Growing Up with Ken Ham – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

how-do-you-explain-a-sunset-if-there-is-not-god-2On the spectrum of Christians who believe that God put dinosaur fossils in the Earth to test our faith, and Theistic Evolutionists, my parents are somewhere in the middle. They were also my science teachers for the first 12 years of my life.

 

Ken Ham’s books were part of our homeschool curriculum.  In Answers in Genesis he goes to extreme lengths to show that the laws of science and the literal Bible can coexist, and even that one proves the other. My Dad taught me that there had been room for all of the creatures on the arc because Noah took one of each genus, not one of each species. The “evolution” that Darwin had observed in finches was in fact simply the display of the diverse genome that God had created them with.  As a 10 year old, all of this made sense, especially when combined with a semester of learning apologetics in Sunday School.

 

In 7th grade I went to a Christian school where the science education was even more laughably abysmal. Basically, any questions that were raised were silenced with “God created it like that.” When they didn’t answer my questions, I lost respect for my teachers and I got in trouble frequently (mostly for doodling during class, which I’m certain has served me better in the long run than actually paying attention to our “history lessons” about the Tower of Babel). Thankfully my parents didn’t send me back, and I went to public high school a few years later.

 

The Good:

 

There was a good side to learning this, and that was that I learned to question everything. Kids who are taught the prevailing wisdom of science never have their beliefs challenged. In fact, in High School I was surprised to find many atheists who were as dogmatic and wonderless as their fundamentalist religious counterparts. I’m glad that I was reminded over and over again that evolution was “only” a theory, because this has put all of human scientific discovery into perspective for me.

 

Religion gave us the frameworks for the science that we have today. In fact, much of the science that we do now is done in the name of humanism – a direct descendant of Western religion.  Scientists who think they can achieve objectivity are like people who have never travelled and don’t realize they have an accent.  For all of the trash talking that faith gets, you can’t have science without faith in constants. It can be absurd when fundamentalist Science battles fundamentalist religion, because the two end up sounding similar.

 

But I don’t want to say that Ken Ham isn’t an idiot (albeit a wealthy one) or that it’s fine to teach Creationism as fact and the Bible as science.

 

The Bad:

 

Scripture abandoned in the home leads to a generation no different from the world.

Poster from the Creation Museum warning of the dangers of not indoctrinating your children.

For me, one of the worst effects of growing up with creationism was the loss of wonder.  I lost interest in the life sciences because there was nothing new to be discovered. Jesus had to come back in the next few thousand years, before the Earth could go through any drastic changes that would prevent human life and cause us to seek refuge on the nearest habitable planet. My textbooks mocked scientists who searched for other forms of life in the cosmos. How dare they waste their money searching for something that God had decreed couldn’t exist?

 

The Ugly:

 

By far the worst thing about growing up with Creationism is the fear. I became afraid of insulting a vindictive God by imagining that there were life beyond His perfect Earth, or that life had originated in any other way than the 7 day process described in a 4,000 year old book. To deny creation would be to deny God’s perfection. How could evolution have happened if God had created a world without death? The main reason for clinging to Creationism is to prove that we humans caused death. Our collective sin, of which we are all guilty, caused all of the pain and suffering in the world.

 

Things have evolved slightly since the day of Copernicus and Galileo. Baptists and Presbyterians won’t pull out your fingernails or use a thumb screw on you if you believe that the Earth wasn’t created in seven days.  Many do, however, have the power to excommunicate or “discipline” members if they don’t believe that: “The Bible is the revelation of God’s truth and is infallible and authoritative in all matters of life and practice.*”

 

The Good (again)

 

I don’t want to end this post on a negative note, so I’ll revisit the positive. The good is the fact that I don’t believe Creationism anymore. When I stopped believing it was less like the disillusionment of realizing that Santa isn’t real and more like being let out of a dark closet for the first time. Clearly, some worldviews are better for my sanity than others, and I’m glad that the one that is backed by science isn’t the one where a bunch of old men decide who is and who isn’t allowed to speak in church.

 

Giving up creationism means that my sense of wonder has been restored with a vengeance. All of the things that I wasn’t supposed to wonder as a 10 year old I now wonder about in full force. Is there life in the stars? Is the universe infinite? Are there infinite versions of myself? If I can imagine God, does that make God possible? And if she is possible, in an infinite universe must she exist?

 

I don’t know the answers. I don’t expect to ever know the answers. But I can search and imagine and wonder, and this is beautiful.

