising money to build housing for them on site.

To sum up: Taxpayers in Kentucky were forced to prop up an attraction that promotes fundamentalist Christianity and pseudoscience. The promised economic benefits have not materialized.

We hate to say we told you so, but….

Ark Encounter: Not Sinking, but Not Close to Living Up to Projections

Ark Encounter: Not Sinking, but Not Close to Living Up to Projections

by William Trollinger

Exterior of Ark Encounter. Image by Susan L. Trollinger (March 15, 2022).

A few weeks ago – during our spring break at the University of Dayton – we visited Ark Encounter. It was our ninth or tenth visit since the Ark opened in July, 2016. In most ways the demographics of the visitors remain the same. Overwhelmingly (but not completely) the guests were white. There were families with young children in tow, with some obvious homeschool “science” education taking place. There were youth from at least two fundamentalist schools or churches; given the number of T-shirts and caps that referred to farming, it was clear that they hailed from the rural South or Midwest. And as is almost always the case, there was a contingent of Amish tourists.

For a Tuesday morning in mid-March, there was a sizable crowd buying tickets and lining up to board one of the shuttles taking folks from the parking lot to the gigantic non-seaworthy boat. 

And yet, the attendance numbers at Ark Encounter continue to fall short of the projections put forth by Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG). 

As we have noted many times here, in 2013 the nearby town of Williamstown issued $62m of junk bonds to get the Ark project off the ground, so to speak. This deal was made even sweeter by the provision that 75% of what Ark Encounter would have paid in property taxes would instead go to paying off the loan.To secure such a sweet deal, Ham and his colleagues came up with a feasibility study claiming that the Ark would attract 1.2-2.0 million visitors in its first year of existence, with annual attendance increases of 7% per year over the next decade. 

How does actual Ark Encounter attendance measure up?

Every month the doggedly persistent Dan Phelps (founder and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society) asks Williamstown officials for the “safety assessment form,” i.e. the total amount raised that month from the 50 cent “safety fee” that is added to each Ark ticket. With this information we can get a very good idea of Ark attendance (see the specific month-by-month numbers below).

Since its opening in July 2016 through February 2022 it appears that Ark Encounter has attracted in the neighborhood of 4.2m paid visitors. Of course, and as Phelps always notes when he reports the monthly numbers, Ham argues that attendance is much higher than these numbers would indicate, given that children under 10 get in free, and given that there are folks who have purchased lifetime passes, and thus aren’t included in the official attendance numbers.

Putting aside the obvious problems with such a claim, let’s stipulate that somewhere between 4 and 5 million tourists have visited the Ark since 2016. And those are significant numbers. The Ark is not sinking.

That said, Ark Encounter has never come close to reaching the numbers projected in the feasibility report given to Williamstown in 2013. It has never reached even the minimum number of visitors for its first year of operation. And with every passing year the tourist site falls farther short of what AiG promised.

After our March visit to the Ark we drove through Williamstown. Six years after the tourist site was constructed, and as documented by the wonderful film, We Believe in Dinosaurs, Ark Encounter has had little noticeable economic impact on the small town that provided the tourist site with such gifts. 

But that fits the story of the Flood. You have to be inside the Ark (Encounter) to be saved.

Thanks to Dan Phelps for these numbers.

ARK SAFETY FEE NUMBERS VIA KENTUCKY OPEN RECORDS ACT REQUESTS FROM WILLIAMSTOWN, KY

First year: 800,000 (as reported by Ken Ham)

2017:

  • July: 142,626 (Safety Fee amount: $71,313.00)
  • August: 106,161 ($53,080.50)
  • September: 83,330 ($41,665.00)
  • October: 93,659 ($46,829.50)
  • November: 51,914 ($25,957.00)
  • December: 36,472 ($18,236.00)

2018:

  • January: 13,250 ($6,625.00)
  • February: 17,961 ($8,980.50)
  • March: 62,251 ($31,125.50)
  • April: 67,613 ($33,806.50)
  • May: 73,353 ($36,676.50)
  • June: 113,901 ($56,950.50)
  • July: 135,922 ($67,961.00) 
  • August: 98,106 ($49,053.00)
  • September: 69,207 ($34,603.50) 
  • October: 89,434 ($44,717.00) 
  • November: 40,193 ($20,096.50)
  • December: 46,400 ($24,200.00)

