Ken Ham’s Ark Will Be a Cultural Force

By now, everyone knows about Ark Encounter, the creationist theme park nearing completion in Northern Kentucky. It’s a bizarre, land-locked “replica” of Noah’s Ark, owned and run by a subsidiary of Answers in Genesis (AIG) — the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo).

It appears that the biblical extravaganza is getting a lot of criticism, so instead of turning the other cheek, ol’ Hambo is lashing out at this critics. This appeared at his blog a couple of days ago: Ark Prejudice. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

It seems like every time we post something on Facebook about the progress of the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky, someone will charge that we are wasting money — money that instead should go to the starving people around the world, they declare.

Your Curmudgeon isn’t one of those critics. It’s true that we think Hambo’s ark is spectacularly goofy, but if that’s what people choose to spend their money on, it’s their business, not ours. Of course, we don’t think government should spend taxpayers’ money on such things, but that’s a different issue. Back to Hambo:

Recently I was asked about that claim [of wasting money] and I answered this way:

[Hambo quotes himself:] That question shows a lot of prejudice. Do you ask that same question to the builders of the massive cruise ships that are being built? Each one costs many times the amount of the Ark and they are built just for entertainment purposes — why not accuse the cruise lines of depriving food to starving people? What about Disney, Universal, and all the amusement theme parks that are created just for entertainment — do these critics level the same charge at them? And during this presidential election year, what about all the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent on candidates’ campaigns? And think about football or baseball stadiums that each cost more than the Ark project (some are over $1 billion) and they are just for sports entertainment?

Those are fair remarks. As we said, people should be free to spend their money any way they like. But Hambo also gives an odd example:

And what about the extraordinary waste we hear about concerning many government programs, and I could go on and on.

Obviously, no one can justify government waste. People are forced to pay taxes, so money the government spends isn’t spent voluntarily. It’s odd that Hambo doesn’t see the distinction, but we won’t quibble. The other examples he gave are good ones. Let’s read on:

So the question is: why is it that the Ark is being singled out for this criticism? (It was also made against the Creation Museum when we were building it.) It’s because of prejudice!

Oooooooooooooh — it’s prejudice! Hambo continues:

The charge that money should go instead to the hungry comes from critics who don’t agree with our Christian message and don’t want us to build such a prominent facility to proclaim the truth of God’s Word and the gospel.

Aha — it’s prejudice against Christians! Here’s more:

Now while it is true that some Christians have made the same claim that our donors should be giving money to needy people and not the Ark, I find they are people who also don’t agree with our message — particularly our stand on a literal Genesis.

Those people aren’t real Christians! Moving along:

Yes, their prejudice against the Ark’s message really stands out. Actually it illustrates that these charges are a part of a larger spiritual battle.

Hambo is engaged in a spiritual battle! How exciting! Another excerpt:

And in a sense it’s also about jealousy. I don’t usually hear the same accusations against churches that are building new auditoriums or other facilities, but, because the Ark is going to be so prominent in the world as it publicly proclaiming God’s Word and the gospel, it gets singled out by people who don’t like our message and are irritated by its prominence.

We get the impression that in Hambo’s opinion, all of his critics are evil. One more excerpt:

In our culture we are seeing more and more of this intolerance against biblical Christianity. But it also encourages me, because there wouldn’t such opposition if the Ark wasn’t going to be a force in the culture!

We have doubts that Hambo’s ark is going to be a significant cultural force, but if he thinks he’s going to change the world, that’s okay with us. Everyone is entitled to his own fantasies.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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27 responses to “Ken Ham’s Ark Will Be a Cultural Force

  1. Yes, because giving food the poor is totally not a Christian thing, while building massive idols absolutely is.

  2. Right on dweller42. Isn’t it interesting that the “real-Christian-Hamites” focus on glorifying stories from the Hebrew bible rather than on those in the synoptics. I would be impressed if Ham built a mount on which the beatitudes were lived rather than some lame-ass amusement attraction.

  3. Mary L. Mand

    I think I’ll match his “…force in the culture.” with indifference. Reserving the right to snicker, of course.

  4. There seems to be a thing among some sects about … well, idols. Crosses, stone tablets, flags and so on. 18th century Chistians would be shocked.

  5. Ken Ham will never admit it but there are plenty of fundamentalist Christian who share his view of Genesis but who do not think $80 million and more is a wise expenditure of money. They also think that there are better ways to meet his evangelism objectives. I’ve seen various blogs starting to complain about the excesses.

