The governor of Kentucky, Steven L. Beshear, recently proposed that the state build a Noah’s Ark theme park to boost its economy and provide jobs for Kentuckians who are out of work. Under his plan, a Christian ministry called Answers in Genesis will build the park. Naturally, because of the Constitution’s prohibition of establishing just one religion, I assumed that the governor also has plans to build a Jewish theme park, a Muslim park, an atheist park and, well, I’m not sure about an agnostic park.
But no, he’s only offering huge tax incentives for this park, Ark Encounter. Answers in Genesis is a ministry that believes in the literal interpretation of the Bible. The same group built the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. That’s where they promoted the Flintstone Theory of history: that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.
The governor has responded to those who point out that this seems to be a violation of the principle of the separation of church and state, by saying, “The people of Kentucky didn’t elect me governor to debate religion. They elected me governor to create jobs.”
I guess on the Eighth Day, the governor created jobs.
Of course, people have a right to believe whatever they want. However, should the state offer $37.5 million dollars to a religious group to build a park that furthers their beliefs? A lot of people don’t think so.
This hasn’t discouraged the Answers in Genesis folks from making plans. Consistent with their literal interpretation, Mike Zovath, one of their senior vice presidents, says that the ark will be built just as the one in the Bible was built. They plan on using wooden pegs and timber framing done by Amish builders. Funny, I don’t remember any Amish builders in Genesis. Zovath added that the animals kept on board would be small ones, because his group believes “that God would probably have sent healthy juvenile-sized animals … so there would be plenty of room.” Hmmm, sounds like a personal interpretation to me.
He wants the theme park to be as accurate as possible, celebrating the literal interpretation of the Bible. So I guess they’ll make it clear to all of the schoolchildren and Bible groups that Noah and his family were Jewish.
As part of this desire to be “literal,” I guess they will make sure that water rains on all of the visitors to the park for 40 days and 40 nights. The state should be able to make extra money selling Noah’s rain gear, and of course, CalmArk to ward off seasickness.
Will the Ark “literally” be the same size as the one described in the Bible? As anyone who has that cubit conversion app on his or her iPhone knows, that was a huge ship.
They plan on the park having a fun special effects exhibit showing Moses parting the Red Sea. There will also be a 100-foot tower of Babel, so I recommend earplugs. And for the kiddies, there will be a Bible-themed play area with zip lines and climbing nets. I’m not an expert like the Answers in Genesis people are, but exactly where in the Bible are the zip lines and climbing nets?
The Answers in Genesis people tried to peddle their idea to Ohio and Indiana, but officials in Kentucky showed considerable interest. They showed their interest by offering those tax incentives to the group. That’s how some of the Kentucky officials defend the state’s involvement with the park. They claim that it’s not like the state building a church or — dare I say — a mosque. Because it’s a for-profit organization that will pay taxes, they don’t feel it’s the same as the state advancing a religion.
In other words, Kentucky officials are saying that this proposal might be intrinsically wrong, but the fact that it will make money, makes it right. Now that’s a principle that all kinds of political officials have believed in “literally” for centuries.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.