2019:

  • January: 14,885 ($7,442.50)
  • February: 16,328 ($8,164.00)
  • March 2019: 70,466 ($35,233.00)
  • April 2019: 79,908 ($39,554.00)
  • May 2019: 90,803 ($45,401.50)
  • June 2019: 124,230 ($62,115.00)
  • July 2019: 160,124 ($80,062.00)
  • August 2019: 104,350 ($52,175)
  • September 2019: 73,541 ($36,770.50)
  • October 2019: 86,998 ($43,494.00)
  • November 2019: 37,686 ($18,881)
  • December 2019: 37,880 ($18,940)

2020:

  • January 2020: 15,790 ($7,895.00)
  • February 2020: 17,290 ($8,645.00)
  • March 2020: 15,145($7572.50)
  • April 2020: 0 ($0)
  • May 2020: 2,047 ($1,023.50)
  • June 2020: 40,434 ($20,217.00)
  • July 2020: 57,632 ($28,816.00)
  • August 2020: 46,562 ($23,281.00)
  • September 2020: 44,571 ($22,285.50)
  • October 2020: 49,835 ($24,917.50)
  • November 2020: 24,105 ($12,052.50)
  • December 2020: 34,273 ($17,136.50)

2021

  • January 2021: 11,354 ($5,677)
  • February 2021: 11,577 ($5,788.50)
  • March 2021: 57, 801 ($28,900.50)
  • April 2021: 64,479 ($32,239.50)
  • May 2021: 76,089 ($38,044.50)
  • June 2021: 109,694 ($54,847)
  • July 2021: 134,945 ($67,472.50)
  • August 2021: 83,826 ($41,913.00)
  • September 2021: 64,301 ($32,150.50)
  • October 2021: 73,328 ($36,664.00)
  • November 2021: 44,291 ($22,145.50)
  • December 2021: 40,671 ($20,335.50)

2022

  • January 2022: 11,030 ($5,515.00)
  • February 2022: 10,826 ($5,413.00)

Total: 4208298

Denying Truth, Rejecting Reality, Endangering Humanity: All of Us Will Pay for the Evangelical Denial of Mainstream Science

Denying Truth, Rejecting Reality, Endangering Humanity: All of Us Will Pay for the Evangelical Denial of Mainstream Science

by Rodney Kennedy

Rodney Kennedy has his M.Div. from New Orleans Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Louisiana State University. The pastor of 7 Southern Baptist churches over the course of 20 years, he pastored the First Baptist Church of Dayton (OH) – which is an American Baptist Church – for 13 years. He is currently professor of homiletics at Palmer Theological Seminary, and interim pastor of Emmanuel Friedens Federated Church, Schenectady, NY. And his sixth book – The Immaculate Mistake: How Evangelicals Gave Birth to Donald Trump – has just been published by Wipf and Stock (Cascades). 

Polar bears jump across ice floes. Image via Papua New Guinea Post-Courier

Science has a dodgier relationship with rhetoric in the alternative world of evangelicalism than ever before. Suspicion, not trust, dominates the evangelical approach to mainstream science. 

Evangelicals are more likely to say of a scientific reality, “It’s just a theory.” In fact, the suspect rhetorical claim, “It’s just a theory, and we are going to win,” stands as the essential argument of evangelicals, an argument supplanted by distortions and misinformation. 

There’s no surprise here, because the evangelical response to mainstream science has been rocky for the past 150 years. Evolution first garnered the sustained opposition of evangelicals in the late 19th century. Not much has changed since the evangelicals made the decision to reject evolution. 

Evangelicals have a penchant for choosing the wrong enemies and then going to war with inadequate weapons. In this case, evangelicals, having failed to produce any actual scientific theory of substance to rival evolution, turned to spurious rhetorical attacks in what can only be seen as an anti-science snit fit. Evangelicals are simply screaming, “I don’t like mainstream science. I don’t like it at all.” 

