The Ken Ham Inside Me

Ken Ham and Answers In Genesis stepped in some controversy on Monday. They launched their new “Thank God You’re Wrong” billboard campaign targeted toward atheists. It raised a firestorm of criticism from — who would have thought? — other Christians.

I understand where Ken Ham is coming from, unfortunately.

I understand where Ken Ham is coming from.

One was my daughter, Cynthia, who took some of her Facebook friends to task when they were sharing pictures of this billboard in Times Square in New York. She followed up with a blog post criticizing AiG, got Ken Ham’s personal response (more on that below), and caught the attention of the Huffington Post. Why the ‘Atheists: You’re Wrong’ Billboard isn’t a Christian Message was posted in their Religion section yesterday.

A part of me is beaming proud of Cynthia. National exposure is a milestone, and she deserves it. She blogs every day, leads a writers group, is a reporter for her college newspaper, and talks quite a bit with her author-dad who loves her and wants her to fly in her writing life. Cynthia is awesome!

Another part of me is getting swept up in the controversy itself, and I am shaken. In fact, I’m hesitant to press the “publish” button. My convictions are overwhelming me this morning. But I have to say what I have to say.

I confess: I used to think very much like Ken Ham.

I’ve been on a journey for many years that has brought more freedom and love than I could have ever dreamed. This controversy is stirring old painful truths that I don’t enjoy recalling, but I suspect they are healthy reminders. Perhaps your journey is similar. I encourage you to come with me as I explain — especially if you’re sympathetic toward messages like AiG’s “Thank God You’re Wrong” billboards.

How I Used to Think

What Christians think — or anyone, for that matter — used to occupy a tremendous amount of my intellectual real estate. I would talk about the lost world often, even in my most sincere prayers, in the hopes to do my part in cleaning up the world’s filth. Honestly, I sat in Ken Ham-filled auditoriums and echoed the A-MENs along with everyone else.

I shared a deep judgment toward my fellow human beings that kept me from personal relationships that could have been edifying and good. My judgment of right from wrong was personal. I logically dissected and analyzed truth and tagged others with being either right (which was where I was) or wrong (where the lost world resided). My logos was all I needed to get by — never mind pathos or even ethos. I was a victor of persuasive technique; others just needed to listen to the truth.

The result? I alienated a lot of people. I distanced myself from extended family and old friends. I didn’t handle conflict well, I had a hot temper, and I spoke very little of love.

A peculiar observation: in all my judgment toward “worldly sinners,” I knew very few of them. I sincerely thought of myself as a champion for truth, even talked grandly of how to lead people to Christ. Life was very simple and its secrets easy to understand, the pagans just refused to accept it. But I counted the years since I had any influence on anyone other than like-minded people around me.

Ken Ham leads his billboard with “to all our atheist friends…”, yet I wonder if he knows any.

Cynthia does. One is a co-worker at The Scribe, the student paper she writes for. She invited him to our Birthday Bash last week. He’s a bit older than Cynthia, and though the party was demanding on my attention, he and I got into some small conversations. He seems like a decent guy, and perhaps we’ll get another chance to get to know each other. I’m glad he’s Cynthia’s friend.

The thought of converting him to the truth didn’t cross my mind. It would have overcome me 10 years ago.

I don’t care when people get the peripheral wrong. I care about their life, their well-being, their background story of how God has shaped them to be who they are — whether or not they recognize God’s hand in it. Who cares if they don’t agree with my views on the evolution/creation debate? Is that really the love of Christ? Get Genesis 1:1 correct — really?

Judgment Revisited

As I mentioned, Ken Ham himself jumped into the fray, rebutting my daughter’s challenge. Here’s a copy of his post:

Ken Ham Post

I’m tempted to lay in here. My old self-righteousness can steam up the back of my neck at times. He’s rebutting my daughter here, too, so I’m ready to let loose — and able, don’t you know, locked and loaded with debate-coach ammo that can dice his fallacies into the tastiest morsel.

