In a previous article, we noted that Chris Hedges, author of the provocatively titled American Fascists: the Christian Right and the War on America, has predicted that at the next 9/11-like crisis, evangelical Christians are ready to take over the United States: “Those arrayed against American democracy [i.e., evangelical Christians] are waiting for a moment to strike, a national crisis that will allow them to shred the Constitution in the name of national security and strength” (pp. 201–202). Already, claims Hedges, “this minority … is taking over the machinery of U.S. state and religious institutions” (p. 19).
Hedges also declares that the growing creationist movement is a major ally in the religious right’s fascistic effort to take over the reins of American government. He especially highlights AiG’s soon-to-open Creation Museum, which he describes as a place that “presages a society where truth is banished” (p. 128).
While it would be tempting to dismiss this book as the ranting of an anti-Christian, it should be pointed out that Hedges: 1) is a former Harvard Divinity School student (who grew up in a Presbyterian home and today describes himself as a Christian); 2) was a foreign correspondent with the New York Times (and was on an investigative team with the Times that won a Pulitzer prize in 2002); 3) has a publisher with tremendous marketing clout, Simon and Schuster, and thus has received a lot of notice in major newspapers in recent weeks. His book merits particular attention from AiG because chapter 6 devotes huge chunks to us (and our future museum).
Hedges views AiG as a group that proclaims a “subversive message … that it’s OK to believe what we want, to believe lies” (p. 115). More dangerously, he asserts, is that the goal of the creationists “is the destruction of the core values of the open society” (p. 116). How ironic, though (as we noted in our previous article), that America’s so-called open society won’t tolerate any questioning of the evolution belief system in schools and other public places.
Our prior article about “American Fascists” primarily summarized and critiqued chapter 6 (and then touched on other parts of the book). In this article, we will point out the many factual errors and misrepresentations made by the author concerning AiG and the Creation Museum. Some are so egregious that they only help to expose how biased Hedges is towards biblical Christianity. Furthermore, he continually manufactures his own straw-men and turns them into religious bogeymen, parading them out in an alarmist fashion in order to proclaim a (non-existent) threat to American liberty.
Just some of the book’s errors and misrepresentations
One of the book’s biggest misrepresentations is that by devoting an entire chapter to the creation movement, Hedges is insinuating that the movement is a big player in the religious right’s fascist tendencies and desire to take over America. It should be noted that the largest creation groups are nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, and thus don’t engage in political causes or endorse candidates (if they did, they would lose their non-profit IRS designation). AiG, for example, is apolitical and assiduously avoids participating in the political arena. At the same time, AiG will, on occasion, comment on social problems of the day for which the book of Genesis can provide counsel. (Also, some AiG staff—on an individual basis—may be sympathetic towards legislation that supports the biblical worldview.)
As AiG–U.S. President Ken Ham has said time and time again concerning AiG’s mission: “It’s not our job to change the culture—it’s our job to disseminate information, proclaim the gospel, and stand on the authority of God’s Word … and THEN see hearts changed for the Lord. Now, if these changed lives impact the culture, and if God blesses that, then we’re happy to see it. But we’re not going to be an activist ministry in the sense of legislating, litigating, or lobbying key leaders to mandate change in society.” This has apparently been missed (or disbelieved) by Hedges.
Correspondingly, Hedges claims that AiG and its museum are “part of a massive push to teach creationism in schools” (p. 116). Actually, AiG has stated, time and time again, that it will not get involved in efforts to mandate that creation or “intelligent design” be taught in pubic schools.
Hedges issues the false number that 20 states are trying to “include creationism or intelligent design in public schools.” Not true. Now, there may be occasions when a school board member or politician suggests this, but Hedges makes it sound as if there are several major efforts to teach creation or ID in public schools. In reality, an occasional school board will argue that understanding problems with evolutionary theory should be part of the learning experience for students, as they develop their critical-thinking skills. But it’s absolutely false to claim that there are several major efforts to get creationism and ID taught in twenty states. Allowing students to understand that molecules-to-man evolution is a hypothesis, not a fact, does not support these false claims.
Hedges says that “natural selection shattered the comfortable worldview of many Christians,” insinuating that creationists deny that natural selection actually occurs. Natural selection, first described by a creationist, is a core tenet—and ally—of the creationists, much more so than it is for the evolutionists.
According to Hedges, “Creationist publications … blame Darwin for spawning most of the evils of modernity including racism, apartheid, Stalinism, the Holocaust …” [and that] “believers are told that Darwin, and all evolutionists, were behind the genocides unleashed by all modern tyrants from Hitler to Pol Pot.” (pp. 118-119). Maybe an occasional creationist may argue this, but most mainstream creationist groups would agree with AiG—evolution is not the cause of social ills like racism, abortion, random violence, etc. Instead, AiG believes that cultures abandoning God’s Word as absolute authority and embracing evolutionary philosophies will be affected in the ways their individuals think and act (please see “The Evolution Connection”).
