October 25, 2014

The Disney-ization of Faith

By Chaplain Mike

NOTE from CM: Comments on this post are closed. Please join us on current posts for further discussion.

Let me say it right from the beginning — I have always enjoyed Disney movies and characters. From my infancy, when mom and dad took me to Disneyland, to my childhood when I swam the churning ocean with Pinocchio to escape Monstro the Whale, to the days when we and our young girls enjoyed The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast together, to today, when I am introducing my grandchildren to what are now deemed “classic” films, Disney has been a part of my experience and my family life.

But I know what Disney is and what they do — They take classic stories and make cartoons out of them.

Disney does not fool me into thinking what they do is great art containing profound insights into life and the human experience. I accept and enjoy them for what they are, no more. Their artists and animators are first class and what they do, they do well. But whether you are talking about their films, their theme parks, or their pervasive merchandise, the bottom line is that Disney is an animation corporation. They take stories that are classic because of their universal themes and dumb them down so that the kids can enjoy them with mom and dad. They remove all the messiness, complexity, nuance, and grit from these tales and sanitize them for a G or PG-rated modern entertainment audience. They are enjoyable, but as subtle as a punch in the face; as deep as the puddle in my driveway after a light rain.

Unfortunately, many American Christian leaders seem to think the Disney way is the way forward for the church. I could write a long book about all the examples of this across our land, from the many ways we market Jesus in books, music, and media, to the kistchy excess of the televangelists and the corporate “excellence” of the megachurches, to iconic monuments like the Crystal Cathedral. So much of it represents the “Magic Kingdom” mentality.

In the cartoon world of contemporary American evangelicalism, it’s all about bigger, better, and simpler. Help folks think their dreams can come true. Create “moments” for people in the congregation that they will never forget, that will “bless” families in safe and sanitized settings. Remove the messiness and reality of day to day life. Instead, put a sentimental, heart-tugging version of life up on the screen and make people feel it. Embrace the possibilities.

Evangelicalism has become “Disney-ized.”

For example, enter the Mickey Mouse world of Ken Ham and his theme park vision for the Christian faith.

IM’s ever-vigilant Ohio correspondent, Jeff Dunn, reported in yesterday’s Saturday Ramblings that Ken Ham and company is at it again. The Creation Museum near Cincinnati has decided to expand and build an 800-acre theme-park style complex featuring a replica of Noah’s Ark. The project will cost an estimated 125 million dollars and is scheduled to open in 2014 in nearby Williamstown, KY.

Some have questioned whether it is legally permissible for the state of Kentucky to fund a religious theme park. I raise another question: Is it appropriate for Christians to “Disney-ize” their faith like this?

One critic termed the project a “particular confluence of faith-based fantasy and place-based entertainment in which the usual laws of physics, taste, or logic will obviously not apply.” May I add, an informed reading of the Bible does not actually apply here either.

However, I’m sure that doesn’t matter to the folks behind this. They are not really concerned about promoting a serious study and careful understanding what the Bible teaches, any more than the Disney corporation was truly interested in a thoughtful reading of Hamlet when they created The Lion King. They know what they believe already. And believing, they have set out to shape reality according to that image and make a new “dream come true.”

When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.

• Walt Disney

According to The Ark Encounter web site, this mammoth “themed attraction” will include nine areas:

  • A Walled City. This is where guests will enter and gather. It will include “period shops, restaurants, and venues that bring to life the city and times in which Noah lived, including his house.” According to planners, the city will depict “the lifestyle of the people of Noah’s day.” Considering the Bible says this about life in Noah’s day — “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” and “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence,” (Gen 6:5, 11) the possibilities stagger one’s imagination. I wonder what characters will represent the “Seven Deadly Sins”? “Please, mommy, I want a hug from Envy!”
  • Noah’s Ark. The Ark will be the park’s central attraction. Guests will take a tour of the structure so that they may “gain an understanding of how it could have been built, and how Noah, his family, and all of the representative kinds of land animals were cared for, and then survived on board for 370 days of the Flood and its aftermath.” Given the fact that Scripture says nothing about any of this, one wonders about how “Biblical” these “themed presentations” will be. The highlight of each day will be a spectacular show “featuring the ‘parade of animals’ and the dramatic ‘eruption of the fountains of the great deep.'” Will there be re-enactments of sinners drowning and crying out in hysteria and panic? Carcasses of dead, bloated animals floating on the surface of the lake? A nearby ravaged landscape? Will the greatest historical example of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth be “fun” and “exciting” or will it communicate anything at all about the actual fear of God and the reality of Divine judgment?
  • Noah’s Animals. According to the site, “This area will be similar to a petting zoo, complete with barns, a petting animal area, an open grazing area, a stage for daily live animal and bird shows, and lots of meet-and-greet areas for close-up encounters with unique animals and birds.” Why sure, because that is what the story of Noah’s Ark in the Bible is all about: lots and lots of cute animals providing squeals of delight for the kids. I never could understand why the Flood story was so popular in Sunday School literature and children’s books and toys. I can’t think of a more horrifying narrative! (What’s next, a Sodom and Gomorrah theme park? “Enter over there, by the pillar of salt, ma’am.”) When it comes to the Flood, nothing tells the story of God destroying the land and creating absolute chaos, mayhem, and universal death like a parade of cute little baby animals frolicking two by two up the Ark’s ramp.
  • Children’s Play Area. Another “fun-filled” and family-friendly area, this part of the park will “be highly themed with bridge nets, climbing areas, slides, and zip lines.” Maybe if the kids in Noah’s day had some of these cool things, they could have escaped the destruction. Quick! to the zip line!
  • The Tower of Babel. Ironically, the motivation for those who built the original city of Babylon and its tower was, “so that we may make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4). ‘Nuff said.
  • Journey through Biblical History. Not content to give answers from Genesis, the park will depict “the formation of Israel, Moses and the ten plagues in Egypt, and the parting of the Red Sea.” They give no details here, so perhaps these will mostly be portrayed in trailers for coming attractions.
  • The First Century Village. Their description of this part of the park is so subtle that one can only conclude this is the area where the “Gospel Presentation” will take place. Can’t have a Christian theme park without an altar call. The clue is “First Century.” Fast forward to the time of . . . you got it — Jesus. In their words, “The experience culminates with a visit to the Performing Arts Theater where a combined live and video-based show shares the summary of what guests have seen at the Ark Encounter.” You’ve seen the presentation, now it’s time to buy the condo.
  • Aviary. A bird and butterfly sanctuary. Why? Well, presumably because of the birds that directed Noah to dry land after the Flood. Or, perhaps it is because so many people have asked, “What happened to birds during the Flood?” Apologetics is important, you know. Gotta be able to give a reason for what you believe, even down to a question like this.
  • Special Events Area. I love this one. Note their description: “An area where large groups can have private outings away from the main guest areas will showcase some of the Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building techniques used to construct the Ark Encounter. These techniques feature LEED standards in the use of wind and solar power, renewable resources, and preservation of the land. This will attract many educational groups and be positioned outside of the actual walled area—allowing for large group meetings and private events.” What? Nothing says environmental concern like a theme park about God destroying the world! The emphasis here on being “green” certainly sounds like a departure from the usual conservative party line. Oh wait, educational groups coming to learn about this will beoutside the actual walled area.” They will be consigned to the “Court of the Gentiles,” where the unwashed put a high value on such questionable concerns as environmentalism and the fact that humans might be able to do something to protect the natural world.

The Deluge, Doré

How can any thoughtful Christian support a project like this? I know some of you are going to write and complain that I’m being judgmental and why can’t God use this to bring others to Christ and teach people about the Bible? Please. I will respond as clearly and directly and forcefully as I can — this project has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity.

This is cartoon faith. It represents the “Disney-ization” of the Biblical story. I mean, seriously. Christian people are going to waste $125 million building this travesty, and then undiscerning American believers will spend countless millions more to be indoctrinated, wowed by spectacle and a thoroughly sanitized version of the Biblical story. Bus-loads of young people from entertainment-seeking youth groups will be “educated” in a “Biblical” interpretation of the Flood that had its “genesis” not in the Torah but in the visions of Ellen G. White, whose “inspired counsels from the Lord” guided the 19th century sectarian Adventist movement.

Those visions will come to life in true Disney-like fashion — with overwhelming kitsch, mawkish sentimentality, a thin veneer of credibility, and, most importantly, the absolute conviction of unwavering belief in spite of any contrary evidence or countering interpretations. This project is fundamentalism at its creative worst. It doesn’t lead us to the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. It leads us to the cartoon Jesus, the Disney Jesus, the American sanitized version of Jesus, the Jesus who entertains us and keeps it all safe for the whole family to enjoy (at 50 bucks a pop). The Jesus they give us is Jesus the Hero who lived and died on the screen in all his glory, not the “Man of Sorrows” who suffered and died on the cross in shame. This Jesus has been drawn and brought to life for us by purveyors of spiritual technology, not shared with us as true apostles like Paul did — through a humble daily life of suffering and loving in Jesus’ name. There’s the Jesus way and there’s the Disney way, and the gap between them is vast.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to the faith, I want the real thing, not a Disney caricature.

I’ll say it again. This project has nothing to do with Biblical, Jesus-shaped Christianity. It is promotion of an ideology, plain and simple. It is small-minded “wish upon a star” fundamentalism, exhibiting an approach to faith that allows for nothing subtle, nothing mysterious, nothing human. No doubts, only certainty. The kind of certainty that has enough chutzpah to ask people to pony up $125 million to build a pretentious propaganda park. At least Walt Disney had enough character to learn a trade, go to work, and build a business to fund his dreams.

Even though this is a supposedly “Christian” dream, the creators of the Ark Encounter evidently agree with Walt about the true bottom line:

Disneyland is the star, everything else is in the supporting role.

