Friday, August 17, 2007
Friday, August 10, 2007
We spent yesterday driving to Answers in Genesis's new Creation Museum, and we spent today visiting it.
It was wonderful. One of my favorite aspects of its beautiful design and construction was the typography and layout, which matched their website, magazine, and brochures. The presentation consisted mainly of life-size Biblical sets (e.g. the Garden of Eden and Noah's ark), small and large plaques, and videos. Almost every exhibit had a video screen - even the menu of Noah's Café was on a screen. While artifacts and information were a bit sparse, the style, atmosphere, and effect were very impressive.
The main focus was on the gospel message, and the central part of the museum was a large tour of the seven Cs of history: Creation, Corruption (the fall), Catastrophe (the flood), Confusion (Babel), Christ, Cross, and Consummation (the second coming). The last three Cs, not being from Genesis, were all bundled into one (good) evangelistic video at the end of the tour. A major theme through the exhibits was how Creationists and Evolutionists come from different starting points to interpret the same scientific facts differently.
One excellent plaque on scripture's inerrancy made me smile by referring to Voltaire as "the infidel philosopher Voltaire." "Infidel" is not a common word these days. It was fun to see that the photograph of Voltaire that they used featured the sculpture I had just seen at the National Art Gallery in Washington.
One difference between this museum and the Smithsonian ones was the cheerfulness of the staff. Here, every worker acted glad to be on the job, and the cheerfulness was contagious.
Overall, the museum was a very God-honoring presentation of Genesis and its importance. Both Ken Ham and the creation movement were hardly mentioned. The beginning of life as recorded in the Bible was displayed very artistically, and further information was available in the large bookstore. While I would like to see a museum that starts with the Bible but focuses more on science than on creation, I know that that is not feasible until creation gains more acceptance in the scientific community. Answers in Genesis has done an amazing job putting together the only creation museum in the world.
Thursday, August 9, 2007.
After two straight days of driving, we are home. The vacation was wonderful, but so is the end of it. Thanks for reading this!
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
We spent the day around the hotel (I was blogging). Toward the afternoon, my mom began dropping hints of a surprise. In the evening when my Dad got home, we piled into the car full of suspense. The surprise turned out to be a boat ride down the Patomic river by Old Town Alexandria, but when we arrived we found that the boat had been unexpectedly chartered. So we spent the evening walking through the narrow streets lined with buildings over a hundred years old. We saw a house that had been built in the early eighteenth century, and a street with paved with cobblestones. Some men were leading tours of the town and its ghost stories; they were dressed up in period costumes.
August 2 & 3 - loafing around the hotel.
Saturday, August 4, 2007.
Today we left Springfield and headed down to the Chancellorsville battlefield to meet my dad's friend, Bob Roser. Mr. Roser often does volunteer work giving battlefield tours, and today he had agreed to show us around.
We parked a few feet away from the place where Stonewall Jackson had been shot; some monuments marked the ground. The woods all around were thick and green, and birds chirped in the quiet air. The scene was peaceful and it felt mundane. No ghosts hovered about.
The day was hot. After watching a video about the battle we drove to such sites as Hazel's Grove and the site of the original Chancellorsville Inn. Even with the air conditioner on high, we were sweating heavily. It was worth it, however. We saw and touched bullet marks still left in Salem Baptist Church.
The next stop was Fredericksburg, another battlefield. First we saw the cemetery on Marye's hights, where thousands of union soldiers had repeatedly charged to their deaths. Below lay the sunken road, the site of the Confederate trenches. By the visitor's center was a statue commemorating Sergeant Richard Kirkland, "the angel of Marye's Heights." He had given water to hundreds of wounded enemy soldiers between the lines, without the protection of a white flag.
On our way back we drove through Old Town Fredeicksburg. The city is growing fast now, but Mr. Roser said that after it was sacked by Union soldiers, it dodn't regain its original population level until the 1970s.
In the afternoon we set off toward Gettysburg.
Sunday, August 5, 2007.