    After all, what has he built? It is an ark-shaped building which does nothing to confirm ark engineering or nautical stability. It does nothing to confirm flood geology, as they call it. And allocating one room of the building to a little petting zoo will surely be a big let-down for visitors. (I’d bet Ham decided that the logistics of trying to replicate Noah’s huge animal menagerie were a disaster waiting to backfire on them.)

    Won’t most visitors be thinking as they leave (even if they are afraid to say anything aloud), “What was the point of that?”

    I wonder how much Ham will have to spend annually to maintain and staff both boondoggles,the Ark and the Creation Museum.

  6. Hey Curmie typo alert.
    In the title of this post, it’s spelled F-A-R-C-E.

  7. Maybe adults wouldn’t question “What was the point of that?” But I can imagine lots of kids would be disappointed in not seeing giraffes sticking their heads up. Doesn’t every picture of the Ark feature that?
    Ask anyone to describe Noah’s Ark, and it will be floating on the water and filled with animals. Neither applies to this.

  8. I think it’s too bad that Ham didn’t choose to build in a more southern part of Kentucky, one that would have made his construction susceptible to certain Acts of God.

  9. I can’t do that, Tomato Addict. I’d be one of those prejudiced, jealous people Hambo is wailing about.

  10. Poor ole Ham. The world’s biggest, most super, best, most Christian, and most bible-believin’ martyr.

    Science won’t accept Genesis because all those scientists are “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.”

    Many Christians don’t accept his “biblical” views because they are compromising with THE ADVERSARY, TEH DEBIL [sic] and his lies from the pit o’ hell–millions of years and hematite to humans evilution.

    The government won’t give his Ark tax breaks, even though he just wants to hire only good ole bible-believin’ Christians.

    Just what is he to do?

  11. Ceteris Paribus

    Hambo’s complaint does contain a fair bit of righteous indignation which deserves to be acknowledged. Has anyone considered the amount of Ham’s own good time that he has unselfishly given over to his Ark project? And without ever hearing so much as a friendly shout of “whoo-ee” from a stranger visiting Kentucky during the construction phase? No. Of course Ham is peeved

    What Ham needs to do now is lick his Ark Park wounds, go back into his OT bible, and “gird his loins” for the battle to construct an even more amazing new attraction for the state of Kentucky.

    Maybe Ham could use that “40 Days of Noah” theme, and build a new 40 acre park, holding 40 tourist shops, each selling 40 different flavors of fried pies [mmm!]. Kentucky, you just don’t properly appreciate the new cultural resource you have received with the mind of Ken Ham.

  12. I wonder why Hambone is convinced that a land-locked building that vaguely resembles something from an old Testament myth has anything at all to do with Christianity. Wouldn’t a Galilean fishing boat replica be more appropriate?

  13. “a lot of criticism, so instead of turning the other cheek ….”
    This is why I like your blog so much, dear SC.

    “Do you ask that same question to the builders of the massive cruise ships that are being built?”
    I actually do. But it’s an ethical and not a political question. I wouldn’t like government telling me that I can’t waste my money on cruiseships either.

    “As we said, people should be free to spend their money any way they like.”
    But I’m pretty sure that even you don’t take this to the utter consequence, my dear SC. I’m pretty sure you don’t think people should be free to spend their money on buying 8 year olds as sex slaves. That’s an extreme example of course, but it shows that you haven’t provided an absolute standard. So the question becomes: to what extent should people be free to spend their money any way they like? I agree that building silly arks should be possible. The interesting stuff of course are the borderline cases. But those have preciously little to do with Ol’ Hambo anymore.

  14. The government won’t give his Ark tax breaks, even though he just wants to hire only good ole bible-believin’ Christians.

    True. But Ken Ham got his $62 million as what is basically an interest-free loan through a TIF grant from the City of Williamstown, Kentucky, all based upon municipal bonds for which local property tax payers are on the hook for the next 30 years. (Or are they?) That is why Ham is about to complete construction on the Ark Encounter despite raising relatively little in donations and Ham’s Ark Enough Encounter junk bonds. Right?

    To me, this is far more outrageous than the state sales tax furor that got lots of media coverage. That city is definitely an economically depressed area where local taxpayers have enough trouble paying for their basic police, fire, and other city services. And if Ham’s boondoggle fails, a typical TIF would leave locals holding the bag—but as I read the fine print of the TIF-based bonds, it almost looks like the risk is entirely transferred to the bond-buyers. (I’m not a lawyer and I know even less about American law concerning such things. Perhaps someone can comment on the risks of this deal.) Whatever the details, this arrangement sure seems like a far more serious government involvement in religion and general injustice than anything the State of Kentucky might have done because at least the state as a whole can absorb the risk and waste. Local jurisdictions can not.

