By Rob Boston
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn’s light-hearted video about Kentucky’s proposed “Ark Park” has proven to be quite a hit. AU’s Facebook fans reacted positively, and the clip has nearly 5,000 views (and climbing) on You Tube. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a look.)
Alas, not everyone is a fan. The Rev. Tony Breeden was not amused. On his “DefendingGenesis.org” blog, the good reverend, who is quite the booster of creationism, patiently explains that Barry is all wet because our planet is only 6,000 years old and dinosaurs did indeed travel on Noah’s big boat. He is dismayed over the “false” Rev. Lynn and Barry’s alleged mockery of the Bible.
Some people just don’t get it. The point of the video was to say that people can believe what they want about Noah’s Ark or any other story in the Bible – but that the government shouldn’t take sides on matters of theology. When state officials choose, even indirectly, to offer aid to a project like the “Ark Park” and enthusiastically welcome it to the state, that’s taking sides.
Specifically, it is taking sides in favor of Christian fundamentalism and against modern science.
Yes, Barry was having a little fun with this topic. How can you help it? How else can you respond to folks who believe that just about every biologist, geologist, paleontologist, anthropologist, archeologist, zoologist, etc., at every major university in the world is wrong and that fundamentalist ministers – most of whom have never seen the inside of a science lab let alone done field work – are right? Only an embrace of fundamentalism can guarantee such arrogance!
Breeden is offended that Barry mentioned the possibility of unicorns on the ark. He calls it a “cheap shot.” Um, hate to break it to you, reverend, but the talk about unicorns being real comes from Answers in Genesis (AIG) – a group that is one of the major sponsors of the Ark Park. The relevant passage comes from an article titled “Unicorns in the Bible?” on AIG’s website and reads, “Some people claim the Bible is a book of fairy tales because it mentions unicorns. However, the biblical unicorn was a real animal, not an imaginary creature.”
Perhaps Breeden should visit the AIG site more often. He’s obviously not up on the latest cutting-edge findings in creation science!
Breeden should also read Barry’s Piety & Politics. In that book, Barry speaks powerfully as to why he rejects biblical literalism. The literalist, Barry observes, sees the scriptures in a simplistic either/or fashion.
“Noah’s flood is not about history; it’s about God’s covenant with his creation and his promise that even a sinful people can be redeemed,” Barry writes. “Ironically, by insisting that the story be literally true, fundamentalists drain it of all its power. The tale becomes an all or nothing proposition. Either you swallow the whole story, including the improbable bits, or you can get nothing from it.”
He goes on to say, “I refuse to accept this false choice whenever fundamentalists thrust it at me. So it is with the creation of the world. The idea of a young earth, a mere 6,000 years old and dinosaurs strolling around alongside cavemen, is absurd in the face of modern science. The Bible, I believe, does not even claim such nonsense occurred. Those who read it and say it does have the right to that belief, but it is neither science nor history and cannot plausibly be passed off as such.”
Breedon believes the earth is 6,000 years old. He has the right to believe that, but no state should endorse such an un-historical, un-scientific view. (Just in case you’re wondering, here are some things that were going on in 4,000 B.C.: The Sumerians settled a city state, Egyptians were pulling together as a unified kingdom and settlers moved to the island of Thera in the Aegean Sea, marking the first step toward the creation of what became Greece.)
Of course, I don’t expect Breeden to be persuaded by anything as prosaic as facts.
One more thing about this, and I’d like to address it directly to Rev. Breeden: Your use of terms like “false” in front of reverend and your insistence on putting “Rev.” in quotation marks before Barry’s name demonstrate a complete and utter lack of class. For your information, Barry received a master’s degree in theology from Boston University School of Theology, one of the best schools of its type, in 1973. He graduated summa cum laude and was ordained by the United Church of Christ that same year.
John Adams once famously observed, “Facts are stubborn things.” It is best, sir, to learn to deal with them anyway.