WASHINGTON — The Museum of the Bible, a massive new institution opening next month just south of the National Mall, is just as notable for what it includes – vivid walk-through recreations of the ancient world, one of the world’s largest private collections of Torahs, a motion ride that sprays water at you, a garden of Biblical plants – as for what it leaves out.

The $500 million museum, chaired and largely funded by the conservative Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby, doesn’t actually say a word about the Bible’s views on sexuality or contraception. The museum doesn’t encourage visitors to take the Bible literally, or to believe that the Bible has only one correct form. And in floor after gleaming floor of exhibitions, there’s very little Jesus.

This isn’t the evangelism that the billionaire Green family first promised a decade ago when they set out to build a museum dedicated to Scripture. At the time, the museum’s mission statement promised to “bring to life the living word of God … to inspire confidence in the absolute authority” of the Bible, the book at the institution’s center.

The approach today, while still viewed with skepticism by some scholars, appears to be more modest: “The museum has fenceposts – limits. It doesn’t overtly say the Bible is good – that the Bible is true,” said Steve Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby and the chair of the museum. “That’s not its role. Its role is to present facts and let people make their own decisions.”

Much has changed in the years since the Greens started building the Bible museum. Their company became a byword not just for craft supplies but also for their religious freedom battle at the Supreme Court against all forms of mandatory contraception coverage. The family’s lightning-fast acquisition of troves of historic artifacts wound up in federal court, landing them a $3 million fine for trafficking in thousands of smuggled goods. And Washington changed, too – from a capital where white evangelical Christians felt they were under attack, to one where the man they voted for in overwhelming numbers, Donald Trump, is shaking up the halls of power just blocks from the new museum.

In this new moment in America, the museum that will open Nov. 17 has a simpler message for the nation, a pitch that seems to have more to do with capturing the attention of a distracted populace than with saving souls. All the museum asks about the Bible: Just try reading it.

THE POINT: ‘TO AROUSE CURIOSITY’

The museum, which will be among the largest in a city chock full of museums, presents broad, sometimes abstract concepts about the Bible, communicated through cutting-edge technology and immersive experiences:

Children’s arcade games about “courage.” A sensory room with images of animals, minor-key music and creaking boat sounds meant to evoke the “chaos” aboard Noah’s Ark (a marked contrast from the Ark Encounter recently opened in Kentucky, which presents a life-size literal vision of Genesis). And many, many examples of the Bible’s impact on everything, from calendar systems to fashion to language – most presented without overt judgment on whether that influence was good or bad.

The point, staff members say, is simply to engage an America that is losing connection with the Bible.

“Our goal isn’t to give answers but to arouse curiosity,” said Seth Pollinger, a Biblical scholar who is director of the 430,000-square-foot museum’s content.

The nonprofit museum’s projects also include a high school Bible curriculum that organizers hope will be used in schools around the world, and a research arm that invites scholars to study Green’s massive collection of artifacts. Admission to the museum will be free to the public.

Mark Noll, one of the country’s most prominent experts on American Christian history, served as an adviser. He compared the Museum of the Bible to the Newseum, another huge private museum.

“Obviously the museum is there to make people think better or think kindly about the effects of Scripture in U.S. history,” he said. “But I did think they were trying to be as nonpartisan as they could.”

NEUTRALITY CHALLENGED

Some remain skeptical of the museum’s neutral viewpoint. At the Society of Biblical Literature, the largest association of Biblical scholars, officer Steven Friesen said that there’s debate in the academic community about whether to do research involving the Greens’ collection. He would advise fellow scholars to steer clear.

Friesen hasn’t seen the museum yet, but he believes from reading the website that its materials subtly promote a singular version of Scripture; indeed, the museum mostly omits discussion about how the Bible was compiled, and which religious traditions believe which disputed books belong in the Bible. And museum staff say the place for discussing controversial issues like sexuality and abortion, which aren’t mentioned in the exhibits, might be at events hosted at the museum; Friesen thinks those events are meant to draw in influential people to hear the Greens’ take on the culture wars.

“My guess is that they’ve worked very hard at covering what they would like to do, trying to hide the agenda that is behind the museum,” he said, defining that agenda as the promotion of their deep faith in the literal truth of the Bible.