    Many Americans hate TIFs in general and some states now prohibit them because of the infamous boondoggles they have produced. TIFs make depressed communities vulnerable to exploitative flim-flam business scammers and speculators. I guess it doesn’t surprise me that Ken Ham promised the City of Williamstown a pot of gold: if only they would loan him $62 million interest-free:

    As you can see, it is essentially interest free because Ham only has to pay back the loan by means of 30 years of property taxes he would have to pay on the property anyway! Ham loves it because he has zero risk: If the public loses interest in the Ark Encounter in a few years and it goes bankrupt, I’ve seen conflicting observations as to whether it is just the bond-buyers or the local property tax-payers or both who will be harmed. (It sure looks like Ham could simply walk away from the project and forget about the loan. His corporation will technically be obligated but he will put it into bankruptcy—and perhaps have AIG buy the property cheap because no other investors will want it and bid for it.)

    You are probably already familiar with a related article about the TIFs at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/11/11/what-ken-ham-isnt-telling-you-about-ark-encounter-funding/

    I apologize if you have already discussed this topic heavily. I don’t claim to understand all of this. But it appears that these City of Williamstown bonds are different than the junk bonds Ham sold direct to his big money backers a couple of years ago.

  15. Oops. My sorry! I thought I was simply including the link to the bond description. I didn’t know that WordPress would insert the entire document.

  16. mnb0 says: “I’m pretty sure you don’t think people should be free to spend their money on buying 8 year olds as sex slaves. That’s an extreme example of course, but it shows that you haven’t provided an absolute standard.”

    *Sigh* I shouldn’t need to say this, but whenever I mention freedom, you take it to some wild extreme, attempting to show that freedom isn’t a good thing. Try to remember this: If everyone has rights, and they do, then we can’t violate the rights of other people. That’s the limit on everyone’s freedom, and that’s what government is for.

  17. Saito Singh, I recall reading that the city is somehow not responsible for paying the bonds.

  18. I agree with Hamster (that’s rare) – those examples are all tremendous wastes of money – especially the political campaign $ (both parties are obscenely wasteful in this regard). However, Hamster is still a franchise-sized hypocrite because he and his servants pretend to “care” about people and their (non-existent) souls. He’s not, prima facie, in the entertainment business. It’s obvious what this rodent really cares about – pushing stupidity and lies to make money.

  19. One of many things I don’t understand is how the City of Williamstown so quickly and easily raised enough money for the cash-short Ham to suddenly have enough money to complete the struggling project. Ham has said that he needed $90 to build the Ark Encounter building and open it to the public. Whatever amount the city raised through bonds, it was no small sum and they raised it so quickly.

    The bond description says it is tax exempt—even though the project it funds requires signed statements of faith of the people hired. Sure sounds like major constitutional issues to me. Yet the media seems to have ignored the TIF.

    Ham’s junk bonds didn’t sell. The city bonds apparently did. Yet it sounds like both types of bonds are equally risky. So the tax exempt interest advantage of the new bonds is kind of minor in comparison to the loss of principal dangers. So I’m surprised that they sold sufficiently well.

    I’m hoping that some reader who understands these matters could explain where things stand.

  20. Cruise liners are owned by corporations that exist to make a profit for their investors. Such corporations commission and pay for cruise ships because they can use them to make such a profit. That is their business. There is no hypocrisy involved. The corporation is doing what it is supposed to do, the thing that its articles of incorporation say it should do.

    What Christian churches should do was laid down by the man they claim to be their founder. They exist to spread the Good News, (but I doubt very much that God made a flood that drowned everyone is good news) but they demonstrate this by doing good. That is, works of charity, concern for others, benevolence, mercy, help for the poor, the downtrodden, the powerless, the sick. Thus, they are the salt of the earth, said Jesus, and salt is good – but if it has lost its flavour it is useless, fit only to be trodden underfoot.

    I know of no work of charity performed by Ham or his “ministry”. The Ark project is run by a for-profit company owned by his non-profit. The latter counts as a charity only if you can believe that shilling preacher-man videos on the internet is a charitable purpose. It certainly pays him and his family very substantially, according to their tax returns.

    Where are the poor that he has helped, the hungry that he has fed, the homeless he has housed, the sick he has nursed? That is supposed to be his purpose. That was his salt, and it has lost its savor.

