Ark Park as Xanadu?

A Slate article the other day compared the Ark Park to Coleridge’s Xanadu: “an extravagant vanity project born out of boundless narcissism and ambition.” An apt comparison, except of course that in the poem Kubla Khan actually builds his stately pleasure-dome – and he does not float junk bonds to do so.

Answers in Genesis, by contrast, is floating unrated municipal bonds to finance its proposed monstrosity – bonds that BusinessWeek describes as uncommonly risky. Indeed, they quote an overseer of municipal bonds as saying he would not consider purchasing such bonds and in fact likens their purchase to charity: if you lose your money, at least you may get a tax deduction.

According to BusinessWeek,

The documents cite at least 39 risks to investors, ranging from the potential for the animals to catch infectious diseases to the unclear constitutionality of tax incentives for a biblically themed attraction. There’s also no assurance that projected results, which are based on data gathered as early as 2008, will materialize, bond statements say.

Nor is Answers in Genesis backing the debt. Bondholders’ sole revenue stream comes from money spent at Ark Encounter. The park “may never achieve positive cash flow,” which documents say would lead to default.

AIG’s response? According to a “Message from Ken Ham about Ark Project and Media Attention,” which we received from an unnamed source, they blame it on “secularists” and an imaginary being known as Satan. Here are some choice quotations:

I remember the time when one of my friends said to me years ago, “When you stand on the Devil’s toes, he reacts. You guys must be kicking him in the shins!”

When we stepped out in faith to build the Creation Museum years ago and the atheists began rallying intense opposition against us, they also made all sorts of false accusations about AiG (and me personally). I was even accused by one lady of being “like [suicide cult leader (Ham’s emendation)] Jim Jones, coming to get our kids.” Secularists were labeling us as a “cult” and doing all they could, using ad hominem attacks, to try to discourage people from supporting the museum. …

That’s why … right in front of the secular media and other guests, I stated that God used the atheists to enable the Creation Museum to be a far bigger outreach than we had ever imagined.

The attacks we are now seeing on the Ark’s bond offering once again just confirm for me that the Enemy [sic] does not want this project to go ahead.

Mr. Ham concludes the message by comparing himself to the apostle Paul: “I am reminded of the struggles the Apostle Paul went through as he spread the gospel message …” and advises his followers, in the words of Paul, “Amidst the opposition, I trust we will all ‘watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.’”

Coleridge does not tell us of the fate of Xanadu, but Shelley has an interesting comment on the ultimate fate of vanity projects:

… Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.