What is more interesting about Ark Encounter is what it tells us about the paradoxes of American evangelicalism, a non-worldly belief system with a restlessly entrepreneurial and commercial spirit. The term “fundamentalism” generally denotes a comprehensively anti-modern movement. But this is only partly true. Far from being a counter to modernity, American fundamentalism often embraces it with far greater enthusiasm and finesse than its mainline competition.
Look at the effectiveness with which conservative evangelicalism has made use of television, radio and the Internet. Or consider the eagerness of “creationism” to claim the mantle of science, which is quite a different matter from rejecting modernity altogether. In commercial enterprises like the Christian music industry, or Ark Encounter, the packaging of products is the same as it is in the most successful secular businesses; only the content is different. Evangelicals assume that all such modern techniques can be redeemed through certain proper uses. The medium, in this view, is not the message.
Perhaps so. But it is also possible that there is no way for Ark Encounter to bring the Bible to life without demeaning or cheapening the very things it is intending to exalt. In that sense, the theme park may challenge not the proper separation of church and state as much as the proper separation of faith and commerce. Still, America’s robust commitment to religious liberty means allowing the widest possible latitude to such undertakings””and allowing criticism of them to flourish as well. Let the deluge begin.