Ever since Stephen Toulmin and Thomas Kuhn squared off in the intellectual bout as to whether science is “evolutionary” or “revolutionary,” the rhetorical nature of science has blossomed into a full-fledged discipline within Communication Departments. While the developments of rhetoric and science in the academy have expanded dramatically, evangelicals continue to make the same tired old rhetorical arguments against mainstream science. 

But while their arguments are tired (and tiresome), evangelicals are doggedly determined to undo mainstream science. Evangelical preachers constitute a resistance movement operating within churches and media to undo the nation’s confidence in mainstream science. Preachers resist with sermons from pulpits across the country, with protests at local school boards and state boards of education about science textbooks, with petition drives, and with media pronouncements. 

And their persistence has paid off. The evangelical movement against mainstream science has led to many Americans rejecting evolution, protesting vaccinations and masks, and denying climate change. On the surface rejecting evolution doesn’t seem to hold the same dangers as rejecting the science of dealing with infectious disease or climate change, but all three of these stances throb with unprecedented dangers to human life. This movement against mainstream science dramatically increases precarity for the human species. 

Decades of climate and geological research have coalesced in consensus about the precarity that threatens not just publics, but humanity as a species: the Anthropocene. “In the Anthropocene,” note G. Mitchell Reyes and Kundai Chirindo, “the precarity that had been the nearly exclusive preserve of people occupying the bottommost rungs of human society is becoming generalized to most if not all humans—though not in equal measure.” The challenge of the Anthropocene is that it signifies precarity at the biological or species scale. It indexes the fact that we (and our various publics) “have now ourselves become a geological agent disturbing [the] parametric conditions needed for our own existence.” In other words, the Anthropocene renders all publics precarious. 

The sense of precarity—feeling at once exposed to, vulnerable to, dependent upon, and impinged upon by others–is itself a function of an interdependence Judith Butler recognizes as a condition of living. “One’s life,” Butler observes, “is always in some sense, in the hands of the other.” This cultural or socialized precarity, in other words, is an inescapable fact of being human and of the publics humans constitute. 

The scariness for me is the sense that our lives are too much in the hands of the propagators of an anti-mainstream science propaganda that is promoted by non-scientists at the helm of multi-million-dollar media enterprises that spout out anti-mainstream science messages on a daily basis. 

The most obvious example here is Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis

The evangelical opposition to the science of climate change has produced a battalion of foot soldiers shouting, “How dare you interfere with my ‘right’ to drill for oil in environmentally sensitive areas, to burn more coal, to oppose the development of alternative energy soures, to my business’s ‘right’ to pollute?”  Evangelicals end up siding with the “bottom line” of out-of-date energy businesses (coal and fracking companies). 

Evangelicals are promoting reckless fantasies. As the earth chokes to death on our own self-induced toxic fumes, evangelicals are in big church buildings, waving their arms, and singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Not for evangelicals is a sense of our interdependence with all peoples and all species. 

Evangelicals can’t stand to be told that they don’t have the right to dangerous opinions that threaten the existence of the planet, or that they don’t have as much epistemic right as anyone else on any topic. They seem intent on insisting that they have the right to an opinion on climate change as if it were a discussion about whether to wear a red sweater or a black sweater to church. “Who are you to tell me that I have to agree with some scientists or even the entire phalanx of the scientific community?” 

The rhetorical argument of the evangelicals reduces to two basic commitments: a love of big business and profits (Jesus called it the maniacal pursuit of Mammon); and, the freedom to have life-threatening opinions (to hell with the facts). The people who swear that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” now end up believing what they want to believe.  

Evangelicals have in the past had a basic commitment to the requirement that humanity should rein in some of our appetites (sex, drink, drugs come to mind). But now they are dogmatically insisting on the right of an unabated gorging of all our appetites in relation to the environment. 

Perhaps it is time for evangelicals to have a new reading of their favorite verse of Scripture that feeds their massive homophobia: “Even since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature have been understood …. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to God but they became futile in their thinking.” God has given them up to exchanging the truth of science for a lie and a fake freedom. God has given them up to exchanging the natural inclination of being good stewards for the unfettered passions of destroying the earth for the sake of human greed. They have become insolent, haughty, foolish, heartless, ruthless people. Knowing the truth, they deny it, and they applaud others who join them in climate denial. 