 

*http://www.rpcwc.org/beliefs.aspx

One thought on “Growing Up with Ken Ham – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”

  1. Hola Monica! Guess who. As one of the parents, now I get to weigh in with my comments here. As I have always said, don’t dish it out unless you can take it. I hope you retain your sense of wonder, or at least a sense of humor as you read this. 
    I was really puzzled by the title since I thought at first the whole post was from Ken Ham’s daughter! No joke. Silly Me. Then when I realized it was written by you, I was more confused since I didn’t recall that Ken Ham ever lived in our house. But really, you could have more accurately called the post “Growing up with Brian Jacques” or “Growing up with Dorothy Sayers” or “Growing up with Rafi” or “Growing up with Atawalpa Yupanqui” or “Growing up with Roussas Rushdoony” or “Growing up with Bob Dylan” or “Growing up with Augustine” or “Growing up with Richard Scarry” or “Growing up with Tolstoy” or…and on. The amount of ink on paper or words on cd’s of any one of those would be waaayyyy more than what you would find of Ken Ham’s. His ideas and writings were a very minimal part of our curriculum, and not only that, but they were balanced by views of others that we put forth with very different theses. Not only THAT, we even let you go to a high school and university where evolutionary biology was taught, either as theory or as fact. Just sayin… so you know we weren’t afraid of the Bogeyman. So seems to me, Ken Ham had a teensy, weensy itsy, bitsy (polka dot) spot on the shelf of our home, and your life.
    Any way… to the blog. As for being your science teachers for the first 12 years of your life-not…exactly… Our good friend, E. Mc., was that from about ages 9-12. Talk about wonder and creativity. You would be hard-pressed to name any teacher, science or other, that you had in school who could elicit more wonder about the world and a drive to study it. Go ahead, I dare ya.
    When you mention “growing up with creationism”, if by that you mean believing in a literal 6 day creation and young earth, well au contraire, cuz that is not what we taught as fact or subscribed to or ever made you subscribe to. Period.
    (Maybe I am all mixed up- is this blog really just a piece for your next collection of short fiction? If that’s the case, then, never mind.)
    But if not, it is really quite a stretch to pin the blame on your parents for losing your sense of wonder. Big accusation you know. But it won’t hold up in court. I have eyewitness testimony. I don’t believe you ever lost your sense of wonder- rather more likely it got lost in a world of adolescent and young adult identity crises that suppressed your childhood inquisitiveness for a time, making you too preoccupied with self to see anything outside of that. (Gee, what an original story line that is.)
    I will for the record here, rebut and assert that in our family we did (and still do) discuss all manner of natural sciences, wildlife, biology, chemistry, ornithology, philosophy, theology, linguistics, history economics, art, literature, pop culture, music, dance (and sports even) woodworking, and the value of chia seeds in our home, usually at dinnertime,(dinnertime??) which is more than probably 90% of families in America do. That makes room for a whole lotta wonderin’. And we introduced you to many gifted and brilliant people who also emulated this like-minded thirst for knowledge and wonder. Do you remember the books? Like ALL over the house on shelves everywhere and in boxes? Who encouraged you to study languages and cultures and take the opportunity to travel- to Chile, to Mexico, to Argentina, to France? You owe a good deal of what you know about the natural sciences to your parents’ own knowledge and interests. As your Dad is always fond of quoting Aristotle – “Philosophy begins in wonder.”
    YOU, dear daughter, with all of your amazing talents and inquisitiveness, are living on the capital of the faith that you grew up amidst; the faith that spawns a sense of the creative and curious. You even thanked me for homeschooling you a few months ago, did you not?
    Regarding the fear you had of insulting a vindictive god being a result of your growing up with creationism-that sure caused some head-scratching since our faith does not include a vindictive God, so I don’t have a clue what that is all about. You have read the Bible and know what kind of God it reveals. It is not your sense of wonder that has been restored with a vengeance so much as your sense of vengeance that has been restored with a vengeance that I am reading here.
    I do need to call you out on your fact-finding (i.e. the footnote part)now so let’s set the record straight. You say this: “Many do, however, have the power to “excommunicate” or “discipline” members if they don’t believe that: ‘The Bible is the revelation of God’s truth and is infallible and authoritative in all matters of life and practice.*'” Then your footnote leads us to the webpage of a particular PCA church. the fact is that the PCA church cannot and does not excommunicate or discipline any member for not believing in 6 day creation, or even creation at all. To use a link to a doctrinal statement from a denomination that very clearly and intentionally does NOT require its members to believe what you claim they do is nothing short of false advertising.(hint: that’s a euphemism.)
    Well there you have it. A mother’s 2 cents. FWIW. Keep on wondering. I hope you always stay in that magical “Why” stage.
    I Love you,
    and I’m still,
    Your Mom

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