Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
An older internet meme, originating in 2010, features Giorgio A. Tsoukalos from the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens program.1 As Tsoukalos believes ancient astronauts visited our planet in our distant antiquity, he often speaks enthusiastically about how such extraterrestrial visitors interacted with our remote ancestors. Hence, a screenshot of Tsoukalos from Ancient Aliens sporting his crazily coiffed hair and hands frozen in mid-gesticulation conveys the simple message to the viewer of “Aliens.” Another version of the meme, also featuring the same screenshot of Tsoukalos, reads, “I’m not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens.”
What is the point of posting random pictures on the internet? Honestly, what is the purpose of any meme? The word “meme” derives from the Greek word “mimeme,” meaning something imitated.2 Without becoming too bogged down in explanation, a meme is a vehicle by which internet posters convey ideas. Then, others who identify with the message share it. In that simple act of reposting, one “imitates” the intent of the meme’s creator. When many people do this, we proclaim that the meme has “gone viral.” However, the power of the meme is that it will invoke a response so that even those angered by it will respond to it. For example, the “Aliens” meme is employed by those jokingly offering a Deus ex machina-type explanation for things to which we may or may not have the answers. How did ancient builders erect megalithic structures? Aliens. Who ate my last donut? Aliens.
I cannot help but hear the voice of Giorgio A. Tsoukalos saying “aliens” in my head as I read headlines like this one from Yahoo!News: “How would humans respond to the discovery of aliens? NASA enlisted dozens of religious scholars to find out.”3 For some reason that escapes me, Hollywood has often speculated that the revelation of extraterrestrial life would destroy the faith of believers. You have likely seen such movies. There is typically some cabinet member telling the fictional President to keep things quiet lest the disclosure of the existence of extraterrestrials leads to chaos. By the way, rather than becoming terrified by the thought of aliens, the article suggests that religious people would most likely be better prepared to receive such visitors from afar. I agree with that conclusion.
I cannot speak for other Christians, but I can say why I wouldn’t lose my faith in Jesus Christ because someone proves that the Roswell greys exist. First, my belief that God created everything that exists convicts me of the truth that if “aliens” also exist, God created them too. Genesis 1 details how God made the heavens with their inhabitants. A Christian realizes that, though the creation account mentions nothing about planets, the voice of God made Jupiter and Saturn, which are planets. Would it require more faith to believe that there could be one planet orbiting a star capable of supporting life in that sea of stars we see at night? No. Again, Genesis 1 tells us God created the heavens and the earth. It would be more a matter of what God has chosen to reveal to us. Deuteronomy 29.29 reminds us that God has only given us what He has revealed. The secret things belong to Him alone.
Second, we ask what we can even understand about God apart from His Word. Isaiah 55.8-9 reminds us that the thoughts and ways of God are above our own. Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once stated what has since become known as one of Clarke’s Laws: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”4 We might substitute the word “supernatural” for “magic.” The existence of aliens would not destroy my faith because I might ask whether the strange phenomena I was witnessing were not “aliens” but “heavenly visitors.” Maybe Ezekiel’s “wheel in the middle of the wheel” was a UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) (Ezekiel 1.4ff). Would it matter to you if God created the universe using advanced technology to which only He has access? Either way, He has the power to create and destroy us (cf. 2 Peter 3.12).
Ultimately, all of this talk has more to do with scientists’ expectations regarding the recent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.5 In addition to thinking they will see the Big Bang, scientists believe we might finally see those elusive extraterrestrials and life-sustaining planets. And why not? The government has even declassified reports about the existence of “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.”6 Having said what I have about not having my faith shaken by the sudden revelation that there is other life out there, though, I find it more likely that each discovery reveals what we have known all along. God placed us in a particular spot within the cosmos to see His intelligent design and realize, yes, it had a beginning. It is not eternal. And one day, we will meet Him, Who created it all.
Sources Consulted and Cited
1 “Ancient Aliens.” Know Your Meme, Literally Media Ltd., 3 Dec. 2021, knowyourmeme.com/memes/ancient-aliens.
2 “Memes | Psychology Today.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, LLC,www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/memes.
3 Snodgrass, Erin. “How Would Humans Respond to the Discovery of Aliens? NASA Enlisted Dozens of Religious Scholars to Find out.” Yahoo! News, Yahoo!, 29 Dec. 2021, 21:42,www.yahoo.com/news/humans-respond-discovery-aliens-nasa-024208831.html.
4 Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. “What Are Clarke’s Laws?” ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-are-clarkes-laws-2699067.
5 Griffin, Andrew. “James Webb Space Telescope Latest: Alien-Hunting Spacecraft Unfurls on Its Way to Study the Universe.” Yahoo! News, Yahoo!, 30 Dec. 2021, 09:42, news.yahoo.com/james-webb-space-telescope-latest-144238287.html.
6 Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Prelimary-Assessment-UAP-20210625.pdf.