Evangelical arguments end up as the junk food of rhetoric. Denying truth. Rejecting reality. Endangering humanity as a species. Refusing to be good stewards of the planet. This is the evangelical message, and this is a rhetorical perversion. 

But the rhetorical arguments/tropes/assertions of evangelicals against the house of mainstream science is but the sound and the fury of a hurricane-force storm. “The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock (truth)” (Matthew 7:25).

Their nonsense will be proven wrong. But in the end we, all of us on this planet, will pay.

Educational Malpractice: A Review of an Abeka Creationist 8th Grade Science Textbook

by Dan Phelps

Daniel Phelps is a retired environmental geologist for the commonwealth of Kentucky. He has also taught part-time in Kentucky’s Community College system. His work to expose the pseudoscience behind Ham’s Ark Encounter was featured in the award-winning 2019 documentary, “We Believe in Dinosaurs.” In 2021 the Paleontological Society – the world’s leading scientific organization devoted to studying invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology, micropaleontology, and paleobotany – awarded Phelps the prestigious Strimple Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in paleontology by someone who does not make a full-time living from paleontology. Phelps is founder and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society.

Cover of Parker, Shimmin, & Steele’s Science: Earth and Space 8th grade textbook, published by Abeka.

Science: Earth and Space is an Abeka Book 8th grade textbook (https://www.abeka.com/) written by Greg Parker, Delores Shimmin, and Dewitt Steele.  Abeka Books is associated with Pensacola (Florida) Christian College, and is very popular with fundamentalist schools and homeschoolers. Abeka’s science textbooks promote Young Earth Creationism (YEC), and are rather strident on the topic.

I was shocked by the number of private schools in my area that use at least some of Abeka’s products. You can find which schools in your area that use Abeka products here. (Note from blog editor: Using this link, I discovered that there are nine schools in a twenty mile radius from our house that use Abeka books.)

One problem with teaching science at any level is finding suitable textbooks. Students can be unprepared for a number of reasons, but adequate textbooks can help immensely. No textbook is perfect; most contain errors and misconceptions about their subjects. Often, these errors can be pointed out to students and can even be an opportunity for getting students to think critically. At a minimum, however, one usually trusts the authors of textbooks to have the integrity to at least attempt to accurately describe the subject at hand. 

Alas, this is not always true. 

I recently found a copy of Science: Earth and Space at a local Goodwill Store for the whopping sum of 99 cents. I paid a bit too much, but was spurred to write this review because of the egregious, and often appalling, content of this textbook. This review can only represent “the tip of the iceberg,” since there are so many bizarre, wrong, and misleading pieces of information in the text. 

Science: Earth and Space purports to be a science textbook covering geology, oceanography, atmospheric science, astronomy, and environmental science. Problems begin early in the book, with a discussion of how science is done. 

On page 3 is an inset box summarizing “Scientific Habits.” Most of the “Habits” do not seem unreasonable. After telling students to be intellectually honest, skeptical, and open to new ideas, the authors state, seemingly oblivious to any contradictions or irony, that: “As Christians, we must also remember that the Bible is God’s perfect Word. We can always trust what the Bible says about science and must reject any scientific ideas that contradict the Bible.”

A list of “Scientific Habits” provided to students in Science: Earth and Space.

I had to reread the text of this block insert several times to convince myself that it wasn’t a joke or parody of YEC thinking. Why didn’t the authors or editor notice such an odd contradiction?

Chapter 2 discusses the “Foundations of Geology.” We soon learn that “Unfortunately, some areas of geology, especially the study of fossils, have become dominated by evolutionary philosophy.” And that “…the great Flood in Genesis 7 and 8 is undoubtedly responsible for most of the earth’s present features and fossils, although evolutionists reject the Flood as a myth.” (emphases in the original).

