As I stood in line, I looked around at everyone in line. Science T-shirts abounded with sayings like, "Stand Back, I'm about to do Science," "Evolve" and "Teach the Controversy." Hardly earth shattering worldview statements. I didn't see any T-shirts like, "God sucks" or "Ham blows." In truth, while standing in line, I didn't even hear any real snickers. All the Pirate Atheists looked curiously about them, pointing out certain features and marveling at museum grounds. No one seemed to be brandishing their intellectual swords or sneering at the Christians who entered the museum.
I felt sorry for the Christians going to the museum. Many of them had driven long distances to come to the museum, some from as far away as Florida. In fact, one family had built their whole vacation around the trip to the museum. I don't think any of them knew there would be 300 atheists raiding the museum during the visit.
I loved some of the Christians who came up and started engaging the atheists. Some of them even went with our group all the way through the museum.
I wish I could say the same for others and some of the museum staff.
Here is the thing: I realize it had to be a tense moment for the museum folks. You have a world famous atheist blogger, who can be a jackass, visiting your museum with three hundred Pirate Atheists. It can't have been easy to deal with all of that. I get it.
However, the whole time we went through the museum, I felt watchful eyes on us. I soon realized why. Since I was hanging out with Ashley and her boyfriend, I was also attached to the PZ contingent moving through the museum. All eyes were on us, including a couple of unidentified suits. I had no idea (and still don't) who these guys might have been. They didn't engage the group and watched with an obvious hostile eye. I mean, I'm a Christian, and I felt the hostility. Instead of walking with PZ and the group, they chose to stay removed from us.
I could understand all of that, maybe, but I couldn't understand the guard dogs. Yes, you heard right, guard dogs.
Apparently, the Creation Museum has had to deal with a few bomb threats, most likely from 13 year olds taking a break from their World of Warcraft games. From whom the threats were actually made has never been stated, but they have used these threats to instill a first class security force. In fact, the director of the security force gives seminars on how to train churches on "Security for Faith Based Organizations."
There just seems to be something wrong with that picture.
Anyway, part of this security entails training bomb sniffing dogs. These dogs and their handlers were in full force that day. Later, I talked to a Christian who organized security for traveling Smithsonian exhibits about bomb sniffing dogs. He pointed out that there could be two possible reasons. One, they had received a credible threat, but in that case they should have cleared the building. In the second case scenario, the dogs, even though not especially aggressive, where often used as an intimidation factor to keep tense situations under control.
As the Creation Museum hadn't been evacuated, I assumed the second.
I can't tell you how much this bothered me and how contrary to the Gospel it seemed to be. I realize that in this post-9/11 world we are all a little paranoid. However, the last time I checked, there are no atheist terrorist groups. In fact, despite all of their in-your-face rhetoric, Pirate Atheists are some of the least likely people to commit physical violence or deface someone's property. They might sneer. They might use cutting sarcasm. They might wear silly T-shirts. They might go over the line in their rhetorical flourishes, but they aren't going to bomb anybody. So I'm not sure who prepared the risk assessment at the Creation Museum that day, but they didn't do their homework.
Unfortunately, they did a severe discredit to the Gospel. Instead of really going the extra mile to make the atheists feel welcome and answer their questions, they treated the atheists with passive aggressive fear.
I can't excuse Christians acting like the slightest atheist objection or presence will cause the whole truth of the Gospel to come crashing down. I can't excuse Christians giving fearful looks, whispering to their children about disruptive atheists, or avoiding atheists like the plague.
Let's get back to our walk through of the museum.
As you enter the museum, you walk through a narrow pathway boarded with animatronic dinosaurs. Tucked away in the plants, you see human statues, which is a subtle way of telling everyone that Young Earth Creationists think humans interacted with dinosaurs.
The path funnels you into a box canyon pathway, inviting you to contemplate the nature of geology. As you follow this path, you enter an exhibit about the forming of the Grand Canyon by the flood along with two geologists, one Christian, one atheist talking about the same facts, but different interpretations. I know atheists critiqued this, but there is an interesting point in this exhibit. That is, the way we interpret the world around us depends greatly on our worldview.
The exhibit that drove me crazy began with two large posters, one with the books of "man" and one with the scrolls of the Torah on one side. The lettering on the posters is spelled out for you in case you didn't get the point. God's wisdom against man's wisdom, and the implication is obvious: God's wisdom is Young Earth Creationism, a statement that leaves no alternatives.
Part three to come in a few days.
Follow Rev. Jonathan Weyer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/spookypastor