    Jesus warned him: you shall know the tree by its fruits. And the fruit of Ken Ham is a wooden structure whose only purpose is to make money for Ken Ham, which, if it fails in that purpose, can be abandoned without cost to him. What it costs others is clearly of little concern to Ken Ham.

    The charge that lies against Ham is not, as he disingenuously claims, that he is building something expensive and largely useless, but gross hypocrisy and fraud.

  21. @Dave Luckett: Well-said, as usual. You have expressed everything that I would have wanted to get across, but in a manner much clearer than I would have managed.

    It is beyond my understanding why Ken Ham thinks spending $80 million constructing an Ark-ish structure furthers Christian principles better than, say, using the same amount through Habitat for Humanity to construct homes for about 500 – 1,000 families. One can do much good with $80 million.

  22. Dave Luckett

    Thank you, retiredsciguy. I do my best. Writing is rewriting, as you know.

    Why doesn’t Ken use his formidable money-raising prowess to help the homeless, rather than build a fundamentalist amusement park?

    It’s because Ken Ham shows the usual split consciousness common to fundamentalist sectarians. He believes the words of Jesus in one part of his mind: that he should use his wealth to alleviate suffering, out of charity and love for his neighbour; and that having given everything, he should take up his cross and follow his Lord. He also believes at the very same time that God wants him to build the Ark Park, spending all the money he can raise to do it, while insulating his own income and that of his family from risk. That’s sacrosanct, because God wants Ken Ham to do well, because Ken has done well by God.

    This is not a matter of conscious priority, you understand. Ham doesn’t think of the Ark as more important than charity. That would involve actual consideration of a moral issue. No, that question of priority is walled off by the barriers Ken has erected in his own mind. He hasn’t made such a conscious decision at all. The question simply doesn’t exist.

    In fact, Ken can’t ask himself such a question, because if he were ever to become conscious of it, he’d have to reach some accommodation. Why isn’t he doing what Jesus said he should do? He’d have to find some answer. He can’t. There isn’t one that reflects any credit on Ham.

    So it is for Ham as it was for William Jennings Bryan: he doesn’t think about the things he doesn’t think about. That explains why he thinks he’s an exemplary Christian, while he totally fails to behave like one. He doesn’t think about it. He can’t think about it.

    I think that the above is a more likely explanation than the obvious: ie, that Ham is simply a con-man, who doesn’t actually believe any of it. I think he does believe it, in a sense. But just as he has walled his reading of Genesis off from any consideration of reality – those “bible glasses” that he talks about – so he has walled off his acts from Christian principles.

    Is this hypocrisy? He doesn’t really understand what he’s done; is he guilty?

    For mine, you bet he is. The reason he doesn’t understand is that to understand would be injurious to the interests of Ken Ham. With evolution as with charity, he doesn’t know because he doesn’t want to know. Not wanting to know is possibly the single cause underlying all the worst ills of humanity. Ken is guilty of that.

    It would be good, if Ken were to face the judgement of a just God. I don’t think it will happen, but provided it were justice, I could get behind it. Justice would not be that which Jesus pronounced at Matthew 25:41, but it would be good if Ken’s self-installed blinders could be removed, and he could be brought to understand how far short he has fallen, and why he is on the left.

  23. The ark could be used to feed poor animals. I don’t think we should be species is and privilege homo sapiens. Also animals may need to hear the Gospel too.

  24. So the question is: why is it that the Ark is being singled out for this criticism? (It was also made against the Creation Museum when we were building it.) It’s because of prejudice!

    Or could it be because those cruise ships the Hamster squeaks about actually float and actually go somewhere?

    Ham’s boat is a creationist Disney attraction. And like regular Disney attractions, it’s primarily for making money. At least the small-world folks don’t make any (dinosaur) bones about it.

  25. The Ark has one purpose, make Hambo a very rich man. It’ll do that. Hambo played his cards right. He even walked the fine line between a profit venture and a religious venture.
    If Hambo or his followers think this kind of thing is a powerful evangelical tool, think again. More like preaching to the choir. If you’re plunking down $30 per person and parking etc., you’re already an evangelical. And your kids or grandkids won’t be particularly impressed.
    I offer this challenge to Hambo, if someone asserts they are an atheist offer free admission at the door and free parking. No? That’s ok Hambo I’ll see it after it is abandoned and possibly turned into the museum of the gullible.

  26. Slightly off topic–but it does concern a genuine Cultural Force, and incidentally shows that even the Russian government can sometimes be a guarantor of individual rights: ‘Pastafarian’ wins right to wear colander in driving licence photo

  27. I know, but you handed me such an obvious setup that I couldn’t resist!