Gettysburg a small town, no little larger than it was in 1863. Today we toured the battlefield here. The National Park Service has set up roads along the old battle lines; they go in a circuit around the whole field, with specially marked stopping points where major clashes took place. We bought a guidebook and audio CD, and listened to a historian narrate the history of the battle and describe each stop.
A few places were especially memorable. One was Lee's monument, a giant statue of Lee on his horse Traveler, mounted atop a huge pedestal. From that spot Picket's men gathered to make their historic charge. and nearby Lee road out to meet the survivors with his famous words, "It's all my fault." I looked out at the wide, brown field a long time.
Another affecting location was Little Round Top, a high hill that gives a clear prospect of Devil's Den, Death Valley, and the Slaughter Pen, all sites of fierce fighting. A little way beyond that was the Wheat Field. It is the only wheat field in the country, said our CD guide, that is spelled with capital letters. After the fighting there a person could walk across it stepping only on corpses. One man, by the name of Jeffers, saw that his regiment's flag had been captured, and single-handedly attacked the enemy with a sword to regain it. He cut down many, but was pinned to the ground by bayonets. Comrades ran into the fray to rescue his body.
After the tour we made a short visit to the Gettysburg Cemetery, had dinner, and went out to Dairy Queen. At the hotel, something made an unconscious impression on me. I tried to figure out what it was, and finally did: the workers all had American accents. All the other hotels I've been to have employed Hispanics for the janitorial work.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Today we visited the Holocaust Museum. It was horrific.
The most memorable exhibit was one of the first we visited. It traced the story of the Lodz Ghetto through the eyes of ghetto children who left diaries behind. The ghetto was led by Rumkowski, a Jew who rigorously worked the inhabitants to meet German demands, believing the majority would be the better for it. He did his best to provide hospitals and schools even in the worst conditions, but one of the many quotations on the wall caught my eye: "They have neither beards nor wives, but they are already working. The ghetto children must work." In the end, the children, the old, and the sick were carted off to extermination camps, leaving behind only those who were useful for labor. Reading the children's diaries, seeing their pictures, and gazing at their toys and tin cups for rations, made the children's fate at the exhibit's conclusion quite touching.
Then we moved to the main part of the museum, the part that told the whole story of the Holocaust. There were original Nazi propaganda videos playing, and displays of artifacts from Germany before the war. A plaque recounted how Nazi leaders nonchalantly discussed "the final solution" - genocide - at the Wannssee Conference in 1942. There was small, creaky a railroad car into which visitors could go to see the kind of transportation that brought Jews to the camps. A whole roomful of shoes spread out on the floor told the story of hundreds of unfortunate victims whose possessions were confiscated before their appalling fate. One plaque that captured my attention and my spirit described the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. Armed with only a few pistols and hand-grenades, the inhabitants resolved "to die like humans," and fought off the well-equipped German troops for nearly a month, until the whole ghetto was destroyed. To fall in a battle like that, I thought, is to perish unconquered.
Finally we saw videos taken by the forces that liberated the extermination camps. The horror was painstakingly documented on film. General Eisenhower said he was careful to observe everything first-hand, in case the facts were ever questioned. The videos showed hundreds of bodies, clothed and unclothed, in various states of composition, being disposed of by the allied commanders. The skeleton-prisoners left alive gulped down thin soup. Generals told the camera how they were working to clean up the mess, and what a big job it was. One British film showed and explained the horrors with German-Language narration, and directly informed the German people that they were responsible, not having stopped their government from committing such atrocities.
It made me think. In the situation of the German people during the war, what would I have done?
1. Little night life. Washington seemed to be mostly a city of commuters - people who drove in to do office work, and left at around five o'clock. Most places closed in the evening.
2. No big-city feel. I expected this place to feel like LA. In some ways it does: there are huge buildings, traffic, and an unusual amount of foreigners. In other ways it doesn't: there's not a lot of bustle, everything is clean, and the heritage is strictly American. The only big-city life we ran into was a person playing his trumpet by the subway entrance and a teenager rapping on the way down an escalator.
