Jesus, E.T., and a Book of Many Interpretations

I am not always the biggest fan of my mind. I try to be ratio­nal­ly mind­ed, or at least I think I do. Look­ing back at all the wild ideas I’ve held since, I don’t know, mid­dle school, though? It’d be real­ly easy to come to the con­clu­sion that my mind is a house built atop sands that are assailed every so often by a tsunami.

In eighth grade, I remem­ber express­ing the idea to my Eng­lish teacher Mr. Burks that I was con­vinced that the world’s mytholo­gies and reli­gions could be traced to one orig­i­nal reli­gion… From my com­plete­ly, total­ly, no way could it pos­si­bly be biased posi­tion, that orig­i­nal or pro­to­typ­i­cal reli­gion, the source of all truth, must have been Chris­tian­i­ty. Had I spent any real time pur­su­ing this line of rea­son­ing, out­side of mak­ing end­less lists of var­i­ous gods, bor­ing my read­ing class to tears with mythol­o­gy-themed reports, and so on, I might have real­ized that Chris­tian­i­ty was young. Like, real­ly young. Had I spent any time on it, I’d prob­a­bly have point­ed to Hebraism instead.

Through­out mid­dle school and high school, I was fair­ly obsessed with the “para­nor­mal.” My friends and I fan­cied our­selves inves­ti­ga­tors of what we deter­mined were weird goings-on in our neigh­bor­hood, and I had a yen to join the Mutu­al UFO Net­work, a group which inves­ti­gates as many “fly­ing saucers” as pos­si­ble while debunk­ing as many as they can in the hopes of one day find­ing the real McCoy, a gen­uine space­craft from beyond our solar system.

I had a library of books in my room which cov­ered Stone­henge, Atlantis, gods and mon­sters, aliens, para­psy­chol­o­gy, and so much more. For a year or so, and this was in the late 90s, I kept a web­site for my Para­nor­mal Inves­ti­ga­tors club, and those of my friends who were mem­bers stayed busy with neigh­bor­hood sight­ings, shared dream phe­nom­e­na, demon pos­ses­sions, and an uniden­ti­fied wolf-like crea­ture that leapt among the trees near our homes. Wild imag­i­na­tions? Maybe. Probably.

But it helped make me into the per­son I am today, despite veer­ing off course into reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism through much of my twen­ties. My open-mind­ed­ness in “under­stand­ing the space-time con­tin­u­um” (a phase fel­low inves­ti­ga­tor Randy dic­tat­ed to me as we typed up a man­i­festo of sorts on my Ami­ga back ’round about ’96) was sup­plant­ed with a bold adher­ence to a doc­u­ment already com­plet­ed, the Bible.

That isn’t to say that I did­n’t retain my curios­i­ty and abil­i­ty to think out­side the box; indeed, I refined my beliefs quite a bit before aban­don­ing them in 2010. Unwill­ing to be tied to a par­tic­u­lar dog­mat­ic sys­tem, I was free to read the Bible more freely, allow­ing it to say what it actu­al­ly said with­out hav­ing the need to force it into a church’s hand-me-down creed.

From dip­ping my toes into Chris­tian­i­ty as an inde­pen­dent fun­da­men­tal Bap­tist to slow­ly shed­ding the legal­ism (no music hard­er than a blue­grass gospel song, no movie the­aters, no pants on women, etc.) of my Bap­tist church to even­tu­al­ly find­ing myself a mem­ber of a Pres­by­ter­ian church, though that did­n’t long because I refused to recant the idea that the Bible allowed men to have mul­ti­ple wives, which I held pure­ly because of the Bible and not because the idea fit my own life at all; I still men­tion it when I see Chris­tians want­i­ng to fight against “gay mar­riage” as their own Bible’s idea of mar­riage does­n’t real­ly fit theirs at all.

Flash for­ward through a decade of athe­ism, and I still find the Bible to be a fas­ci­nat­ing book; I do my best to not fall into the trap so many oth­er athe­ists have of pre­tend­ing they under­stand it bet­ter than believ­ers, all the while shar­ing memes that reveals a pret­ty weak knowl­edge of what the Bible says. I’m not going to shout from the rooftops that the Bible is the good book for all humankind, but I do find val­ue in it in push­ing Chris­tians to be bet­ter peo­ple… and that brings me back to why I dis­like my mind sometimes.

A few years into my time as a Bap­tist, I was intro­duced to a pas­tor and writer named James W. Knox. I lis­tened to numer­ous of his ser­mons made avail­able on his web­site and received his canon — a col­lec­tion of near­ly twen­ty-four books — for Christ­mas from my mom, a col­lec­tion of books which I not only read in record time based on how slow­ly I usu­al­ly read. 

