Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What's Left of Heritage USA

A blinded alligator cries to heaven from the ruins of the park

This story was posted on the Internet last year, but it seems to me that it might be a cautionary tale for Ken Ham's beloved Ark Encounter. In the mid-1980's, a Christian amusement park called Heritage USA in South Carolina became a very popular tourist attraction. The park was owned by Jim and Tammy Bakker, who at the time were wealthy and powerful televangelists. These days, Jim is busy selling potato soup to survivalists and doomsday preppers - but I digress.

In 1986, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Heritage USA was the third most-visited amusement park in the US, behind only Disney World and Disneyland. Now the park that once entertained millions of guests is falling to pieces, and looks more like the scene from a post-apocalyptic movie than a place for family fun.

Heritage USA opened in Fort Mill, SC, in 1978, and by the mid-eighties drew in six million visitors each year. The park was perhaps best-known for "Jerry's Slide," a 163-foot water slide that Falwell slid down in his suit, resulting in one of the most famous photographs of the televangelist. But those water slides and fairy tale castle were, in part, responsible for Falwell's downfall. After scandals regarding Falwell's fundraising efforts to build the park's never-completed hotel and the IRS's revocation of its tax-exempt status, Heritage USA was hit by another, more physical blow. Hurricane Hugo wreaked havoc on the park's buildings in 1989, and Heritage closed for good shortly afterward.

So basically, it wasn't just fundraising scandals that doomed the park. Essentially, God smote it. You never know, he might actually have something against science-deniers and prosperity gospel freaks. Remember back in 2010, when God went on a bit of a smiting binge? One of his targets was "touchdown Jesus," a 62-foot tall statue depicting Jesus with his arms raised to the heavens. Could there be something to that whole "graven image" prohibition after all?

There's already a fake news story floating around (see what I did there?) claiming that Ark Encounter was destroyed in a flood. Which it would be if a flood ever happened, because Ham's ark isn't actually seaworthy but rather just a big boat-shaped building. The story has been able to get so much traction because the fact is, it would be just plain hilarious if it really happened - maybe even hilarious enough for God to go ahead and do it.

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