But I pause. Dear friend, please understand: this billboard shakes an inner pharisee of whom I have spent years fighting. I’m like an alcoholic who can very easily fall off the wagon. I can wrap myself up in this argument and be totally effective, hurting and wounding and perhaps killing others in the process, and it would rot me with spite and anger and judgment. I don’t want to go there.

You see, I totally get Ken Ham. His response may sound like irrational gibberish to you (the atheists are having a hay day with this), but it actually makes sense to me. I used to think this way. It was cold, unkind, and narrow. My life’s journey wasn’t to love, it was to make sure I was right. Loving others? That first required admitting they were wrong, what I saw as the first confession to their salvation. Billboards blasted with “Thank God You’re Wrong” in bold, black, dark font would be affirmed by my former self. Ken Ham and I would have been on the same righteous page, and all those atheists wrong.

And any Christian — perhaps even my daughter — who would have raised her hand to remind me of the “most excellent way,” would have been thought weak, surrendering, turning the cheek too much. I would have given a very similar response: “Tsk, tsk. The nonsense some Christians come out with.”

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • cynthiajeub

    Wow, I loved this post. I really loved it, and I’m glad you posted it.
    This is one of the most honest, gripping pieces I’ve seen from you in a
    long time, and I’m encouraged by it.

    • Thanks Cynthia. I think you’re awesome.

  • Melanie Blackmon

    This was excellent! So glad you posted this.

  • Carly Debevec

    Thank you, Chris! Excellent articles- from both of you!! Blessings!

  • Penny

    A journey many of us from our generation are on. And, we’re being shepherded in large part by our adult children. Thanks for posting.

  • dcpdx

    As a dad, I completely appreciate what you’ve written. Your daughter did good work. 😉

  • Lisa Hassler

    Dear Chris,
    With all due respect, I see your old self-righteousness alive and well right now as you characterize his response as “cold, unkind and narrow” . Certainly you are entitled to your opinion, but, please do not say you are not being self-righteous. Instead you are coming across as snide and certainly unloving when you snarkily ask if Ken Ham knows any atheists (implying that as far as you know he does not). I disagree with your assertion that Genesis 1:1 is not related to the gospel and really doesn’t matter. Logically it does. That said, I’m not going to get into it with you. Neither of us has the time nor energy to devote to such a discussion. Just please don’t talk self-righteously about how you’ve left judgment and self-righteousness behind. They are both alive and well in this article. I wish I had a shrugging emoticon. This was a sad blog post to read. 🙁 ~Lisa

    • My transparency on this topic is not for show, and definitely not an attempt to make me look good or righteous. It’s the truth of my journey that appears to have helped others. You may take it or leave it.

  • Ben Wamberg

    This is awesome :]
    Solid heart-place, good insight.
    Radical wisdom, sir.

    Thanks for sticking up in love for your daughter!

  • Lance G. Thomas

    You remind me of Billy Ray Cyrus, who doesn’t seem to mind that his daughter struts about like a harlot–afterall, look at how successful she is! And I hope my comment gets your blood boiling. Feel free to respond to me on Facebook or my e-mail: seattleconserv@comcast.net
    https://www.facebook.com/lance.thomas.142

    • Comments like yours embolden me. I’m leaving it up to show the people in your company the vitriol in their midst.

      • Lance G. Thomas

        That’s interesting. Tell me, whose side are you on? And please don’t bore me by saying that I’m guilty of some fallacy.

    • Rasha Trumbo

      His daughter is writing – there’s nothing harlot-like about that. What is your problem?

  • Chris, this post moved me to tears. Thank you for writing it.

  • Phil McCoy

    Wow. This hits very close to home. My home. I have spent years walking through the valley of judgmental death and am working to get out of it. Today, I believe the gospel can be distilled into these words: Love God, clean house, help somebody else. If a child can’t understand the gospel, then it isn’t the gospel.

    • Thanks for sharing Phil. God is love, don’t forget it!

      • Phil McCoy

        Right on. I know that, but I regularly forget to act like it. So my distillation of the gospel focus’s on my part of the relationship. Remembering that what I want is intimacy with God, submitting my life and will to His. God’s love is love expressed in action to me, personally. And I want to return it as best I can with what I’ve been given. Action. Thanks again for the post and for touching base. Cheers.