3. No cold water! The faucets all run warm and stale, and drinking fountains match them. One has to walk miles to find a building with a single refrigerated fountain in it.
4. Educated people. The number of office workers makes a large percentage of the population walk around in suits, and it's more common to see someone reading here than in Denver.
5. Grandeur, but plainness. As I said in another post, there's more granite here than concrete - and yet somehow it still feels like small-town America. Whole streets are lined with majestic stone edifices fronted by pillars ten times as tall as I am; the architecture proclaims the presence of a great state. But the feel is not modern, artistic, or cosmopolitan. Whole acres of lawn owned by the Federal government are left unkept, and the city is organized, planned, and operated with more precision and security than style and flair. This is the head of a practical and economic nation, not a creative one.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007.
We toured some of the monuments with my dad, who was off today. Then we walked to the White House, which we could only see through a gate.
In the afternoon we toured and ate at the Old Post office building, a structure that was built in the late nineteenth century, faced destruction, and was later restored. Now it is little more than a historic attraction.
In the evening we sat by a fountain in the National Arts Gallery sculpture garden, and watched a jazz quartet. All the musicians were good, but the vibraphone player was outstanding.
Saturday, July 28, 2007.
We left Washington D.C. and set off for a hotel in Springfield, Virginia, nearby. We took advantage of our free time today and walked through Baltimore. I saw the Chesapeake bay and had my first look at the Atlantic Ocean. We had lunch in the Federal Hill commercial district, full of restored historic buildings. All the store fronts were quaint and interesting.
On the way out we saw a Japanese man playing an Erhu. It was beautiful. Instead of a soundbox, it has a hollow tube, like a woodwind instrument; otherwise it is quite similar to a violin. He had attached a harmonica to the top of the tube and played harmony from time to time. The man was nearly blind, and clearly showed his gratitude for the few dollars we offered him.
Sunday, July 29, 2007.
This morning we attended the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church of Virginia, pastored by Mr. Gifford. Homeschoolers might know the Giffords from Doug Phillips, who spoke at the 2006 CHEC conference. Mr. Phillips likes to tell stories about Mr. Gifford, his former pastor. The sermon was on perseverance in the Christian walk, and used 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 as its starting point.
In the evening we went to the Spy Museum, which traced the history and methods of espionage from ancient through modern times, especially the twentieth century. It was fascinating.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Real-life adventurers are the heroes of old, sung in legends and preserved in annals and tales. One rarely finds them in our "degenerate age"; indeed, in any age they are scarce. But musty records hand down to us stories of "mighty men who were of old, men of great renown" (Gen 6:4).Among such men is Renigald de Chatillon, distinguished in the second crusade. Here followeth a summary of his life, quoted from Brooks Adams's book, The Law of Civilization and Decay.
Renigald de Chatillon was the type of the twelfth century adventurer.He came to Palestine in the train of Louis the Pious, and he stayed there because he married a princess. He was a brave soldier, but greedy, violent, and rash, and his insubordination preceded the catastrophe which led to the fall of the capital.
At the siege of Ascalon he so fascinated Constance, Princess of Antioch, widow of Raymond, that she persisted in marrying him, although she was sought by many of the greatest nobles, and he was only a knight. Her choice was disastrous. He had hardly entered on his government in the north before he quarreled with the Greek Emperor, who forced him to do penance with a rope around his neck. Afterward he was taken prisoner by Nour-ed-Din, who liberated him only after sixteen years, when his wife was dead. He soon married again, this time another great heiress, Etinnette de Milly, Lady of Karak and Montréal, and, as her husband, Renigald became commander of the fortress of Karak to the east of the Dead Sea, which formed the defense against Egypt. But as the commander of so important a post, this reckless and rapacious adventurer defied the authority of his feudal superior, and by plundering caravans on the Damascus road so irritated Saladin that "in 1187 he burst, with a powerful army, into the Holy Land, made King Guy prisoner, and the Prince Renigald, whose head he cut off with his own hand."
Source: The Law of Civilization and Decay, by Brooks Adams. (New York:Vintage Books, 1955.) pg. 102.