A tear came to my eye as I listened to Ken Ham [of AiG–US] share the story of his father’s passing. My own father had died only a few weeks earlier, and I was listening to Ken’s “Genesis and the Authority of Scripture” series my mother had found on my father’s nightstand.
As Ken paid tribute to the way his father had taught him to love the Word of God, he said, “I think my father influenced me.” He said this tongue in cheek; it was obviously a big understatement. At that point I stopped the tape. Sorrow and joy filled my heart as I recalled the precious words my dad had written on the front of his Bible (it had no cover because it was old and well worn): “The only means of being cleansed from sin is through repentance and faith in the precious blood of Christ.”
My dad had been my partner as we formed a local creation society in Tulsa, Oklahoma USA. We held our first creation meeting following a seminar by Ken Ham at Tulsa Bible Church in January of 2001. Over the next four years, our Southern Plains Creation Society would help bring Duane Gish and Steve Austin [of ICR], Tom Sharp, Jobe Martin and Ken Ham to speak in churches, Christian schools and even public schools in the Tulsa area.
One special project spearheaded by my dad was our effort to provide the intelligent design video, Unlocking the Mystery of Life, to teachers in our private and public schools. Surveys in our state reveal that the overwhelming majority of Oklahomans are creationists, yet we were still troubled that the theory of evolution still dominated our schools, zoos and museums even in this “Bible-belt” city of Tulsa.
A decade ago, on a visit to the Tulsa Zoo with my son Tanner, I became frustrated at the bias with which evolution theory was being presented as fact. Over the course of several months, 2,500 Tulsa area residents signed a petition requesting that the zoo place a qualifier at the entrance of their origins exhibit that would identify evolution as theory. The zoo refused, but after a local television station broadcast our story on the nightly news, the Park Board removed a sign at the “Chimpanzee Connection” that once read, “The chimpanzee is our closest living relative, branching off from a common ancestor four million years ago.”
Ten years have now passed and the zoo seems to have opened Pandora’s box by incorporating more evolution and other religious material into their exhibits. For example, a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha, a globe engraved with the pantheistic message, “The earth is our mother, the sky is our father” and the theology of the Maasai deity Enkai are among the many religious symbols which now greet visitors to the Tulsa Zoo [see Oklahoma OK].
Following another Answers in Genesis seminar at Tulsa Bible Church (April 2005), a group of several hundred petitioners came together to request that the Park Board allow a display depicting the Genesis account of creation to be included in the origins exhibit at the Tulsa Zoo. It was argued that if religious materials were allowed in other exhibits throughout the zoo, to disallow the Genesis display would be tantamount to viewpoint discrimination. To present only one side of an issue is indoctrination. Presenting all sides is education, which is, after all, the mission of the zoo.
Over the objections of the zoo staff and members of the interfaith community, Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune embraced the proposal and won a 3-1 vote in favor of including the display.
I truly believe my father would have been pleased that his influence on my life resulted in the national spotlight being turned toward Tulsa to address the question: If you are going to open a discussion about origins, why is only the naturalistic view (i.e., evolution, naturalistic religions) allowed, while the biblical creationist view held by the majority is forbidden?
In the end, however, the Park Board bowed to pressure from a noisy minority and reversed their vote. The board’s action singled out the Genesis display for censorship, and in doing so stepped on the constitutional liberties of Tulsa taxpayers.
The battle is far from over, but one clear message has been broadcast in Tulsa and throughout the nation: “There must be something very special about the Genesis account of creation for opponents to fight so hard to suppress these words.”
To see the Genesis display and to learn how you can take action in your own community, go to our Southern Plains Creation Society website: www.jesuscreated.org.