Ken Ham

This photo of Ken Ham in the Creation Museum was posted to a Baptist website that created a minor controversy—leading to the photo being removed.

Answers in Genesis has been accused by secular humanists of displaying the kind of extremism sometimes shown by Muslim fundamentalists. But when a comparison made on a Baptist website linked AiG and its new Creation Museum to rioting Muslims, we just had to shake our heads.1

Inside an article in the Texas news journal called the Baptist Standard (which bills itself as representing Texas Baptists), its editor posted two photographs that were apparently intended to depict the backwardness and extremism of fundamentalist religion: a photo of rioting Shi’ite Muslims and, just below it, a photo of Ken Ham (AiG president) standing next to one of our museum’s dinosaurs. Yesterday, the editor informed our publicist that he was not trying to vilify AiG—only that he considered AiG to be a self-described “fundamentalist” group. He also indicated that he appreciated the letter we sent him (posted below) that clarified what our ministry is about. But for a few days, web visitors to the site saw little subtlety here for a news magazine that wished to illustrate the article’s main theme (i.e., that fundamentalists of every faith share a resistance to modernity) as it used an AiG photo.2

Lumping the late Jerry Falwell with Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and Muqtada al-Sadr of Iraq, the article’s author declared that “fundamentalism finds a home in all major faith groups,” and then presented the “factors or impulses” that, he argues, “propel adherents toward fundamentalism or militant religion.” These include dogmatic faith, identity, fear, and politics.

So we sent a letter to the editor in order to challenge the journal’s misinformed decision to use a photo of Ken Ham in such an inflammatory way.

Dear editor:
We were stunned to see a prominent photo of our president, Ken Ham—standing next to the dinosaur exhibit inside our new Creation Museum—accompany your story on religious fundamentalists and their alleged anti-modernism. Neither Ham nor the museum was actually mentioned in the article, which suggests that one of your editors made an ill-informed decision in the photo selection. It shows an ignorance of our ministry and its methods.
First, AiG does believe in scientific inquiry—that is why we employ staff with doctoral degrees in astronomy, geology, medicine, and biology. Also, contrary to what was implied, our identity is not defined by what we oppose—it’s defined by our adherence to proclaiming the positive message that the Bible is true. In addition, we are not afraid of opposing points of view—our new museum presents the arguments for evolution (and then rebuts them). Further, we have never been involved in any political causes—we don't even push for creation to be taught in public schools.
Finally, our museum features state-of-the-art exhibits, yet by implication we are caricatured as “anti-modern.” Perhaps you can see why we rubbed our eyes when we saw ourselves being depicted as Exhibit A of backward thinking. And since when is believing in the Bible a bad thing in Baptist circles?
Sincerely,
Mark Looy
CCO

To the editor’s credit, the photo was pulled. But since a retraction has not been posted (at the time this article was posted) and the photo was there on the website for a few days, it had a negative impact.

On Monday, the editor informed our publicist that he had received many complaints, and so to stop that flow, he removed the photo. The editor indicated that some of the emails were negative and hateful (which probably confirmed his stereotype of fundamentalists). Of course, we don’t know if these harsh emails were sent by AiG supporters or by some of the more aggressive creationists, but if some of them were “hateful,” we dissociate ourselves from them and encourage them in the future to extend Christian love to their brethren, so as not to hurt the cause of Christ.

This article (and its accompanying photo most of all) could just be brushed off as the action of a news source that doesn’t accept the full authority of God’s Word. At the same time, it does fuel a stereotype that Bible-believing Christians are anti-modern and militant—just like Muslim extremists. So it should be taken seriously.

According to an email exchange we saw between the editor and a creationist friend of AiG, the editor still maintains that believing in a literal Genesis in our modern age is a form of extreme fundamentalism. To repeat a question posed in our News to Note feature over the weekend: why aren’t these Christians—who often criticize creationists for resisting modern science—being consistent and also denying the biblical accounts of the virgin birth, Resurrection, and miracles of Christ, which modern science would also deny? Of course, that kind of Christianity would ultimately be ineffectual in reaching people with the gospel message.

If the news journal had gotten to know us even a little before using the photo of Ken Ham and the Creation Museum, it would have discovered that AiG is very pro-science and is certainly not militant.

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Footnotes

  1. It’s not just the humanist bloggers who lump Bible-believing creationists with Muslim extremists. It happens in the major media as well. Even back in 2004, in a guest column for the New York Times, Garry Wills, a Pulitzer prize-winning historian, wrote a piece titled The Day the Enlightenment Went Out (Nov. 5, 2004). In his diatribe, Wills declared that theologically conservative Christians are not “enlightened.” As the primary example of this Christian bloc’s “unenlightenment,” Wills cited the biblical creationists. He offers the much-hackneyed analogy of comparing America’s “fundamentalist zeal” to the “rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity . . . [that] we find in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists.”

    In his final comments in the column, Wills continued his comparison of conservative Christians to the radical fundamentalists of Muslim countries, as he predicted that “moral zealots” (i.e., Bible-believing, anti-evolution Christians) will “give some cause for dismay even to non-fundamentalist Republicans. Jihads [a Muslim word that can be associated with ‘“holy war’”] are scary things.” See The Times they are not a-changin’. Back
  2. The article—but now without the photo in question—can be found at Fundamentalists of All Stripes Want to Turn Back the Clock. Back