Holy Spaceships!

UFOs are in fashion this summer. A Time magazine photograph revealed the splintered remains of a flying saucer. The bodies of three aliens wearing silver space suits lay nearby. It wasn’t a picture of a real crash site, of course: The photo showed a diorama in a museum in Roswell, New Mexico, where a UFO is believed to have crashed 50 years ago. This summer tens of thousands of visitors have been flooding into Roswell to visit the alleged crash site and exchange stories about UFO sightings. And yet, this renewed fascination with flying saucers tells us less about aliens than about earthlings—about our religious longings. According to an Air Force report, Roswell’s so-called flying saucer was actually a spy balloon. But UFO enthusiasts are convinced that this is a cover-up. Now, I can tell you from personal experience that government cover-ups don’t work—certainly not for 50 years. So why are so many Americans swept up in UFO mania? Because it gives what is essentially a religious answer with a scientific gloss. One of the most prominent preachers of the gospel according to E.T. was the late Carl Sagan. Sagan taught that the human race is currently in its "technological adolescence." He believed that a visit from another galaxy—or even a radio signal—would, in Sagan’s words, "prove that an advanced extraterrestrial race has survived the adolescent stage and gone on to maturity." It is possible, Sagan added "that among the first contents of such a message may be detailed prescriptions for avoidance of technological disaster." Well, perhaps. But it’s an unlikely vision of salvation. Sagan never explains how an alien race, who have never had any contact with Earthlings—whose chemistry and brains and language are completely different from our own—will just happen to know exactly what our current global situation is and will be capable of giving "detailed prescriptions" on how to solve our problems. This is an almost magical vision of heavenly creatures coming from nowhere to solve our problems. But the real problem with this vision of sin and salvation is that our core problems are not technological: They’re moral. No matter how advanced our technology becomes, it will never bring about peace and harmony if those who use it are twisted by greed, selfishness, and pride. The solution to these problems is not something any alien-or any scientist for that matter-can give us. It’s something only God provides—the God who entered the world as a child to pay the penalty for our sin. This is the message we ought to pass on to our UFO-obsessed friends. Christianity is based on reality—not on magical thinking. Bear Barker, who pastors a church in Roswell, posted signs outside his sanctuary for the tourists who come alien hunting. One of them reads: "Jesus is the only ‘alien’ who died for you." Barker is right. Instead of searching for creatures from other galaxies, folks ought to be seeking the Creator God—the One who made the heavens and the earth, and then came to live among us.


Chuck Colson



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