We challenge Mr. Hedges to find any example from mainstream creationist literature that directly asserts anything other than that racism and other social ills are fueled by evolutionary beliefs, which deny biblical authority and therefore, ultimately, biblical morality. Many racists, for example, can justify their already-existing beliefs using the “science” of evolution, claiming that some people groups are more highly evolved than others (e.g., which was played out with horrible consequences during the Holocaust). While it’s true that some Christians are also racist, they have no biblical basis for being so, and are being inconsistent (and sinful, we might add) with the teachings of the Bible, which clearly indicates we are all descendants of Adam and Noah, and, therefore, related. On the other hand, evolutionists have no consistent basis for morality, and some individuals have acted egregiously on that amoral foundation, such as Dahmer, Stalin, Hitler, and others.
Hedges highly misrepresented what happened in Dover, Pennsylvania’s public schools. He leaves the impression that biblical creation was being openly taught in its classrooms, but that federal Judge John Jones came to the rescue and “prohibited the teaching of creationism in public schools” (p. 203). Firstly, it was the concept of intelligent design (ID) that was at issue here, not biblical creation, which is different (see “The Intelligent Design Movement”). In addition, Hedges conveniently omits the fact that the ID “teaching” merely consisted of reading the following statement to students:
Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves. As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind.
That’s it. No more than that was required in Dover’s schools. But Hedges would want you to think that biblical creation was a major part of Dover’s science curriculum. More scare tactics.
In addition, the author mistakenly writes that the goal of the Creation Museum is to use science to “prove the biblical account of creation …” (p. 122). No. As we have stated time and time again, AiG uses science to support and validate our contention that the Bible is accurate about the question of origins. One can’t ultimately prove what happened in the unobservable past; thus creationists and evolutionists are in the same boat in this regard. But we can state that God’s revelation in the book of Genesis gives the anthropological, biological, astronomical, and geological history of the universe, thus enabling a Christian to correctly interpret evidence (such as fossils) when attempting to understand the past.
Creationists use operational science (e.g., the science of genetics/natural selection, sedimentation processes, etc.) to confirm (not prove) the interpretation of the evidence as it relates to the past. If the Bible’s account of history is true, it will make sense of the evidence we see today. Operational science should (and overwhelmingly does) support biblical history; it does not confirm the history that is based on molecules-to-man evolution.
Hedges falsely declares that the Creation Museum will explain that “there were very few different kinds of dinosaurs” (p. 122). Now, what he means by “few” is up for question; but by adding the word "very," he seems to be suggesting only a handful of dinosaurs at the most. Our literature claims in many places (so much for Hedges’ depth of research - even a simple search of our website would have done him well, plus a review of our books and DVDs) that there are perhaps 50 kinds of dinosaurs.
Regarding dinosaurs, Hedges describes our museum’s "towering" animatronic T. rexes (p. 113) as hovering over animatronic children in the main hall. But these dinosaurs, while very realistic-looking, are perhaps only 3-feet high.
The author’s use of mocking and emotional terms to describe creationists is more befitting a propaganda piece than a scholarly work. He puts the word “scientists” in quotations when writing about scientists who are creationists (p. 114). In addition, he claims that creationists believe it’s OK to “believe lies” (p. 115), and quotes a historian to insinuate that creationists are “liars” (p. 113). All this exposes his deep-seated antagonism toward creationists.
A few of us at AiG have chuckled at Hedges’ claim that the Creation Museum is an illustration of the creationists’ “sophisticated fund-raising” efforts. Well, thank you, but it was only recently that we hired our first full-time professional development officer. Hedges will just have to look elsewhere for such “sophistication.” At the same time, we must acknowledge that we are blessed to see so many people catch the vision of AiG’s Creation Museum—donors have contributed over 90% of the $27 million in construction/exhibit costs.
Because the book can’t rely on statistics to buttress claims of the religious right ready to take over America at the next major crisis, Hedges relies on anecdote-telling to make his case. Lacking hard data, Hedges, in a relatively short book (207 pages, in a smaller-format book) tells many stories about ministries and evangelical leaders—and along the way quotes disgruntled former employees in a attempt to portray these evangelical leaders as fascistic. A disgruntled former staff member is not the most objective witness, we should note.
Another error in Hedges’ book includes stating that AiG’s museum property is on 52 acres (p. 128), when it’s 49–50 acres. Also, our “Culture in crisis” room is not one of the museum’s “final displays” (p. 124), but one of the first. In another chapter, Hedges refers to the Christian Law Association as the Christian Law Center (p. 124). Although these are relatively minor errors, we mention them to further show how careless Hedges can be in his reporting. If he’s not faithful in little, it’s hard to trust him to be faithful in bigger things, especially when he presents his baseless over-generalizations about Christianity in America. (It also makes one wonder how careful and accurate his overseas reporting might have been as a Times’ correspondent.)
To restate the question we posed in the prior article: who might be better candidates as the real fascists of the 21st century? It’s those who, in the name of supposed tolerance, will refuse to tolerate those who are perceived as intolerant (i.e., Christians who hold to absolute standards). And when Christians are caricatured and misrepresented by people like Hedges, it should give caution to Bible-believing Christians: there may be a growing movement to restrict the religious liberties of evangelicals. That is the movement to fear.