• Walt Disney

Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more…The 125 million is what gets me – in the middle of this recession…what a waste…It’s not judgmental to point this out – we desperately need more voices crying out against this – I’m sweating now just thinking about the planners of this ‘high place’ standing before almighty God…

    • Danny Willis says:

      FYI Andy, the 125 million is from a private investment group. AIG is raising about 25 million to build the ark in the same way that they received donations for the Creation Museum. As far as this being a problem in a recession, it is the opposite. With the building of this facility will provide jobs for numerous construction companies as they build the park and the hotels and restaurants that will be needed for the 1.6 million guests expected in the first year. The estimate as many as 14,000 jobs will be created because of this project. Is that not a boon to the local economy instead of the waste that you claim it to be?

      Let me encourage you to view their website and check out their stance. They are likely to be more in line with God’s thinking than you may believe.

  2. Thank you, Chaplain Mike for your insightful and well-written post. The further removed we are from the cross of Chirst in our reading, representation, and proclamation of scripture the more irrelevant and trivialized we become. At worst, Noah’s Ark park is a cynical attempt to fleece the flock playing on a variety of religious sensibilities and at best, is a complete capitulation to the powers of commercialization that dominate our culture. It makes us all look bad. It invites the laughter, derision, and scorn of the culture we are called to serve, and deservedly so. It undermines our common calling and makes a mockery of the crucified one. The sight of the park must be a disgrace to the eyes of the God who spoke through the prophet “I hate, I despise your festivals, . . .Take away from me the noise of your songs. . . ” Keep up the good work. Your pastor.

    • Thanks, Pastor Mike. I appreciate you and your ministry, and value your comments.

      • Pastor, I did see the Ark projects as a– well, silly, but to these non-believing eyes, your rant is another case of ‘my beliefs are the right ones and everything else is sin’. These guys are just another fork on the wide, wide Protestant tree.

        And there is this: crazy Hamonians and young earth proponents are nothing if not consistent. The theme park, and this Ark project, are nothing more than a logical extension of the young earth thinking.

        Does it water down ‘your’ flavor of more ‘serious’ Christianity? Maybe it does. Time will tell.

        • I don’t take your point at all. Though I disagree with YEC dogma, I respect those who can present a serious Biblical argument for their position and are serious about how they present the truth and grace of Christ to the world. A Disney style theme park has no logical connection at all to any theological position. It’s an attempt to persuade through spectacle.

          • So?

            The notion is to witness, is it not? It’s not clear that the Ark represents the totality of the YEC world view. It’s just a tacky front door… :-)

            And, I think it should be said that there are some deeper under pinnings of the Young Earth movement (weak as they are, IMHO, but there are certainly there for all to see).

            It’s probably useful to see this as in some sense a ‘loss leader’, getting folks through the door. I suspect that attendees will be already born again, except me, and I can’t wait to go. But still.

          • You may not care about this, but I do Michael. The answer to your “so?” question is that the medium being used in this situation totally contradicts the message of Christ that is ostensibly being presented. You can be sure Ken Ham thinks he is sharing the true Jesus by doing this. I beg to differ. The word “witness” suggests you are testifying about something. Whatever this park may be witnessing to, it isn’t the Biblical Gospel and the Christ who is at the heart of it.

          • Danny Willis says:

            You stated that you “respect those who can present a serious Biblical argument for their position and are serious about how they present the truth and grace of Christ to the world” yet you are highly critical of Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter. Can you please explain to me your reasoning for rejecting their Biblical argument?

          • Danny, here are some archive posts that you might want to read:

            From Michael Spencer:
            http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-answers-not-in-genesis
            http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-to-be-or-not-to-be-or-why-i%E2%80%99m-not-a-young-earth-creationist

            From Chaplain Mike: Go to the archives and check out the “Creation Week” posts beginning on June 26, 2010

          • I see Michael Spencer’s point and agree with it. I don’t think you (Chaplain Mike) demonstrate at all that you respect those that have a different origin worldview from you. Your ridicule in this article and others of an individual (Ken Ham) and of a belief system (YEC’s, a worldview to which I subscribe) go way beyond simple “disagreement”.

            This article itself suffers from “persuade through spectacle”, to use your own words (sensationalising inaccuracies to prop up straw men and using many self-imploding arguments) . But then again, our God has thrown a few “spectacles” out there now and again for no other reason than “persuade” the people of creation that he’s God and don’t mess with him (that is, of course, if you believe all those stories to be true – I can’t work out where the made-up stuff starts and stops so for me I’ll take creation-to-resurection and beyond to be the God’s truth – you know the 6 days then take one off to build the universe, that Red Sea thing, raining sulphur, lion’s dens, people raised from the dead … all that stuff).

            At any rate, there are many reasons why any $125M project is good for a local and regional economy (and going into the immeasurable flow-on and on-going effects, including, ironically, poverty, of such a financial injection is beyond the scope of this comment). There are also many ways $125M can be spent to further the Gospel (are there better ways to spend it – that’s an excellent topic for a Bible Study night to brainstorm) but in a world where we are indoctrinated by every media vehicle that is available that “you don’t need God”, some people respond to “seeing is believing”.

