A sociologist visits the Creation “Museum”

Bernadette Barton provides an interesting perspective on Ken Ham’s wretched little palace of ignorance. The Creation “Museum” is not a happy place.

Particularly nerve-wracking were signs warning that guests could be asked to leave the premises at any time. The group’s reservation confirmation also noted that museum staff reserved the right to kick the group off the property if they were not honest about the “purpose of [the] visit.”

Because of these messages, Barton said, the students felt they might accidentally reveal themselves as nonbelievers and be asked to leave. This pressure is a form of “compulsory Christianity” that is common in a region known for its fundamentalism, Barton said. People who don’t ascribe to fundamentalism often report the need to hide their thoughts for fear of being judged or snubbed.

At one point, Barton reported in her paper, a guard with a dog circled a student pointedly twice without saying anything. When he left, a museum patron approached the student and said, “The reason he did that is because of the way you’re dressed. We know you’re not religious; you just don’t fit in.” (The student was wearing leggings and a long shirt, Barton writes.)

The pressures were particularly tough for gay members of the group, thanks to exhibits discussing the sinfulness of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. A lesbian couple became paranoid about being near or touching one another, afraid they would be “found out,” Barton writes. This “self-policing” is a common occurrence in same-sex relationships in the Bible Belt, Barton said.

I felt it when I was there. I didn’t fit in, either, and having guards with dogs wandering about isn’t exactly welcoming. I suppose if you were a fundamentalist Christian with a finely honed persecution complex, you might appreciate visiting an armed camp where conformity is enforced, but it really wasn’t my favorite atmosphere.

The article does get the creationist’s side of the story.

The signs and warnings, he said, are because people will occasionally come to the museum to hand out anti-Creationist materials, disturbing other visitors.

“We know that the nature of the subject is controversial,” Lisle said in a telephone interview. “It’s just one of the things that we have to deal with in a fallen world.”

Lisle defended the anti-gay messages in the museum as part of the museum’s goal to stay true to Biblical teachings.

Funny, isn’t it…creationists come to real museums all the time, hand out their literature, even lead tour groups through and babble stupidly against the message of the exhibits, and no one patrols the place with police dogs to suppress the free expression of dissent. I wonder why?