Of Gospel Lizards and Creationists

The Morning News (Arkansas) reports on a new creation science museum (links added):

EUREKA SPRINGS — Visitors quickly forgot the sharp smell of fresh paint as they turned a corner in the new Museum of Earth History and got their first glimpse of dinosaurs.

…G. Thomas Sharp, president and founder of the Creation Truth Foundation, welcomed a large crowd seated under and standing around a large awning on the sunny, cool morning. The joint venture between his Oklahoma-based foundation and the Elna M. Smith Foundation — which operates the [Great] Passion Play — moved from concept to application in about six months with the help of donors, friends and “prayer warriors,” he said.

The museum is the first of its kind in the United States, Sharp said, telling the biblical story with the inclusion of dinosaurs represented by skeletal replicas — highly detailed casts of the original fossils.

This is part of a trend: Answers in Genesis plans to open The Creation Museum in Cincinnati (featuring a dinosaur reportedly wearing a saddle) in 2007, and Kent Hovind has already cobbled together a Creationist theme park (called Dinosaur Adventure Land) in his back yard. Back to the Morning News:

…Scientists have dumbed down biblical reality, [Sharp] said, arguing that Genesis isn’t an accurate, historical account. Now, people can leave the museum and walk over to the Passion Play to experience the passion of Christ in a new way, Sharp said.

“Scientists have dumbed down biblical reality”? Is this serious? But one has to laugh at this:

Sharp described the replicas [on display] as the greatest collection of dinosaur fossils, skulls and skeletons that exists in Arkansas, referring to them as “God’s gospel lizards.”

I’ve kept an eye on various high-profile Creationists before, but G. Thomas Sharp is a new one to me. According to his bio, he was inspired to find the reasons for church membership decline:

Dedicating most of the 1980’s to this search, he became convinced that evolutionism, with its implications influencing the family, the church and the culture, was the bottom line for this unspeakable waste of our youth.

In the process, Dr. Sharp successfully completed a M.S. from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph. D. from the South Florida Bible College and Seminary, with emphasis in the philosophy of religion and science (he already had earned a B.S. from Purdue University in 1964).

But what’s more interesting is the Elna M. Smith Foundation and its “Great Passion Play“, although this angle is totally ignored by the Morning News hack (maybe it’s common knowledge in their part of the world):

A non-denominational ministry founded in 1967, the Great Passion Play is dedicated to providing opportunities for people to deepen their knowledge of the heritage, teachings and inspirations of Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.

Founded in 1965 by Gerald L. K. and Elna M. Smith, the Elna M. Smith Foundation commissioned the development of the Christ of the Ozark statue, the first of the projects to be constructed.

Whoa! That would be another kind of “gospel lizard”: Gerald L.K. Smith was the founder of the Christian Nationalist Crusade and until his death was the USA’s most notorious anti-Semite. Here’s a site about Passion Plays that discusses Smith and the “Great Passion Play” (its information is a bit old: the Charles Robertson mentioned below has since died):

The Great Passion Play, founded in 1968 by the late Gerald L.K. Smith, is the one major American Passion Play which is deliberately and maliciously anti- Semitic. The production is managed by the Elna Smith [Foundation and is] staged five times per week from May through October. Performances are held in an enormous amphitheatre on an (Ozark) mountain near Eureka Springs.

Gerald L.K. Smith, the founder of the Great Passion Play, was a pillar of the extreme religious right for decades…when asked in 1955 by a Congressional committee for his views on immigration, he cited Albert Einstein as the sort of foreigner federal laws should bar.

Charles Robertson, who succeeded Smith after the latter’s death in 1976, is the current coordinator of the Smith Foundation…”One of the biggest lies of our times,” he claimed, “is that six million Jews were slaughtered.” Later, in the same conversation, he remarked: “Let’s face it. The Negroes are fresh from the jungle, and they have brought with them many of the same characteristics.”

Naturally, the play reflected Smith’s and Robertson’s bigotry:

(a) The narration and the action stress the perfidy, evil, hypocrisy and cunning of the Sanhedrin…

(b) Herod and Pilate come off as innocents and dumps, unwilling accomplices in satisfying the blood lust of the Jews. Again and again Pilate, a good clean American boy, points out to the Jews that Jesus is innocent of any crime…

(c) The theme of the culpability and damnation of “the whole Jewish people” permeated the play but it is made loudly and stereophonically clear in Pilate’s execution order the anti-Christ’s are always the “Jews.”

Apparently Smith organised a number of projects in the neighbourhood: as well as the play, there is a giant statue (the “Christ of the Ozarks”) and a Holy Land theme park (needed because the original Holy Land is in the hands of “the enemies of Christ”). This fascinating article has all the details, but to be fair it also notes that:

Shortly after the death of Charles F. Robertson, the Sacred Projects team undertook to revamp the Great Passion Play. The script has been revised, a new sound track recorded, and it’s been restaged and there’s a new technical design. So there’s no way I can see the old production to judge for myself whether or not it was anti semitic.

So eventually Smith’s successors realised that backing anti-Semitism was a complete loser and that they’d better change their ways. Obviously, promoting pseudo-science is a far better way to make a buck in the modern USA. Progress?

(Tipped from Cult News Network)