            Time certainly will tell if this project God inspired or someone profiteering on people’s devotion to God (in either case, it would be neither the first nor the last) – but firstly I would be extremely hesitant to judge this as a God dishonouring endeavour, and secondly as I believe that Noah did build the ark, and the flood did actually happen, and that it’s a picture of Christ’s salvation written in the fabric of true history, and many people I’ve spoken to have a hang-up with Christianity because they think this particular story is up there with the best children’s fable (or, indeed, Disney production), I believe this has everything to do with Biblical Christianity, and has the potential to richly bless a local economy as a side-effect. If that brands me as a thoughtless, narrow-minded Christian, then so be it.

            Of course, if you don’t believe Noah or the flood are real Biblical stories, I guess I can see why you are pretty hung up on this project and have taken several opportunities to flame Ken Ham.

          • 1. My ridicule is for the project, not any individual (though his name is obviously attached to it).
            2. My ridicule is within the context of any number of silly things American Christians think they need to do to get their message out.
            3. My ridicule is not based on the fact that I disagree with Ken Ham’s interpretation of Genesis, but on the silliness of the project.
            4. Third, we have spent literally weeks exploring alternative interpretations to the Biblical data, and we are well within the scope of evangelical interpretation in this area. AIG insists that their view is the only legitimate view. We disagree with that, and if you will search the archives, you will find discussion about why.

  3. Imagine how many more people could be brought into the faith if we took $125 million and used it to help the poor, the widows, the orphans.

    I find it hard to imagine Jesus building a theme park instead …

    • Paul might have. Faith, not works is a very consumer-oriented theology. It’s a lot like Wall Street: do what you want and there will be a get-out-of-jail-free card waiting at the end.

      Of course, it would have to be staffed entirely by men, because we couldn’t have women running the rides and having the authority to tell men when to get on and when to get off.

    • Danny Willis says:

      There is already more than $125 million going to help the poor, the widows and the orphans, yet it’s not making much of a difference in people coming to the faith, especially with so many secular organizations doing the same thing. It’s viewed as something you should do, not something reserved for on particular faith.

      Building this park provides jobs for people in the area and provides a place to take ones kids to show them the enormity of the ark; that it can hold 2 of every kind of animal and that it would easily survive a global flood. I would think that a history based theme park of this sort would be similar to the various monuments built in the OT to remind God’s people of what God had done for them. Our country is being stripped of its reminders of the greatness and provision of God, this would be an attempt at restoring one.

  4. I grew up on The Door magazine; my dad subscribed to it faithfully and was quite disappointed when it could no longer survive. It taught me to think.
    Perhaps someone has already mentioned this, but, as I recall, Jesus had some pretty harsh words and warning for the religious leaders of His day. He didn’t tone it down, He didn’t spoon feed niceness, and I seriously don’t think He expects us to either.
    Call it as you see it Chaplain Mike!

  5. Who better to address faith than the king of Fantasyland?

  6. Why not boycott Disney? It has shaped entire generations of American Christian kids and continues to do so. I bet American fundamentalists and evangelicals have spent way more than 125million on Disney movies, and related activities. I think I’d rather take my kids to a biblical theme park.

    • Funny you should mention that. Southern Baptists boycotted Disney in the nineties, because of their pro-gay views.. At the time, I worked for a ministry whose donations were dependent upon appeasing Mohler and the fundies, and we were expected to abide by the boycott. So, instead of buying Disney videos for our kids ourselves that Christmas, we had our extended family give them as presents to them instead. Since then, evangelicals have gone from one absurd response to culture to the completely polar-opposite absurd extreme.

      • And the boycott was a shame. Or at least it was hypocritical. Especially the part when they said do it because they extended benefits to gays. But the marketing was a part of it also.

        At our church (at the time) I was not very welcome in conversations when I asked why the people in the congregation working for similar companies didn’t quit their jobs and advocate boycotts of those companies. All the major tech firms, all major airlines, etc… Basically any national company extended benefits to gays and had marketing departments that focused on gays. But no, we just talked about Disney, not OUR employer, that would be cutting a little too close to the bone.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think I’d rather take my kids to a biblical theme park.

      As in “Just like Disneyland, Except CHRISTIAN (TM)!”?
      Or “Testamints — Just like Altoids, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”?
      Or “Praise Hero — Just like Guitar Hero, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”?
      Or “GodTube — Just like YouTube, Except CHRISTIAN(TM!)!”?
      Or “Christian Chirp — Just like Twitter, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”?
      Or “Seek & Find — Just like Google Search, Except CHRISTIAN(TM!)!”?

      In the Prophetic Words of Steve Taylor…

  7. Kay Pelham says:

    Excellent thoughts and an excellent article. This line made me laugh “Please, mommy, I want a hug from Envy!” You show how truly ridiculous the whole thing is.

