Source: The New York Times
WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. — In the beginning, Ken Ham made the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky. And he saw that it was good at spreading his belief that the Bible is a book of history, the universe is only 6,000 years old, and evolution is wrong and is leading to our moral downfall.
And Mr. Ham said, let us build a gargantuan Noah’s ark only 45 minutes away to draw millions more visitors. And let it be constructed by Amish woodworkers, and financed with donations, junk bonds and tax rebates from the state of Kentucky. And let it hold an animatronic Noah and lifelike models of some of the creatures that came on board two-by-two, such as bears, short-necked giraffes — and juvenile Tyrannosaurus rexes.
And it was so.
Mr. Ham’s “Ark Encounter,” built at a cost of more than $102 million, is scheduled to open on July 7 in Williamstown, Ky. Mr. Ham and his crew have succeeded in erecting a colossal landmark and an ambitious promotional vehicle for their particular brand of Christian fundamentalism, known as “young earth” or “young universe” creationism.
But it was hardly smooth sailing. The state tried to revoke the tax rebates after learning that Mr. Ham would require employees to sign a “statement of faith” that would exclude people who were gay or did not accept his particular Christian creed. Mr. Ham went to court and in January, he won.
On a recent afternoon, the Australian-born Mr. Ham looked out on the workers in hard hats affixing pine planking to cover the Tyvek plastic wrap still visible on the stern. The ark stretches one-and-a-half football fields long, rises as high as a seven-story building and is said to be the largest timber-frame building in the world. Mr. Ham is betting it will become an international pilgrimage site, as well as a draw for the curious, the seculars and even the skeptics.
“The reason we are building the ark is not as an entertainment center,” Mr. Ham said in an interview in a cabin overlooking the construction site. “I mean it’s not like a Disney or Universal, just for anyone to go and have fun. It’s a religious purpose. It’s because we’re Christians and we want to get the Christian message out.”
The ark is also intended to serve as a vivid warning that, according to the Bible, God sent a flood in Noah’s time to wipe out a depraved people, and God will deliver a fiery end to those who reject the Bible and accept modern-day evils like abortion, atheism and same-sex marriage. “We’re becoming more like the days of Noah in that we see increasing secularization in the culture,” Mr. Ham said.