Nora and Grey shared the same spring break this year, so they made a trip to Maine to visit Fiona, Nora’s college roommate.
That left Pippa and me at home. She had school and I had work, but we were determined to have fun in the off hours, so we wouldn’t get jealous of the Maine festivities.
I had wanted to visit the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. since its opening in November 2017. It was free then, but I hadn’t realized it, so I put it on my Christmas wishlist.
Mom printed me some timed-entry tickets, lovingly wrapped them, and placed them under the Christmas tree. I was initially thrilled when I opened them, but when I realized they were no-cost, my motivation to go was dulled somewhat. So the designated visit day came and went, and come last month, I still had never been. In the meantime, in December 2018 after 1M+ people had already passed through, they started charging admission.
I proposed the visit to Pippa and she was game, so I purchased 2 tickets online for $20 each. (You have to pay an extra $5 each if you buy the tickets on site.) Not too steep, but enough to make you wonder if the experience would justify the cost.
Living nearby in Baltimore, we decided to do a half day, leaving open the possibility for a return visit if we were impressed. We motored out on a Saturday around noon, but then Pippa remembered she had to return early for an evening commitment. A slightly annoying disclosure, but it had one advantage: We could utilize cheap-o 2-hour street parking, which was just about all the time we had. This was a real savings relative to the closest SpotHero parking – $21 in the Federal Center Plaza garage.
The museum sits in a great location, two blocks from the National Mall in an old brick warehouse. The front entrance on 4th Street SW features 40-foot tall, 2.5-ton bronze doors depicting Latin text from the creation account in Genesis 1, from an early edition of a Gutenberg Bible. And naturally, the doors have their own twitter handle.
Just inside the entrance, a security checkpoint worthy of the Starship Enterprise greets you:
This is your first sign that this place won’t be a traditional display-case-and-placard type of museum. Fortunately, I left my pocket knife at home this time.
Once inside, I go straight to the admission desk. We have tickets already, but with only two hours, we need some intelligence about where to concentrate our attention. We were told to focus on the 2nd and 3rd floors. By the time we left the counter, we spent another $5 each on their Washington Revelations ride.
The 6-minute ride was sorta like Epcot’s Soarin’ but not quite as transporting. But the subject matter was fascinating – you are zoomed all around an animated DC on a tour of biblical imagery and verses. From the Library of Congress, to the Holocaust Museum, to the Lincoln Memorial, all of it was new to me. These are places I’ve visited, but I had never noticed the scriptural references.
After wondering through some more of floor 2, we ascended to floor 3. We walked through the ‘World of Jesus of Nazareth,’ where I took a rest alongside the Sea of Galilee:
And I was surprised to see normally-forbidden women 😉 in the 1st century synagogue:
With about half an hour left, we had to decide whether to go for their Old or New Testament sections. Pippa elected to skip the 270-degree New Testament Theater in favor of the ‘Hebrew Bible Experience.’ I’m not sure what we missed out on, but the 30-minute walking tour is not to be missed. From the blinding creation, to the tender story of Ruth, the fully-immersive experience is really well crafted.
The museum has done a spectacular job of making the bible accessible to young people, who won’t go to an NFL game unless the Jumbotron is literally as big as a football field, and won’t visit grandma unless she has blazing-fast Internet:
The Museum of the Bible’s website says it aims to be ‘the most technologically advanced museum in the world,’ and they might have succeeded. I’m not sure if I actually read anything, I was so relentlessly bombarded with interactive multimedia experiences. I’m not complaining – I tire quickly in a traditional museum as well.
Regarding the overall message, I think the museum does a good job of presenting the bible as it is, and leaving the viewer to decide what to do with that information. I’ve seen people turned off by aggressive proselytizing. I believe that changing hearts doesn’t happen in a museum; it happens in loving relationships, aided by the Holy Spirit.
I’m also not an advocate for the more fundamentalist approach to Christianity espoused by ‘Young Earth’ institutions like Kentucky’s Creation Museum and Ark Encounter. I haven’t been to either one – although we came close on our visit to Cincinnati – but from what I’ve heard, it’s a vision that can’t reconcile scientific consensus with their biblical interpretation.
I, on the other hand, believe in a big bang that was initiated by God, and a creation that could have taken longer than 144 hours (6 days X 24 hours) and one that is intelligent enough to evolve. Believing the bible doesn’t require rejecting scientific evidence, and vice versa.
More good news from our trip – we only saw one red-MAGA-hat-wearing guy in the whole place. MAGA types like to flaunt their allegiance in what they consider safe spaces, even at the expense of flouting the custom for men to remove their hats indoors.
As I’ve covered before, I support some Trump policies, and appreciate his penchant for shaking things up, but I abhor his ‘fruits’ (Matthew 7:16) and flaming hypocrisy. I think avowed Christians like Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., and even Mike Pence do tremendous damage to the faith (and incidentally, their own reputations) by cheer-leading for our unrepentant pornstar president.
So in that regard, I see the Museum of the Bible as a good counter-balance to the current White House. Yes, it’s worth a visit, even with the new cost of admission.
I’m definitely going back – there are multiple floors we didn’t even get to. And there are some interesting upcoming special exhibits. Let me know if you’d like to join me.