    I was curious about this — “a “Biblical” interpretation of the Flood that had its “genesis” not in the Torah but in the visions of Ellen G. White, whose “inspired counsels from the Lord” guided the 19th century sectarian Adventist movement.” Could you point me in the direction to find out more about the Adventist influence on the interpretation of the Flood. What it is that they added to the story?

    Kay Pelham

  8. Great, great article. In fact, we’re linking to it over at our site.

    Thanks

  9. Haven’t had time to read 280 responses, but when I think about how many pastors could be trained and churches could be planted around the world with $125,000,000…….

    • Danny Willis says:

      What about the pastors that are being trained in seminaries and at churches today that put man’s opinions in judgment over the Word of God. AIG makes it clear that they are about putting the authority back where it should be. Shouldn’t that be a concern too? Maybe even more so than investors putting their money in a Biblical theme park?

      • We have a different understanding of what’s going on here. I do not believe we are “putting man’s opinions in judgment over the Word of God.”

        • Danny Willis says:

          Mr. Spencer wrote:
          “My own experience with creationists indicates that maintaining a view of scripture that includes scientifically valid propositions about the age of the earth, the origin of species and the nature of geology/astronomy and physics is just as important as any Biblical statement about Jesus or the Gospel”
          This clearly indicates he is putting man’s opinions on equal ground with the Word of God. BTW I wasn’t speaking of this site directly, I was talking about many seminaries and churches.

          • If they are “scientifically valid propositions” then they are not “the opinions of men.” And many of the people who hold such propositions have no axe to grind against the Bible or religion.

          • Danny Willis says:

            The problem is that science changes frequently. The ideas that were true years ago have been found wrong today. Only a few centuries ago “science” claimed there were only about 1000 stars in the universe but the Bible had already claimed them to be as numerous as the sand on the beach.

            Science facts are based on the interpretations of men, if different men interpret them in different ways, then an outside source needs to be used to judge them. That is why the history of the Bible should be used to correct science when necessary.

            Also, many scientists have no interest in God and openly reject him as the cause of anything. This is definitely a bias. Their scientifically valid propositions include the facts that virgins don’t give birth and dead men don’t rise. I think you disagree with them on those points but you can only do so if you put the Word of God over their opinions.

          • Danny, I am going to stop comments on this particular post, since people are not reading it as closely any more. Please feel free to join current discussions.

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    On an Internet Monk thread years ago, there was this comment re the RCC:

    Despite flying houses and weeping statues, Catholicism is at heart a serious religion.

    And stunts like this Noah’s Ark Theme Park and do NOT say “Serious Religion.” Instead, the “Disneyfication of Faith” says just the opposite, that Evangelical Christianity (as expressed in this form) is NOT a serious religion. To make matters worse, this brand of Evangelical has redefined “Christian” without attached adjectives or modifiers to mean their brand of Christianity alone. (Just look into a “Christian (TM) Store for an example) And “Christian (TM)” as an adjective to mean this Disneyfied version. So the word “Christian” without further specification defaults to the Disney-knockoff Christianity Lite, with all the baggage of a gimmicky “play religion.”

    (Wiccans refer to similar dabblers in “Wicca Lite” as “Fluffbunnies,” and stunts like The Noah’s Ark Theme Park and “Therapeutic Monotheism” appeal and pander to Fluffbunny Christians. What if you are NOT a fluffbunny and want a serious faith? Where do you go in the Evangelical and Post-Evangelical Wilderness?)

    And it’s not only Catholics or Orthodox who have the rep of a serious religion. Christianity’s long-time rival Islam is a Very Serious Faith. Literally Dead Serious in its extreme forms in the news today. Converts adopting new Islamic/Arabic names and the dress code and tribal customs of Arab Tribesmen, the Culture War Purity of the Talibani restoring a “Golden Age” of a perpetual Year One, the Jihadi’s ferocity against anyone who might “dis” them, the strict discipline imposed upon the population of Islamic Republics as a (literal) matter of life or death are definitely NOT the signs of a fluffbunny play religion.

  11. Im writing this in a blatant attempt to push the comment count above 300.

  12. Yes, Yes, Yes and thank you! I have been away from IM for some time now and come back to this. Brilliant.

  13. I missed the fireworks, for shame. I love the Dore etching by the way, his work always grabs me. And now, imagine this if you can, in a Mel Brooks voice:
    Merchendizing! Jesus Christ the t-shirt! Jesus Christ the coloring book! Jesus Christ the Lunchbox! Jesus Christ the breakfast cereal! Jesus Christ the flamethrower! (the kids love this one) And finally, Jesus Christ the doll! (pulls string “I am returned”)

  14. Is this the same Ark? http://news.yahoo.com/video/us-15749625/noah-s-ark-tourist-attraction-sparks-debate-23382098

    Maybe someone else is trying to cash in on the Disney-ization of the faith.

