Friday, August 7, 2009

How to turn "Greeks" into "Jews"?!?

One of the crazier pictures to come off the #CreoZerg Twitter feed (the hash tag for the PZ-led SSA visit to the Creation Museum) is the one to the right which pictures a Ken Ham book entitled Effective Evangelism: How to turn "Greeks" into "Jews" (credit to @hemantmehta). Needless to say, people are baffled.

Luckily, there is a PDF of the entire book available online. The somewhat awkward premise is that when Paul was preaching to the Jews, he had an easier time than when he was preaching to the Greeks, because (according to Ham) the Greeks were evolutionists while the Jews were Creationists.

I think it's quite a stretch to say that "the Greeks were evolutionists", though certainly their creation myths were quite dissimilar to the Jews and the Christians, while of course those groups shared the same Judeo-Christian Creation myth (go figure, eh?). This seems like a subtle difference, but it's actually an important point, as we will see below.

Ham wants to extend this premise to assert that undermining evolution is the first step in making people receptive to Christian evangelism. But wait! As I pointed out above, the difference he really pointed out between the Greeks and the Jews is that the Jews share a shitload of scripture with the Christians, while the Greeks didn't. In fact, last time I checked, the Creation story comprises less than 0.14% of the words in the Old Testament (sources: Genesis chapter 1, Bible word count) So why does Ham zero in on the Creation story as the only important similarity between Judaism and Christianity?

Oh wait, I remember... because he's got a fucking museum that makes money off of bashing evolution. That's right.

Also, I have to say, I find this picture kind of offensive:

Blech. I know, I know, they are just trying to be smug, but given the history of anti-Semitism, particularly Christianity-motivated anti-Semitism, this is a type of smugness that makes me kinda queasy.


  1. I think it's partially the all-caps "JEWS" hovering over the picture that makes it seem so offensive to me. all it's missing is an exclamation point.

    what a charlatan.

  2. @Naoki: I think you are right. I know I had a visceral negative reaction to the pic the moment I saw it. It's probably because, when you see JEWS in giant bold-faced sans serif like that, what comes next is almost invariably ugly...

  3. When we went, my colleague (who is Jewish) felt compelled to buy this. She did dramatic readings the whole trip home. I nearly wrecked the car.

  4. The reason he zooms in on the creation story is because without creation and the expulsion from the Garden, everything else is pointless. The creation account isn't the only similarity between Judaism and Chrisitianity, merely the most critical, in that it provides a common foundation. So, more exactly, it's not that the Greeks accepted evolution, it's that they questioned things which Must Not Be Questioned.

    Or at least, that's what I remember hearing in his "Answering Darwin" conference presentation.

  5. Thanks for the elaboration abb3w. It makes a little more sense now (well, makes more sense within the nonsensical framework that it occupies, at least), but I still think the focus on evolution is unjustified even by Ham's tortured premise. Certainly the interpretation of the Fall is a rather critical part of Christianity, and while in my understanding Jews don't view it in nearly the same way (I've never heard anyone from my wife's side of the family say the words "Original Sin") I can see why there would be evangelical advantages to preaching to someone who already believe in the Garden of Eden story.

    But what does that have to do with evolution vs. creationism? I suppose a mature understanding of evolution makes the whole first man-first woman thing harder to swallow. But it seems clear to me that the bizarre trappings Ham bestows on the Creation myth at his "museum" make the Genesis story MUCH harder to swallow.

    If we pretend for a moment that theology is something worth discussing, what Ham seems to be doing is making a case for the theological import of Genesis 3, and then arguing that the best way to get people to accep this is to convince them of an unflinchingly literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Even from a theistic point of view, I ain't buyin' it.

    It seems to me that the best strategy for getting people to accept the theologically significant portions of Genesis is to discourage people from thinking too hard about which parts are literal and which parts are figurative. For instance, all it takes to make the Creation myth compatible with your average layman's understanding of science is to say, "Well, maybe by 'day' they meant 'era' or something." The fact that the order of events has no correlation with scientific fact is not going to be noticed by your average high school graduate... Better to be vague than to be specifically ludicrous. :)

    The Greeks/Jews thing is still just a Ham-handed (heh) attempt at justifying Ken Ham's bizarre obsession on practical Evangelical grounds (did I just say "practical Evangelical"? shiver...). Even if we agreed with his goal, his proposed method is still ass-backwards.

  6. I don't know what they're trying to say with that picture, but when I look at it, I see "Evangelicals Are Mean to JEWS." Am I supposed to look at that and see any kind of positive message? I see "haha, we tripped a guy and now we laugh about it!" WTF?