Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Noah's Lark

Somewhere in Kentucky (where else?) on 800 rolling acres of farmland, plans are being put into place for a $155 million religious theme park called the Ark Encounter.

The showpiece among such cherished biblical icons as the Tower of Babel will be a full-scale model of Noah’s Ark. “The message here,” says project manager Mike Zovath, “is, God’s word is true. There’s a lot of doubt: ‘Could Noah have built a boat this big, could he have put all the animals on the boat?’ Those are questions people all over the country ask.”

What people, I wonder, are asking this? Not people like me, who dismissed the story of Noah's ark as an engaging but unlikely parable some time during childhood. And certainly not, on the other end of the belief spectrum, people like presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann, who takes the Bible as the spoken word of God and who’s given her life over to Jesus – along with a chance at the White House. I suppose that makes sense, because Bachmann hasn’t demonstrated an affinity for facts of any kind. Stumping in Waterloo, Iowa, she said she was glad to be appearing in the hometown of American film legend John Wayne – when actually it had been the home of scary clown serial killer John Wayne Gacey, who tortured and murdered 33 young men and boys. Yesterday at a rally she opened with a birthday wish for Elvis Presley, and the crowd shouted back that it was actually the anniversary of his death. And then there’s her husband Marcus’ occupation: a flaming repressed homosexual in a shocking pink polo shirt, he runs a Minnesota practice that “prays the gay away” and inflicts untold psychological damage on men forced by society to “go straight.”

Bachmann will be right on board with the Ark project, which Zovath says will feature “old world” details like wooden pegs instead of nails, straight-sawed timbers and two to four thousand stuffed or animatronic animals – all to "demonstrate" that Noah’s ark was an historic reality.

“When you get to walk through the boat and see how big this thing really was, and how many cages were there, and how much room there was for food and water…our hope is people start seeing that this is plausible,” Zovath explained.

Given that there are perhaps 50 million different species of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects, and that Creationists don’t believe any of Noah’s saved creatures could have evolved into our current animal kingdom, a bunch of cages filling a barge will serve only the tiniest, most uninquiring of minds. (Let’s not even try to consider a primative environment that could serve the climactic needs of both penguins and tigers, while preventing the latter from eating the former.)

But expect more cramped, backward insights like these if Bachmann ever actually makes it to the Oval Office, because these days even an atrocity like that is entirely possible. After all, she manages to make a self-serving nut job like Sarah Palin look stable. As Zovath says, “The ark is…really not about creation-evolution, it’s about the authority of the Bible starting with the ark account in Genesis.”

In other words, the Islamic fundamentalists we’ve been warring with for the last decade are not necessarily the biggest threat to our freedoms or way of life.