  15. Greetings from Argentina!!!
    I thank you very much CM, this post has been very useful for me! :)
    Wow! I did’nt know about this place, a friend shared a link for me to read it and, after reading it, I have to say that I’m amazed how the real sense of christianity is losing itself in the eyes of million people, not only in America, but all around the globe. And we have to blame ourselves, the christians, lo let this happen. What do I have to say about it? I say that I don’t care about those passive and conformist christians who prefer to stay in the comfort of their homes and spend their money in this kind of projects, I don’t care about the people who spend their valuable time arguing about agreeing or not agreeing with this. The real fact for us is that we have to concern about the billion ones who die every day without knowing who Jesus is, that’s our mission as christians, our passion, the reason why our saviour gave His life 2000 years ago.
    This “park” makes me remember to the time of apostles when Israel didn’t want to hear the truth because they prefered a life of conformism and religiosity, so they went to gentiles, people who needed and were going to hear their message, Jesus message. Maybe we have learn from them.

  16. The park sounds like a good time to me…

  17. It could be that Ken Ham and his theme park are out of date. The following article indicates that turning Christianity into a Roll-playing-game is the next step. Christianity as virtual entertainment.

    http://hackingchristianity.net/2010/11/could-discipleship-be-an-rpg.html

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Been attempted before, in the Eighties when Role-Playing Games were pencil, paper, and funny dice. “Say-Tann-Ic” D&D is still going strong and all those “Just like (ugh) D&D, Except CHRISTIAN (TM)!” RPG attempts are long forgotten.

      The first, from the initial heyday of D&D (OD&D “Brown Box” version) in the Seventies, was something called “Revelations.” I remember the radio ads for it, which positioned it as The Christian Alternative for your kids to “Those Games about Dungeons and Demons and The Occult.” (Anyone want to guess who they were referring to?) Well, I found a copy a couple months later in a Jesus Junk store; the best description was “Milton Bradley meets Jack Chick — Chutes and Ladders with a Salvation Message.”

      The one that made the biggest splash was “Dragonraid”, circa 1984. (Anyone ever heard of it?) According to my old DM (and game collector)’s analysis, it was about two generations behind state-of-the-art at the time of its release. Plus, in a radio interview the game designer said he had NO game design experience and wroter the game “as a Scripture Memorization Training Aid,” i.e. “Sword Drills” with a D&Dish coat of paint.

      This is a recurring pattern beyond the Christian Event Horizon — day-late, dollar-short CHRISTIAN (TM) knockoffs of whatever was trendy last year or whatever everybody else is doing. Christian Consolation Prizes for not being permitted to join the mainstream fad. The next Big Thing (according to the CBA) is Christian Paranormal Romance — “Just like Twilight, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

  18. I see you have a beef with Ken Ham. I am very surprised you attacked this and let many of the churches (like Willowcreek, saddleback and Lakewood) get away with their very Disney influenced churches.

    • I mentioned that I could write a book about all the other examples of this. Each post has its own focus, and this one was on this project. We certainly haven’t shied away from drawing attention to other examples in the past, and we’ll continue to do so.

  19. I’m sorry, but good grief. Ken Ham is an apologist, and it’s his theme park, not American Christianity Incorporated’s. Of course the theme park is going to have an apologetics bent (and were you actually mocking apologetics? It sounded like it.) The main purpose of this thing is not to teach doctrine or faith but science and history – that is what Ken Ham does. He is not a pastor or a minister, nor does he set himself up as such. And also, as far as creationists go, Ken Ham is one of the better ones – unlike Kent Hovind, who really does dumb science down.

    If people use something like a theme park as the cornerstone of their faith, then I’m sure that’s a problem, but from what I understand this is not intended to make a theme park of “the Christian faith,” just give families an alternative to, say, EPCOT center and various other attractions which teach the theory of evolution, which is something many parents do not want to teach their children. It’s an amusement park, not a church. Presumably, the amount of influence it will actually have on people’s faith will be about equivalent to Disneyland’s influence on your knowledge of classic literature.

    Just for clarification, is your issue here the fact that the theme park is not trying to teach the Bible (that is, it doesn’t focus on the theological or spiritual lessons taught in Genesis but on the scientific and cultural information pertaining to that period of history), or that you consider it to be a “dumbed down” version of the Bible, or the mere fact that it is entertainment? And if the last, do you also have a problem with the miracle, mystery, and morality plays the Catholic Church put on for the peasants during the Middle Ages? – those were pretty dumbed down and about as subtle as getting shot at point-blank range. What about modern performing arts companies (dance and theater companies specifically) that put on entertaining shows for audiences, with the content tied either overtly or subtly to matters of faith?

    Now, I’m not a big fan of the whole Christian marketing thing where we have Christian versions of playing cards and bubblegum or whatever else they’ve invented. But if I were a parent, and I lived near a place like this, I would take them there as readily as I would take them to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle (that place is awesome!), and I would take them for the same reason: it’s a fun, educational place for kids.

    No, this project is not about “biblical, Jesus-shaped Christianity” – and it’s not pretending to be. This theme park is not evangelicalism any more than Disney is the entire film industry.

    • Zoe, really? You think this place will be educational? You think it’s designed to teach “science and history”? You think Ken Ham does not intend for this place to represent a true version of Christianity? Really?

