Any good theme park knows it must add new attractions to keep visitors coming — and returning.
When the Ark Encounter opened last July 7, it already was planning more exhibits to supplement its huge model of Noah’s Ark, which promotes a fringe belief that Earth is no more than 12,000 years old and people once mingled with dinosaurs.
Answers in Genesis, the ministry that built the $100 million theme park in Grant County and the Creation Museum in Boone County before that, has said that future expansions will include an ancient village, a bigger petting zoo and a model of the Tower of Babel, Genesis’ explanation for why people speak many languages.
Will that be enough to keep turnstiles clicking at $40 a pop? I doubt it.
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Since Kentucky politicians have given so many tax breaks and financial incentives to the Ark Encounter, I thought it was my patriotic duty to suggest more attractions that Answers in Genesis could consider to make that public investment pay off.
If Answers in Genesis wants to move beyond the Bible’s first book, it could find inspiration in Exodus for a Plagues of Egypt House of Horrors. Visitors could experience high-tech plagues of locusts, bloody water, sick livestock, hailstorms, frogs, lice, boils, darkness and rising infant mortality.
In other words, a preview of global climate change ignored.
Libertarian foundations might even finance the exhibit to convince people that environmental destruction for profit is God’s will.
Think how much fun visitors could have at a David and Goliath Slingshot Range or Jericho Jam, a stage show with music so loud it can crumble walls.
Virtual reality technology could let visitors walk with Jonah through a whale’s belly, stand in a lion’s den with Daniel or lounge in a fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
The ark park’s problem, though, is that Answers in Genesis would feel compelled to conjure up fake science to literally explain every biblical allegory. That has a pretty limited audience, because many Christians see it as unnecessary and downright silly.
If Ark Encounter wants to increase attendance, it should move beyond the epic tales of the Old Testament and embrace the wisdom of the New Testament. In Christianity, that’s where the action is.
What about a Pharisees Wax Museum? It could have wax statues of robed men from the sanctimonious sect of ancient Jews with modern faces that visitors can recognize. You know: Politicians and televangelists.
An Eye of the Needle attraction could have camel rides and challenge visitors to squeeze through a narrow space as they recall Christ’s admonition that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
A small re-creation of the Sea of Galilee, which played a central role in Jesus Christ’s ministry, could host several attractions on its banks explaining the significance of famous Bible stories. The only challenge might be keeping politicians and corporate executives from trying to stroll on the waves.
I can envision a whole series of high-tech exhibits that show Christ healing the sick, raising the dead, comforting the outcast, feeding the hungry, helping the poor and shaming the wealthy and self-righteous. But rather than trying to explain the how, these exhibits should focus on the why.
Other attractions could explain Christ’s parables about lost sheep, good Samaritans, prodigal sons, and talents used wisely and foolishly. None would require fake science; their meanings are as clear today as they were 2,000 years ago.
Such attractions would appeal to Christians who understand that the Bible reflects ancient man’s limited knowledge and understanding of science and nature. These believers don’t look to the Bible for literal explanations of how the world was created, but for wisdom about how they should live in it.