I loved Pas­tor Knox for his will­ing­ness to bold­ly get out of the way of the Bible and to let it say what it was say­ing, no mat­ter how ridicu­lous or chal­leng­ing the pas­sage may have been, and I day­dreamed about pos­si­bly attend­ing his Bible col­lege, if only it was­n’t so far away.

Any­way, one of his ser­mons, indeed the one which stood out the most, was about uniden­ti­fied fly­ing objects and the Bible. This is the one time when he seemed to be real­ly out there, but I thought it was amaz­ing. Aliens, posit­ed the good pas­tor, were not beings from out­er space; they were angels!

Ancient peo­ples saw the angels and oth­er spir­i­tu­al beings for what they were, but con­tem­po­rary peo­ple? Oh, we are too inoc­u­lat­ed against the spir­i­tu­al and instead inter­pret them as beings from out­er space when­ev­er we encounter them. Nowa­days, we’re alien-hap­py, with count­less works of fic­tion focused on them, with mil­lions of dol­lars per year across the world spent in search of them, we just can­not wait for vis­i­tors from the sky to come save us. Pas­tor Knox even insin­u­at­ed that foot­ball are­nas and oth­er such struc­tures are built with the ulte­ri­or motive of func­tion­ing as giant satel­lite receivers for pick­ing up alien trans­mis­sions. Hey, I did say that the ser­mon all of this was from was pret­ty far out!

Now we come to one of the more uncon­ven­tion­al rea­sons why I like the Bible: What if instead of being a book of super­nat­ur­al hap­pen­ings, the book instead tells to the best of the authors’ abil­i­ties the inter­ac­tions of an alien race with human­i­ty so long ago. 

Sus­pend all of your dis­be­lief for a while and con­sid­er the exis­tence of a suf­fi­cient­ly advanced civ­i­liza­tion, ori­gins unknown. Actu­al­ly, I guess this is the plot to Star­gate, a movie I wrote fan-fic­tion about back around 1995 or so dur­ing the same eighth grade Eng­lish class I men­tioned above. Pow­er­ful aliens… play­ing them­selves off as gods to the ancient peo­ples of Earth… OK, the idea of this isn’t alto­geth­er orig­i­nal, but I still appre­ci­ate just how well the idea fits with some of the pas­sages of the Bible.

What if Gen­e­sis 6 tells not of aliens pro­cre­at­ing with women but extrater­res­tri­als? This inter­min­gling wrecked what­ev­er exper­i­ment was being ran on Earth and so human life had to be reset via some cat­a­clysmic event. This would also mean that Jesus was the prod­uct of an extrater­res­tri­al impreg­na­tion of Mary; why in this instance was such a union deemed to be OK? 

In the Rev­e­la­tion, John wit­nessed the old Earth flee­ing away after hav­ing been cleaned by fire, with a cho­sen seg­ment of human­i­ty enjoy­ing a new Earth. How wild is it that one day Earth will be con­sumed by fire? And if human­i­ty by that point has escaped our galaxy, then the Milky Way and the old Earth it con­tains (or what­ev­er is left of it after the sun goes nova) will be rushed away from human­i­ty’s new home due to uni­ver­sal expansion.

In Ezekiel’s ear­li­est chap­ters, the prophet describes a spir­i­tu­al crea­ture with wings, atop which rest­ed a throne. The vision pro­vides an apt descrip­tion for a rock­et ship, com­plete with cock­pit at its apex.

Now, obvi­ous­ly, none of this can be proven. As with that oth­er, more pop­u­lar inter­pre­ta­tion of the Bible, it’s there not to be proven but to be some­thing to think about. Is the Bible the word of a supreme God intend­ed to save human­i­ty? Is the best ancient humans could put down about their inter­ac­tions with an advanced race, replete with warn­ings gleaned from their own past? Or is it entire­ly fic­tion, a col­lec­tion fables based on oral retelling after after retelling? 

It’s easy to point to lessons in the Bible or how it makes you feel and con­clude that a spir­i­tu­al author­i­ty must’ve been involved. It’s easy to point at its many appar­ent con­tra­dic­tions or moral­ly ques­tion­able or out­right repug­nant pas­sages as evi­dence that the book is sole­ly the prod­uct of a very nar­row seg­ment of humankind.

But maybe the truth is stranger than either of those options? 

I want to believe.

Well, it’s fun to think about any­way. What do you think?

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Rick Beckman