      I’m sorry, but I’m not sure we can even have a discussion about this at this point if that is what you truly think. I completely disagree with everything you said. We’re so far apart in our perception of this project that we might as well be speaking different languages.

      • Well, if the conversation would be based on your beliefs about Ken Ham’s motives versus my beliefs about Ken Ham’s motives, then you’re correct, we cannot have a discussion. If that’s what it comes down to – another human being’s heart (what Ken Ham intends) – then we have no business even talking about it. I thought the discussion was about the principle of the matter, not about figuring out the intentions of a person I don’t even know.

        I don’t completely disagree with everything you said in your article; what I take issue with is your determination to see this project in the most negative light possible – disdaining the possibility that it might, in fact, be educational. Unfortunately, that determination also prevents your being able to have any sort of communication with someone whose perspective is different from yours, even a little bit (my opinion on the general issue of Christian commercialism is probably not too different from yours, but you wouldn’t know that from my single comment). I’m sorry you see that way. Have a good weekend – drink some iced tea or something.

        • Drinking some as we speak. Thanks, Zoe. BTW, Mr. Ham has never hidden his agenda or motives. No one need read his mind or heart. He has made it all abundantly clear. He thinks if you don’t accept his view of science, creation, and the culture war, you are on a slippery slope toward atheism and moral disaster, and you may not be a Christian at all. He has made this perfectly clear on many, many occasions.

          • So therefore he couldn’t possibly be creating (or even endeavoring to create) an educational place for kids? I don’t follow how being dogmatic about a specific belief makes one incapable of doing something educational and with the intention of teaching something (such as science and cultural history). Christians generally believe that if you don’t believe the Bible you’re going to hell, and many denominations believe that all other denominations are on a slippery slope toward heresy (or maybe are not Christian at all); does that mean a Christian school can’t be educational because it pushes that agenda?

            Or is your issue that it is based on creationism, and you don’t think that can be educational/scientific/historical? I’m trying to understand what the root of your objection is. I thought it was the entertainment factor, or the focus on science rather than doctrine factor, or maybe the Christian-version-of-a-secular-entity factor. Now, if you want to make an issue of the multimillion dollar price tag on this project, especially in the light of the fact of world hunger, poverty, and even the current economic recession in America, be my guest.

            What you’ve made perfectly clear here is that any Christian who isn’t as opposed to this project as you are, for the reasons you are, cannot be a “thoughtful Christian,” and must certainly subscribe to all the sanitized, commercialized stereotypes of Jesus and of faith that exist in our culture (maybe that’s not really Christian at all?). So thanks for that, and I must respectfully disagree based on the personal experience knowing a few Evangelicals who are not idiots.

            I really don’t want to come across as being diametrically opposed to your view; I’m not as far off as it probably seems like I am, but I have a tendency to play the devil’s advocate, and at the same time to defend things and people who are under attack in a given situation, and you provide a lot of material for me to do both. Don’t take it personally, and take it with a grain of salt. :)

          • Zoe, I think my post is perfectly clear. If you disagree, fine. I get the distinct impression that more discussion with you about this won’t be fruitful. So I’ll beg out now.

          • Interestingly, I just heard a Ken Ham spot on the radio this week. He said that we needed to be alert to the way evolution is being slipped into entertainment as an underlying philosophy of movies, cartoons, children’s games, etc. He spoke critically of using entertainment as a sort of Trojan Horse to sneak a belief system under someone’s guard. One thing you can say for him: he’s obviously a man who’s willing to learn from his opponents — about marketing, if not about science.

          • That’s okay Mike, after your initial response I didn’t expect you to say anything. I do appreciate your responding to my comments, and I hope you have a very merry Christmas!

          • Danny Willis says:

            Chaplain Mike, while it is nice that you posted responses to Zoe’s posts, I was wondering why you didn’t respond to the issues she brought up? Particularly the claim that one couldn’t support the Ark Encounter and be a thoughtful Christian?

    • Ken Ham is a religious kook. Plain & simple. His brand of snake oil the most blatant form of “leave your mind at the door” theological kool aid. He has done more harm peddling his Ham-bone ideas of YEC & anti-scientific vitriol than anyone claiming to be a bible believing Christian. His creation museum literally jumped-the-shark with its can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em tackiness & silliness. How anybody thinks this somehow glorifies God is beyond me. The sad thing is they do swallow it hook-line-sinker while putting their money down to support its purpose. Ham has done more in a relatively short period of time to bring derision to the Christian faith by deciding that Mt. Ararat thee holy mountain to die on if one is a ‘true’ biblical adherent. His is not simply an optional interpretation, it is the one-and-only truth without error & all other ideas result in sliding down the slippery slopes of Ararat into perdition. Ham’s emphasis not the gospel, but historical correctivism wrapped up in religious excess where yes, he has made a doctrinal mountain out of the proverbial mole hill. Lord have mercy…

      • Danny Willis says:

        Joseph, do you have any Biblical objections to Ken Ham and AIG or was your post only to insult the man?

