Today, thanks to a certain outgoing Minnesota congresswoman, I've got fundies on the brain. Consequently, I figured it's as good a time as any to share something I've been meaning to share for a long time: the story of my 2010 visit to the Creation Museum.
For those of you who aren't already aware, in 2007 Answers in Genesis, an evangelical Christian apologetics organization, built a "museum" in Kentucky that presents the "young-Earth creationism" myth as fact.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love awkwardness of all sorts, and in my book there ain't much that's more awkward than the fact that a.) a place like the Creation Museum exists at all in place that fancies itself the greatest, best, smartest, most advanced (pick your superlative) nation on earth, and b.) over 150 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species and over 60 years after radiocarbon dating was developed, a good chunk of the population still actually believes that the universe was created by God six thousand years ago in six earth days.
Naturally, I had to check this crazy museum out. So one hot July morning, my friend Brett and I got up early, loaded the car up with snacks, and set out on a six-hour drive from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Petersburg, Kentucky. My husband Michael felt that he'd be too infuriated to get through the museum without tearing his hair out, so he stayed home. I took lots of photos, though, so I could take him on a virtual tour when Brett and I returned.
Check out what we found, after the jump. (Click on each photo to enlarge.)
This prehistoric child of God has a really, really awkward facial expression. But whatever the reason, it's not because she's afraid of becoming the dinosaurs' next meal. See, according to the Creation Museum, every animal and person was on a strict vegetarian diet before Adam's silly little sin.
On the screen behind this replica of an archaeological dig, they looped a short video about two archaeologists who come to two very different conclusions about the age of the fossil they're looking at. The video emphasizes that the two scientists are friends and classmates, with the same education. The older, white archaeologist looks right at the camera and firmly asserts that his starting point is the word of God in the Bible, so this fossil has to date from the time of the "Great Flood." The Asian archaeologist almost shamefully admits that he does not use God as his starting point and so does not believe his colleague's theory. Instead, he believes that this fossil is millions of years old. When he's speaking, the background music becomes slightly more foreboding.
This wall was lit by blood-red lights and sat just below a sign ominously warning that "Scripture abandoned in the culture leads to... relative morality, hopelessness and meaninglessness." And by that they apparently mean gay teens, marriage equality, stem cells, Terri Schiavo, death with dignity ("assisted suicide"), science, and evolution:
See, kids? Evolution kills churches. (The cornerstone of the smashed church reads "Community Church, Dedicated 2007.")
I think this was supposed to represent the creation of Eve from the rib of Adam, but it really just looks like they're about to have sex. Quotes from the creation story played on a loop in this room, repeating over and over that Adam and Eve were unashamed in their nakedness. Yet Eve's hair was always positioned just so, and we never saw any genitalia on either of them.
I was waiting for some good ol' homophobic bullshit. The creationists didn't disappoint.
This is essentially a shower scene, with Adam and Eve bathing each other underneath the Tree of Life. (See that scary serpent lurking in the branches?) Because of the overwhelming awkwardness, I snapped photos in this room like crazy.
My obsessive photo-snapping elicited a suspicious look from the security guard, so -- not wanting him to think I was anything other than a devout believer -- I put my halo on and made some platitudinous remark about how powerful the symbolism was or something. Whatever I said worked: the guard took me aside (cue the Hallmark movie music) and told me softly that he wanted to show me something most visitors miss. He directed me to look at the trunk of the tree and visualize two of the branches as arms.
I didn't get it at first, but I walked a little further and all of a sudden I saw:
Yup, that's right, the friggin' Passion of the Christ on the back of the trunk of the Tree of Life. It was difficult not to laugh or roll my eyes and pretend to be suitably moved by the whole spectacle. Just when I thought the Creation Museum couldn't possibly get any more ridiculous, they hit me with this.
The large photographs in this next image hung on bare concrete walls in a stark room just beyond dioramas showing Eve eating the bad fruit and supposedly incurring God's "curse" on humanity. They depicted just a sample of the evil and suffering that was brought into the world as a result of that horrible Eve. Examples included starving African children, carnivorism, the atomic attack on Hiroshima, the Cambodian genocide, the pain of childbirth, tornadoes, heroin, and military cemeteries.
And just to slather the guilt on extra thick, the sounds piped into this room consisted of loud gunshots, horrifying (female) shrieks, and all sorts of other frightening sound effects. I'm sure it scares the hell right out of all the kids.
Finally, I'll close with a photograph of me next to the infamous saddled triceratops. Only children age 12 and under were allowed to actually mount the dinosaur, and there were two security guards watching, so I had to settle for this charming pose:
After all of that, though, I must confess that I came away from the experience feeling differently than I thought I would. No, never fear, I didn't drink the crazy punch and start speaking in tongues. (No way!) But while I expected to feel nothing but scorn for my fellow museum-goers, I instead felt mostly pity.
I've been to a boatload of museums in my life, but the Creation Museum crowds were the nicest of any museum I'd ever been to. Anywhere. Nobody pushed or shoved, nobody was rude or impolite. People would get out of my way if they saw me preparing to take a photo, and if one of their kids accidentally wandered into the shot, they'd immediately call them away, gently remind them to be more careful, and apologize to me for the inconvenience. People were genuinely friendly and hospitable.
Of course, I know full well that if they knew I was gay, they would have treated me quite differently. And I know that most (if not all) of them constantly and purposefully vote against my rights. No romantic delusions there. But their incredibly genuine belief in something so obviously and demonstrably false - and the earnestness with which they overlooked the utter transparency and complete lack of logic in the creationist theory as presented by the museum - caused me, very honestly, to feel bad for them.
I pitied the kids most of all. The place was crawling with them. The museum was clearly designed with their indoctrination in mind, and I noticed dozens of large families with many children touring the exhibit together, along with countless homeschool and church groups. Through no fault of their own, these kids are being taught complete nonsense. They're going to have one hell of a rude awakening when they get to college and the "real world" - unless, of course, they go to a private, so-called "Christian college," in which case they may never be confronted with legitimate science for the duration of their educational career.
Scary thought, isn't it?
For the complete photo tour, check out my Facebook albums here and here. Trust me, you won't want to miss any of the misogyny, racism, homophobia, and crackpot scientific distortions.
And by the way, Answers in Genesis is currently building a theme park called the "Ark Encounter" that will feature what it claims is a full-scale replica of Noah's Ark. It's scheduled to open next year. Road trip anyone?