And there’s more:

  • The text promotes an unusual creationist version of plate tectonics, called “catastrophic plate tectonics.” In this version the earth was created with the Rodinia Supercontinent, which in turn is broken apart during Noah’s Flood, and is reassembled into the Pangea Supercontinent underwater. It is claimed that “…we know from the scriptures that if the continents were once together, the separation had to occur much more quickly than evolutionists believe.” 
  • Students are also told that “The Bible seems to indicate that at the end of the Flood, God caused the sea floor to sink and the continents to rise, allowing floodwaters to recede from the land and collect in what are now the deep ocean basins (where the waters remain to this day).” 
  • In an “A Closer Look” inset on page 102, the formation Providence Canyon, Georgia and Burlingame Canyon, Washington, both of which formed recently in unconsolidated to poorly consolidated sediments, is compared to the formation of Grand Canyon, Arizona in an attempt to show the Grand Canyon formed in either Noah’s Flood or a post-Flood Ice Age “within the last 6000-8000 years.” 
  • Another “A Closer Look” inset on page 106 attempts to show that caves and dripstone formations were made shortly after the Flood.
  • Ice Cores are discussed in yet another “A Closer Look” inset. Apparently, “evolutionists claim that ice cores from Greenland have over 110,000 layers. With each layer representing a year.” 

Regarding the latter, the textbook greatly expands what the definition of an “evolutionist” is by linking the word with scientific concepts that have nothing to do with evolution. Moreover, the text ignores that Greenland ice cores actually cover much more than 400,000 years (and Antarctic cores that document longer time scales are unmentioned). This denial of ice core data is a convenient way of denying evidence used in climatology and climate change studies. 

Moreover, the book once again makes the bizarre claim that there was only one ice age and that it lasted a couple of hundred years after Noah’s Flood.

The ensuing pages of the physical geology section of the text contain similar descriptions of geological phenomena mixed in with an occasional odd theological claim. Surprisingly, at least in the physical geology section of the book, descriptions of mineralogy, and of how igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks form, are not marred by odd creationist claims found elsewhere (such as rapid formation of granites or ad hoc-based explanations of limestones and evaporites forming during Noah’s Flood).

At a minimum, however, such a mix of disjointed claims about physical and historical geology can only confuse and discourage students who are interested in science and bore those who are not.

Much of the above may sound bizarre, and may in itself represent educational malpractice, but it does not compare to what is found in Chapter 5: “Interpreting the Fossil Record.” This incredible chapter is devoted to attacking historical geology, paleontology, physics, biology, and paleoanthropology. It also attacks Christians who accept theistic evolution as accepting ideas that are not “compatible with either the biblical record or established principles of science” (emphases in the original).

What makes this chapter so difficult to review is that almost everything in the chapter is wrong or bizarre. Just take, for example, the very first photo in the chapter, which shows Adam riding on the back of a lion in the Garden of Eden.

The first “A Closer Look” inset in this chapter is a short essay and list of famous scientists (a list that includes a number of mathematicians as well as people who could more accurately be described as engineers or technologists) provided by the late Dr. Henry M. Morris – co-author of The Genesis Flood and himself an engineer – entitled “Bible-Believing Scientists of the Past.” Apparently, Morris is arguing that because in the past a number of scientists (some living centuries before evolution was widely accepted) accepted creationism, then modern scientists should also.

Besides Morris’ bad logic, many of the scientists that I’m familiar with on the list were not young Earth creationists (for example Georges Cuvier, Louis Agassiz, and Lord Kelvin). I am guessing that the list probably includes others who were also not actually young Earth creationists.

There is also an odd attempt to equalize science with religion. We are told that since scientists didn’t observe the origin of the universe, then science “cannot make authoritative statements about the origin of the earth” (emphases in the original). According to the text, since creationism wasn’t observed by scientists, it also qualifies as a faith, but since God was there, then creationism “wins.” A classic (and nonsensical) YEC argument.

We also learn that a year-long Noah’s Flood (c. 2300 BC) is responsible for most geology. The creationist version of the geologic time scale is provided. In their version, the Precambrian is pre-Flood, and the Cenozoic is post-Flood. To limit the number of animals on the Ark, it is claimed that only “kinds” were taken onto the boat, leaving more than enough room for Noah’s family and provisions.

Not surprisingly, the usual creationist falsehood that the geologic time scale is based on circular reasoning is here, as well as strange attacks on radiometric dating.