        The Creation Museum is anything but tacky. It’s as high quality a museum as you will find, the only difference between it and any traditional museum is that it starts with the Biblical worldview instead of an evolutionist worldview. Is that something you take issue with? Do you think the Bible is tacky or silly? It seems from your post that you do not so I would hope for a little clarity.

        • The Creation “Museum” is not a museum in any proper sense of the word. It is a tract. It is a “Creationism Promotion Center.” It is a means of promoting one limited view of the Bible, the Gospel, and the culture war.

          • Danny Willis says:

            What would you describe a museum to be then? I don’t understand why you are against promoting the culture war. Where do you think our enemy is attacking us if AIG has it wrong?

          • Scientists and the scientific community are not our enemies. They are our neighbors. Some people who are atheists and who take a purely materialistic view of the universe have used the findings of science to advance their cause. Some have done so in a radical, anti-Christian fashion, and in the realm of apologetics I wholeheartedly agree that we should stand against their arguments with truth and grace. However, there are also plenty of fine, thoughtful, committed Christian people who have been able to accept scientific findings and also hold a vital Biblical faith. The AIG movement calls them inconsistent and compromisers, and I do not think this fairly represents them. But AIG and others in their camp have drawn a line in the sand with their interpretation of Genesis and rejection of scientific findings and simply will not cross it to consider any other view valid.

          • Danny Willis says:

            I’m sorry Mike but you are misrepresenting AIG. They have no where in their writings rejected all scientific findings. They clearly state: “Answers in Genesis (like other creationist groups) affirms and supports the teaching and use of scientific methodology, and we believe this supports the biblical account of origins.” (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/02/04/do-creationists-reject-science)

            You are confusing molecules to man evolution with empirical science. AIG and myself agree that scientists are our enemies. The enemy is the great deceiver who has understood that if you question God’s Word, then completely contradict it, then believers will turn from God. This is what he did with Eve and this is what he’s doing today.

            I think AIG has done a fair job in exposing the compromises that many believers have committed. They are calling them out much in the same way that you are doing on this site, the only difference is that they are using the Word of God to point them back in the right direction where as you only seem to “prophetically denounce”.

            If you disagree with AIG, fine, but read enough of their postings to accurately cite what they claim rather than the straw-man arguments.

          • Sorry, Danny, but you’re wrong. AIG does not simply reject what you call “molecules to man evolution.” They reject the entire scientific consensus of the day, starting with the age of the universe. They want to have their cake and eat it too, playing around in little areas of science that seem to fit their paradigm, but rejecting the big picture.

  20. Hi Chapain Mike,

    In our global village of over 6.5 billion people, 2/3 are poor and 1/4 suffer from abject poverty, malnutrition and disease. In such a world, many have never heard that God loves them and Christ died for them and need to see a practical expression of this in a compassionate and generous Jesus-centred lifestyle.

    It seems to me that the lavish expenditure on this project is not only a gross misallocation of scarce resources, but a failure to major on things that the NT describes as major.

    • Danny Willis says:

      Jesus upheld scripture as the word of God and thus the absolute authority. If you visit AIG’s website you will see that as one of their “majors”. I would think that coincides with the NT quite well.

  21. K.L. Siscoe says:

    Terry Talbot sang “Bible Land” years ago…final chorus…

    Stay away from “Bible Land.”
    The tickets are expensive and the sights are out of hand.
    Guaranteed to tease your soul and leave your mind confused
    You see Moses part the Red Sea, but when it’s done that way – what’s the use?
    You see Moses part the Red Sea – three big shows everyday!

  22. The state of Kentucky will not fund this project. See http://networkedblogs.com/bH6q3.

    • Danny Willis says:

      Much has been written about Kentucky funding this project but the truth is it will not cost any money out-of-pocket for Kentuckians. The funds to build the park are from a private investment group and from money raised through AIG to build the ark itself. The tax incentives are in the form of a rebate on taxes owed by the Ark Encounter once it’s up and running and only if it meets certain performance requirements. It will put millions into the Kentucky and Cincinnati area economy.

  23. LEED certification was likely required on order to satisfy jurisdictional authorities for permitting…Sound bizarre in this context…

    • Scott I only posted this link because Chaplain Mike said, “Some have questioned whether it is legally permissible for the state of Kentucky to fund a religious theme park.” Just trying to point out a misstatement.

  24. addendem: Disney-ization could have been coined Disney-inanity when applied to the Ham-bone cartoon Christianity represented in this article…

  25. Phew, I have just read through the comments, yes all, and as usual (sadly) much name calling/character assassination/straw man waving in regard to AIG/Creation Museum/Ark Encounter, but no real interaction with what AIG actually teaches or stands for (unless you count more unfounded slurs on the ministry and by default all involved)

    I noticed several times when asked to do so that there was either silence or more name calling etc

    Extremely sad and setting such an appalling example.

    • Glenn, we did an entire week on creation issues and many other posts throughout the year on the subject as well. These included setting forth alternative interpretations of AIG-type teachings.

      You shouldn’t expect every post to deal with every aspect of an issue.