Recent word that cash-strapped and sin-plagued Kentucky could hit the trifecta in biblical theme parks is good news indeed, although at first blush, any consideration given to constructing a 100-foot Tower of Babel outside of Frankfort does seems a little irreligious.
Yet the details as we know them should gladden any theme-park promoter’s soul. As told in a recent Courier-Journal story, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that Kentucky could give tax incentives up to $43 million to Ark Encounter, a proposed theme park in northern Kentucky that would include a 500-foot wooden ark, live animals and replicas of the Tower of Babel and a first-century Middle Eastern Village — presumably without toll bridges.
Ark Encounter would be operated by the Christian ministerial organization Answers in Genesis, which also owns the popular Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, a museum that features an automated dinosaur den, a walk through biblical history and a Noah’s Ark construction site. That site is complete with the sounds of heavy rain and pounding thunder — an apparent precursor to Ark Encounter, which would be built several thousand cubits or so up the northern Kentucky road.
The sticking point for many in all this, of course, is that the Creation Museum asserts that the Earth and all it possesses sprung up about 6,000 years ago — and in only six biblical days. Those figures are somewhat shy of the secular scientific belief that the planet is about 4.5 billion years old and that the last of the dinosaurs died out about 65.5 million years before human beings showed up — and that said humans took their own sweet time getting here.
Then there are those nagging paleontological contentions that, among other things, certain of those dinosaurs actually evolved from birds, a contention that just doesn’t fly among many modern Homo sapiens — and certainly never above Noah’s Ark.
The whole anti-creationist argument might be best summed up by A.A. Gill, a London Sunday Times critic who said of the Creation Museum, “This place doesn’t just take on evolution; it squares off with geology, anthropology, paleontology, history, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, biology and good taste.”
I’m thinking the guy didn’t like it.
And yet, a Gallup Poll taken last December indicates that roughly 40 percent of all Americans firmly believe God created all humans within the last 10,000 years. Another 38 percent believe the process took millions of years but God guided the process. The rest go with Darwinian natural selection — that humans got here with no spiritual guidance whatsoever and have pretty much resisted any guidance ever since.
Thus a third possible biblical theme park for Kentucky — Bible Park USA — is also under mortal review. As reported in the Courier-Journal, one Ronen Paldi, a Holy Land tour operator based in Portland, Ore., has been talking with Kentucky tourism officials about creating a $150 million, Hollywood-designed theme park in southern Kentucky, also with the possibility of state tax incentives.
Two similar Bible Park USA proposals for Tennessee — each backed by financial investors from New York and Israel — would have included a 200-acre park with the obligatory ark as well as a “simulated helicopter ride over Jerusalem,” bringing somewhat untidy comparisons to a “Six Flags Over Jesus.”
But in an expensive and contentious legal battle that went all the way to a U.S. District Court, both Tennessee ventures were rejected due to financial issues, dubious use of tax dollars and resident complaints that the accompanying park noise and traffic would destroy the local character — biblical or otherwise.
Nor is either of the two new proposed theme parks in Kentucky a sure thing. Kentucky officials stressed that the state must conduct independent reviews of any possible parks before incentives are granted, and no state tax dollars would be spent if the projects were not built, or did not generate any revenue.
Without delving too deeply into religious beliefs, I’m thinking that people who believe in Creationism and God’s ability to easily fill an ark with all the animals in the world — and at least 40 days of food to go with them — will also go with the notion that He alone should decide how many tax-supported, Bible-themed parks should be built in Kentucky, perhaps keeping the governor, the legislature, the U.S. Constitution and even Senate Majority Leader David Williams out of this one.
And once that biblical door is open, who’s to say Kentucky could not serve as an anchor for even more religion-based theme parks? The towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth seem like natural sites, along with Calvary, Trinity and Lot.
Yet I fear they would pale in scope to the pair of existing, tax- supported theme parks built for a parallel Kentucky religion: Rupp Arena and the KFC Yum! Center.
Towers of Babel, indeed.