Prophets, Gospels, and Aliens

    Leslie Bohem, who wrote the mini-series Taken for Steven Spielberg and the Sci-Fi channel, thinks that stories about aliens and abductions go back a long way. How long? Apparently before Christianity. He told the Observer that "[stories about alien abductions go] back thousands of years to the stories of the incubus and succubus . . . " -- ancient demons. Bohem said that he doesn't want to "step on any religious toes," but he even sees echoes of these stories in, of all things, the biblical story of the virgin birth. He's right about there being a connection. Stories about aliens, like Bohem's creation, are, indeed, indebted to the Christian story. In many instances, these stories simply recast biblical narratives. An example of this happened in the first hour of Bohem's story, Taken. A lonely woman finds an injured stranger, one of the aliens in human form. Out of kindness, she takes care of him. The stranger, who calls himself John, tells the woman things about herself and her life -- the sorts of things that she's never shared with anyone. These insights into people's souls and his demeanor lead her to suspect the truth about John. Eventually, he goes home, but not before leaving her with child -- a very special child named Jacob. The biblical allusions go beyond the child's name. This one story contains allusions to the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4) and the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). And the referencing of Christian ideas and narratives doesn't stop there. The existence of alien visitors becomes an explanation for evil and suffering. Abductees' misfortune is the fault of powerful beings who have, for their own unknowable purposes, interfered in the lives of ordinary people -- sounds like Job to me. The fact that these allusions are very likely unintentional testifies to the way that the biblical narratives have shaped our thinking and our culture. The biblical stories are woven into the warp and woof of Western culture. So even when we don't acknowledge them, they are shaping the way we think and feel. That's why, when our post-Christian culture tries to create alternative narratives to make sense of our lives and the world around us, they almost always end up sounding like biblical ones. The biblical stories taught us what to expect in the way of answers to our most important questions in life. Stories about alien visitors resonate with us because they allude to the biblical stories that are, even if not directly, at least indirectly in our consciousness. If they didn't, they would be unsatisfying. E.T., for example, captured people's imaginations not only because it was a wonderful film, but also because of the obvious parallels between the extra-terrestrial creation and Christ. When the risen E.T. tells the children to "be good" and then ascends into the heavens, the audience is responding to two stories: the one on the screen and the one that inspired it. And that's what you would expect in our, to paraphrase Flannery O'Connor, Christ-haunted culture. Christ and His story are still the measure of what we regard as true, no matter whose toes that idea might step on. For further reading and information: Sanjiv Bhattacharya, "E.T. is back -- and he's bad," London Observer, 1 December 2002. "Spielberg presents UFO encounters," CNN, 2 December 2002. Dana Kennedy, "Alien abductions are revisited in 'Taken' mini-series," Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, 30 November 2002. Visit the Sci-Fi Channel's website for more information on TAKEN. Robin Darling Young, "Flannery O'Connor: The Collected Works" (book review), First Things, March 2000, 59-60. Peter Augustine Lawler, Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls (ISI Books, 2002). Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live without God? (Word Books, 1994).


Chuck Colson


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