BeliefWatch: Bible-Based Edutainment

This summer, tourists who want attractions with a Christian flavor have at least two new options to choose from. The first, opening to the public June 5, is the Billy Graham Library, situated on 63 acres in Charlotte, N.C. For historians, the draw is the archives: the personal papers, drafts of sermons and correspondence of the man who for 60 years has been the most prominent and popular evangelist in the world. For children and families, it may be the cold milk and cookies in the café, or the replica of the dairy farm that was Graham's childhood home and the animatronic (i.e., "talking") cow, which invites them on a scavenger hunt.

Far more controversial is the Creation Museum, the brainchild of an Australian evangelist named Ken Ham. Opening this week in northern Kentucky not far from the Cincinnati airport, the museum is devoted to the idea that the creation story in Genesis is literally true and that the Earth is just 6,000 years old. (Scientists put the age of the Earth at 4.5 billion years.) With the look of a natural-history museum and the feel of a theme park, the Creation Museum has robotic dinosaurs in its lobby and a special-effects theater in which the audience viewing, say, Noah's flood gets wet. It's Bible-based "edutainment," but it's posing as science, with an astronomer on staff and fossils in the display cases—and that is making the scientific community angry enough to stage vociferous protests, including flying a plane overhead pulling a banner that reads THOU SHALT NOT LIE. "They have a right to build a museum," says Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western who is among the protesters. "What they don't have a right to do is be openly fraudulent about science."

For Christians interested in the creation story, a far safer bet is the 30-year-old Sight & Sound Theater, based in Lancaster, Pa. Now playing, through October: "In the Beginning," a dramatic re-enactment of Genesis, with special effects, pyrotechnics, live animals—dogs, cats, horses, alpacas and a flock of real birds—and actors playing Adam and Eve. Does Sight & Sound have any take on the evolution debate? "We're not preachy," says spokeswoman Pamela Evans. "We're professional theater. We don't get into that." Eight hundred thousand visitors journey to Lancaster each year to watch the miracles onstage at Sight & Sound—just another reminder that a story doesn't have to be demonstrably true to be a good, and inspiring, story.