I was most fascinated by the false claims that geologic strata are found out of order in various parts of the world (p. 134). These locations include the Lewis Overthrust near Glacier National Park, Montana, parts of the Swiss Alps, and the Heart Mountain mega-slide in Wyoming. 

But it has been demonstrated that these examples have very clear structural geology explanations (thrust faults and overturned strata). The order of strata in these locations is not controversial or any way supportive of creationist claims. These claims were obviously incorrect when first promoted by the creationist George McCready Price in the early 1900s. I am surprised that this text is still promoting this hoary chestnut of a creationist argument. Even Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research have not promoted this claim for many years. For this old creationist argument, see here and here.

Other well-known and discredited creationist claims in this chapter involve:

The chapter ends with numerous attacks on paleoanthropology (every fossil hominin ends up being an ape or fully human). The text even claims that “Some evolutionists [unnamed] have even admitted that the “evidence” can be interpreted to show that apes evolved from humans!” 

Like pulling a rabbit out of their hat, the chapter ends by claiming humans are a divine creation. However, the authors admit that “…we believe in special creation not because of the fossil evidence, but because God’s Word says that God created the universe.” The authors/editor must have missed their own (accurate) statement on p.133 that circular reasoning is a “logic error.”

Chapters 6 (Geography of the Seas), 7 (The Atmosphere), 8 (Water Vapor and Air Masses), and 9 (Storms and Forecasting) are a bit simplistic, but other than occasional odd statements, these chapters are not nearly as egregiously bad as the afore-discussed Chapter 5 (Interpreting the Fossil Record).

Same with Chapter 10 (Consider the Heavens) and 11 (Man and the Universe), which discuss the early history of astronomy, the solar system, constellations, astronomical instruments, time/calendars, and space flight. Again, other than a few odd statements, these chapters are not too at odds from reality.  And there is a welcome attack on astrology, although much of this argument focuses on religious reasons, rather than on astrology’s bad logic and lack of actual evidence.

I was especially surprised and pleased that the text accurately describes the concept of light years and states that the Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million light years away. Creationist astronomy often attempts to use ad hoc explanations to discount large astronomical distances that are inconsistent with a 6,000 year old universe. To its credit, none of the creationist claims about distant astronomical objects are repeated here.

All this said, in an insert on the origins of the solar system, there are attacks on the nebular hypothesis which claim that nefarious “evolutionary” astronomers accept the nebular hypothesis because “it avoids the need for a creator.”

The final chapter on Environmental Science (Chapter 12) is another problematic part of the text. After a religious discussion that labels much of environmentalism as “unbiblical,” specific environmental problems are discussed or dismissed. Some aspects of environmental science such as landfills, air pollution, and water pollution are very briefly, but at least accurately described. Acid rain, ozone depletion, and global warming are all oddly discussed and invariably downplayed, dismissed as mistaken, or portrayed as alarmist. 

Obviously, Science: Earth and Space is inappropriate for any K-12 academic setting, although it is being used in many Christian academies and by homeschool families. Students taught from this text are learning huge amounts of falsehoods about the sciences discussed. Even more disturbing is the general attitude towards science and the false ideas about what science is and how it works. 

The one group of educators I would recommend becoming familiar with this book are undergraduate college instructors. These educators should know the awful quality of science education their students could have grown up with.

I would never advocate banning this book from a library. However, any teacher or homeschool parent using this textbook to teach science is committing educational malpractice.

(And is it a surprise that an Abeka school sought to force a black honors student cut his locs for graduation?)

Two Peas in a Pod: QAnon Conspiratorialism and Young Earth Creationism

Two Peas in a Pod: QAnon Conspiratorialism and Young Earth Creationism

by William Trollinger

Doug Jensen gestures to U.S. Capitol Police in the hallway outside of the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6. Jensen, 41, of Des Moines, Iowa, was jailed Jan. 9 on federal charges, including trespassing and disorderly conduct counts, for his alleged role in the Capitol riot. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta).

A significant percentage of the American public – and even a more significant percentage of white evangelicals – has dropped down the most bizarre of rabbit holes. 