  • Brian Wilkey

    A very interesting point that is similar to my journey with God. And, this is really just a small thing, those who don’t believe in God don’t appreciate the be called “The Atheists” just as I’m sure you’d rather not be called “the Christians” as it leaves no room for distinction. Perhaps you mean, “some atheists” are having a hay day. Please don’t take my nitpicking as anything but constructive, though. I understand and support your position.

  • Kevin Subra

    [I wrote this to you in a private e-mail. Not sure if you rec’d it.]

    Chris,

    Before I saw the focus of the article about Ham, the thought flashed in me about the entrepreneurial emphasis of you both (To be fair, after I thought about the potential desire to “defend the faith” idea). I am for AiG, in principle. I do think that if people get Genesis wrong, there
    is no foundation for a right view of gender, family, marriage, etc. It is not the Gospel (believing in a literal creation won’t save anyone), but it is core to God’s design for humanity. We see the progressive results of the rejection of these truths in our US society, most certainly, and much of that is because the Church has weakened its stance on Genesis, or rejected it altogether. It is fine to have conversations about creation and origins, I don’t think it works to argue such things with the unconverted. They ultimately need a new heart before the rest will make much sense.

    I did visit the Creation Museum April of this year for the first time, and was disappointed overall. I would encourage anyone to visit. However, it was good, but not great (for the amount of money spent for it, too). What captured me was the expense to attend, and the cost of being there, the marketing, etc. I felt it would only make sense to those with a creationist background. It is a business, not just a ministry. I wrestle with ministries/people who’s primary benefit to the world has to be offered at a profit under the guise (and I give such the benefit of the doubt they are doing it with good intentions) of helping the world know the truth. I’m for people making money at what they do, but when that becomes a primary emphasis, it vexes me. …

    I’m not sure that your daughter did the right thing either, in my view (I hadn’t read anything of hers before now). She had the same ultimate effect on others, in some ways, as she claims the billboard did to some. Christians (and I am one) eat their own, and she did just that. She created further division by pointing out faults publicly without interacting with AiG privately, and without offering a better solution. (It’s easy to correct others by pointing out their faults). I won’t post
    this as a comment on her blog. The trolls are having a hey-day already, and I don’t want to further the dissent.

    I see NO value in the AiG billboard. I do not defend that whatsoever. It is nothing but an aggravation and an advertisement, not an appeal or an argument. I don’t think it has helped to whet anyone’s appetite for the truth. I don’t think Christians harping on it as a reaction do anything but add to the same spirit they rightly point out that it generates. I don’t think that people blogging, in general, have the best angle on things. Most should just keep silent (James 3:1).

    I don’t have much time to read what you write, but I scan as I can. I am a “wage slave” working F/T as a military contractor, and a bi-vocational pastor. My wife and I are blessed with only 15 kids. 6 are married; 9 are still at home. We just welcomed our 12th grandchildren yesterday. Life is busy. God is good. We continue to grow and are amazed at how our own approaches to the truth and to life have changed over time.

    Blessings on you, your family, and your eternal impact for the Lord.

  • Mary Ann

    Wow, Chris. I’m pleasantly surprised by your post. Thank you for sharing. As far as the billboard, it is so very childish and alienating towards others. I don’t find your post self-righteous at all. It is the billboard message which screams self-righteousness. Blessings in God’s grace!

  • BulldogPT

    I thot the billboard was okay as it was just a “shot across the bow” of atheist thinkers. Maybe it will open lines of communication and discussion. Guess you possibly think it will alienate others or stifle discussions. Again, in a marketing venue, it was cute and funny not off-putting. But that’s just my opinion.

    George @ http://www.bulldogpt.com

  • Dan

    Thanks Chris. I have had a similar outlook on AiG and Ken and now thinking the same as you after following this billboard ad spat for the last few months. Appreciated your honesty here. Dan

  • Rick

    It seems that you may have become intolerant in a new way. I have found that once the pendulum has swung both ways I can love unconditionally and still care enough to speak the truth.