According to a report put out by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a survey done in 2021 revealed that 16% of Americans are QAnon believers. That is to say, 16% of Americans believe that  

  • “The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation.”
  • “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”
  • “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

As the New York Times (NYT) reported, PRRI founder and chief executive Robert P. Jones 

never expected to be dealing with serious survey questions about whether powerful American institutions were controlled by devil-worshiping, sex-trafficking pedophiles. To have so many Americans agree with such a question, he said, was “stunning.”

(According to the same NYT article, this means that 41 million Americans are QAnon believers . . . which is a frightening number. But it turns out that in 2021 the U.S. population was 332 million, and 16% of that is actually right around 53 million. Even more frightening.)

And here are some more numbers from the PRRI report:

  • 25% of Republicans are QAnon believers, as opposed to 9% of Democrats.
  • 47% of Republicans who most trust One America News Network or Newsmax are QAnon believers, as well as 26% of Republicans who most trust Fox News.
  • 69% of QAnon adherents believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, 67% understand Trump to be a true patriot, and 59% blame liberal or left-wing groups for the January 06, 2021 Insurrection.
  • 72% of QAnon believers think that “the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life,” and 68% think that “God has granted America a special role in human history.”

And all of this leads to the fact that – as PRRI polling reveals – 23% of white evangelical Protestants are QAnon believers (other polls have the numbers higher) and 20% of QAnon believers identify themselves as white evangelicals. 

Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG) sit quite comfortably within the QAnon-loving camp. Not only have they established that to hold a “secular worldview” is to be a pedophile, but they opened Ark Encounter to right-wing conspiratorialist Trey Smith for the filming of The Coming Storm: A Donald J. Trump Documentary. The title of this nearly unwatchable video – the production values are non-existent, and the unwatchability is exacerbated by Smith’s determination to stick his face as close to the camera as possible – gives away the QAnon connection. So does Smith’s assertion that the Antichrist is present in contemporary culture, as evinced by Hollywood culture and the omnipresent ”witchy people” in the background. So does the fact that Smith – speaking just before the 2020 election – echoes QAnon predictions that God commanded that Trump would have two terms as president.

It is not surprising that young Earth creationists would find the QAnon conspiracy persuasive. The folks at AiG are the same folks who find the notion of climate change to be a hoax, as is the idea of the COVID pandemic (and thus, vaccination mandates are oppressive).   

It is not much of a leap for young Earth creationists to adopt QAnon nonsense. According to Paul Braterman – Professor Emeritus in Chemistry from the University of Glasgow – both QAnon and young Earth creationism are examples of conspiracy theories. As Braterman says about the latter, 

It meets all the criteria, offering a complete parallel universe with its own organisations and rules of evidence, and claims that the scientific establishment promoting evolution is an arrogant and morally corrupt elite . . . Like other conspiracy theorists, creationists immune themselves from fact-based criticism.

AiG’s Bodie Hodge responded to Braterman’s argument in an AiG article, “Fact Checked: No Conspiracy Here (But a Lot of Fallacies There)”, in the process inventing some, well, nonstandard fallacies (e.g., “emotive language fallacy,” “insufficient evidence fallacy”). What is particularly interesting in Hodge’s lengthy and often tedious narrative is that he fails to make the obvious defense that young Earth creationism is nothing like the QAnon conspiracy. In fact, he has not one negative word to say about QAnon . . . just like his boss and father-in-law, Ken Ham. Pretty telling.

As PRRI’s Robert P. Jones observed about the QAnon conspiracy

There’s a real temptation to dismiss this as farcical and kind of outlandish . . . but this [is] actually a serious movement that’s making inroads into not only mainstream religious groups and putting down roots in more mainstream institutions.

Susan Trollinger and I said something quite similar about young Earth creationism in the introduction to Righting America at the Creation Museum:

All of us have a stake in understanding what is happening at the museum and its role in preparing and arming crusaders for the ongoing culture war that polarizes and poisons U.S. religion and politics. Put simply, as bizarre as the museum may seem to many Americans, what happens inside its doors matters to all of us.

QAnon and young Earth creationism. We have to pay attention.

Righting America Blog Categories

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Righting America blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.